Strategize and Act

Apply Behavioral Design Strategies

The selection and consumption of foods and beverages sold in food service venues are influenced by how they are placed, promoted, and priced, among other behavioral design strategies. These influencers can make healthier food and beverage items easier for consumers to choose. Placement, promotion, and pricing examples are below; see the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities pdf icon[PDF-3.34MB] for guidance on other behavioral design strategies.

A colorful salad bar


Work with your vendor to design your cafeteria or vending operations to encourage selection of healthier foods. The physical layout and placement of foods influence which foods are more likely to be selected. Customers are more likely to buy items that are easier to see and access. Placement strategies include:

  • Placing healthier entrees at the front of cold and hot sections.
  • Placing healthier items at eye level or just below eye level.
  • Placing the salad bar where it is easily visible in the cafeteria and move less healthy salad bar items to the middle of the salad bar.
  • Placing healthier items at the beginning of the serving line and next to the point-of-sale system.
  • Providing a convenience line that features healthier options only.


Promotion strategies are often used with placement strategies to promote healthier choices. Customers should be educated about changes to food offerings, so they understand why changes were made and who is responsible. Consumers can also be educated on how to build a healthy meal or snack based on the day’s selections. Promotion strategies include:

  • Establishing healthier options as the default standard throughout the menu. For example, offer a piece of fruit instead of potato chips or a side salad instead of French fries.
  • Using signs, point-of-purchase displays, menu labeling, and color-coded labeling systems to highlight healthier foods.
  • Using lighting to draw attention to healthier items, such as spotlights on grab-and-go healthier items or cafeteria displays that feature healthier items.
  • Using smaller plates and bowls to promote healthier portion sizes.
  • Using tongs and smaller serving spoons in the food service operations and at any self-service points.
  • Hosting taste-testing events to introduce new products and let customers try samples before buying.


Pricing strategies that make healthier items more affordable may encourage sales. Pricing strategies include:

  • Offering the healthier food and beverages at an equal or a lower price than the less healthy items.
  • Offering temporary price reductions or buy one, get one free discounts on newly introduced food and beverage items to encourage customers to try them.
Connect with Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity