Research: Stress is more

Research: Stress is more

Seasonal differences in eating habits are often ascribed to crash dieting before holidays, but new comprehensive analysis of restaurant customer data shows that other factors like jobs and stress now play just as large a role. The day-to-day data, analysed from over 20,000 food orders by customer insight pioneer Ordoo, shows that people’s behaviours shift dramatically from the weekday to the weekend, and that there is a relationship between people’s busy work lives and their ability to resist the temptation of unhealthy food.

The data shows that coffee orders spike on Monday afternoons to levels more than twice as high as any other afternoon of the week; people are 23% more likely to eat healthily in summer than in winter; they are twice as likely to eat unhealthily on Monday as they are on the weekend (Saturday and Sunday); and Thursday is the least healthy day, with 29% of orders being unhealthy.

The fact that people are twice as likely to make unhealthy choices during the week than they are at the weekend suggests that people’s job pressures and work/life balances contribute to eating unhealthy food. This view is supported by the fact that consumers are most likely to order unhealthy options on Wednesday and Thursday, the days furthest from the weekend.

Similarly, the data show that people are using large amounts of coffee to help them get through the stress of Monday afternoon, when there are more than double the usual volume of afternoon coffee orders. People are also 23% more likely to order healthy food in summer than in spring. With customers being more relaxed during the holiday season, they have time to think about their diet and reach for the healthy option. The findings show that this is as likely a reason for eating good food as the idea that people are crash dieting before holidays.

Ordoo CEO Tom Dewhurst said: “One of the most exciting aspects of our work is that we get to see and understand new things about consumer behaviour almost every day. It’s a truism that everyone starts crash dieting in the early summer in order to get ‘beach ready’, but our data can show getting ready for holidays may not be the whole truth about why people yoyo diet.

“From the way people binge on caffeine to get them through Monday afternoons to the way they are twice as likely to eat healthily at the weekend, these findings suggest that our stressful work lives have a recurring impact on our dietary choices.”