How Google Uses Data to Nudge Employees to Eat Better

Wednesday 16th November

By YFood

We’re an interactive platform passionate about driving innovation in the Food Industry using technology by connecting and supporting the most brilliant minds in the food industry.

Data is an incredible resource that holds narratives and insight when analysed closely. In any serious business or organisation, data is used in almost every aspect of decision-making. In Google’s case, data is even used to nudge and influence their staff’s consumption behaviours!


Based in London, Jim Glass is one of three Food Services Managers in the EMEA region supporting the Google Food Program. The program as a whole has the indispensable role of planning meals for 200 cafes around the world serving over 106,000 users across 56 countries. This means serving up over 159,000 meals on a daily basis with each meal as an opportunity to nudge employees to consuming more nutritious food.

Jim recently spoke at London Food Tech Week 2016, opening a panel on data-driven hospitality.
Jim recently spoke at London Food Tech Week 2016, opening a panel on data-driven hospitality.

Enabling employees to make better food choices is a top priority for the Google Food Program and data plays a crucial role. Not only is data used for quantitative applications in planning, but also for informing the team on how to optimise the layout and design of their cafes to nudge healthy eating behavior.

For example, a 2013 study by Wansink & Hanks shows that food from the 1st tray in a buffet line is taken up by 75% of diners. Food from the first 3 trays in a buffet line ends up being the majority of what is on the plate. Armed with this knowledge, Google is able to nudge healthier eating behavior by placing more nutritious food as the first 3 offerings.

Pre-plated dishes are also an effective strategy. Cafe teams are able to fill the plates with more plant-based options, effectively taking the decision-making process out of the diners’ hands and making the best choice the easiest choice! The proof is in the pudding, or shall we say data as Jim shares that in the London cafes alone they captured a 10-20% behavioural shift towards healthy dining when pre-plating versus a self-serve station.

Other areas the Google Food Team has leveraged data to in decision-making include pre-portioning desserts, placing better options at eye level, and implementing the “out of sight, out of mind” concept such as with Project M&M where M&Ms were placed in opaque jars instead of clear ones. This simple move resulted in an astounding 3.1m less calories consumed by employees over 7 weeks in the New York office alone!

The Google Food Team continues to innovate and evolve, relying on strong, well-thought design to develop strategies around: How to enable their employees to make better food choices? By leveraging data to inform decisions, they have managed to positively influence their employees to make better choices for themselves. It all boils down to making the best choice the easiest choice.


Jim Glass opened our session with this light-hearted but heavy-hitting presentation on the impact data has on dining. Our session on Data-Driven Hospitality: Converting Data to Results was part of the Future of Dining and Restaurant Innovation Day of London Food Tech Week 2016.  It featured a panel of bona fide data connoisseurs Tomasz Mloduchowski, Zerado; Noel Tock, Happytables; Cara Unterkofler, LeanPath; Rich Folsom, Kemp Little and was moderated by Peter Martin, CGA Peach.  



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