Are you being served? Managing waist and waste via serving size, unit size, and self-serving

Amber Werkman*, Jenny van Doorn, Koert van Ittersum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Food serving sizes are on the rise and this increase is one factor contributing to both obesity and food waste. Hence, reducing serving size is a potentially effective strategy for lessening overconsumption and food waste—
but it carries the risk that consumers may perceive the smaller serving size as too small, lowering satisfaction. This research examines the role of serving size, unit size, and self-serving on the amount of food served, consumed, and wasted, with the main objective of reducing both overconsumption and food waste while maintaining consumer satisfaction. Across four experiments, we demonstrate that consumers who are served food in smaller units consume less but waste more, while consumers who serve themselves food in smaller units
consume less and waste less. When self-serving food in smaller units, consumers benefit from pause moments providing decision-making opportunities that draw attention to the serving decision, as reflected in longer
serving times and greater overestimation of the served amount of food. Consequently, consumers presented with smaller unit sizes serve themselves less food—resulting in decreased consumption and waste, without lessening
consumer satisfaction. These findings offer a wide range of win–win implications that are of relevance to consumers as well as to managers of restaurants, food services, and health professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104568
Number of pages10
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Publication statusPublished - 21-Feb-2022


  • Obesity
  • Food waste
  • Serving size
  • Unit size
  • Self-serving

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