Study: We're Getting Fatter Because We Can't Resist Combo Meals

It’s becoming more and more rare for customers to walk into a fast food restaurant and order individual meal components off the menu. Why do that when you can just order a #4 and get the sandwich, fries and drink together? It makes sense, but a new study says our penchant for buying bundled meals is causing us to eat more than we should.

The researchers presented asked subjects to select meals from several menus, some featuring a la carte-only options and others with both a la carte and combo meals.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, claims that consumers presented with both options are much more likely to buy bundled mealsbecause they perceive the combo meal to be a better value, even if it’s not.

Additionally, the researchers claim that subjects generally ordered meals with fewer calories when ordering a la carte.

From QSR Magazine:

15 percent of participants who didn’t order fries in an a la carte-only setting chose to order a bundled meal with medium fries when offered, which was a 380-calorie increase.

Further, 26 percent of participants who chose the small fries option from the a la carte-only menu chose a bundled meal with medium fries when offered, a 150-calorie increase.

“When people bundle, they end up choosing a meal with a lot more calories,” says one of the study’s authors, a professor at the esteemed University of Virginia (Go ‘Hoos!) “Over the entire population, if you look at what’s the average impact for a consumer when a bundle is offered, it’s at least an extra 100 calories. That can make a big difference.”

A VP at El Pollo Loco tells QSR Magazine that they recently tested menu boards without combo meals to see if calorie-minded consumers would prefer them, “But the results were overwhelmingly positive toward combo meals in terms of how guests rated their order experience and the value of their purchase.”

Yes, Consumers Want Fries with That [QSRmagazine.com]