Sunday, January 31, 2010
Calorie Counts at Starbucks
Scholars at the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted an interesting study recently, which was profiled in the Boston Globe's Uncommon Knowledge column today. The researchers set out to study the impact of new legislation in some cities that forces restaurants to list calorie count information on their menus. The scholars found that such posting of calorie information caused a decrease in the amount of calories found in food purchases by customers. Interestingly, the disclosure of dietary information had no impact on the caloric content of the drinks purchased and consumed by Starbucks customers. The key question: Did the law curtail revenues at Starbucks? Perhaps surprisingly to some observers, the law did not affect sales totals. Actually, those Starbucks locations located in close proximity to a Dunkin' Donuts actually realized in a small increase in revenue. The researchers hypothesized that customers may have compared calorie counts at the two chains, and then concluded that the healthier option was Starbucks. The Boston Globe does not mention if the customers' conclusions about calorie counts at the two chains were actually true. Nevertheless, the broader conclusion is perhaps the most interesting, namely that listing dietary information did not hurt Starbucks' sales.