Trayless = Pay Less?

I was thrilled to see the guys at Freakonomics address the topic of traylessness. It’s nice exposure for the issue and will hopefully sway the three remaining colleges who still use trays to abandon them. (Fine, there are a few more than that. Seriously, though, if you’re still using trays, it’s time.)

But…as a few commenters noted, Mr. Dubner missed a key point about traylessness: it’s only effective in all-you-can-eat settings. There, not having a tray dissuades students from taking more food than they’ll eat.

public enemy #1. photo by goldberg (via Creative Commons)Dubner wrote that when cafeterias go trayless:

People buy less food and subsequently eat less and throw away less.

Two out of three. Traylessness won’t bring less revenue, it will just cajole students into taking and wasting less. It almost certainly will bring savings to food service providers, which they could but there’s no way in hell they will pass along to students.

Because of the whole all-you-can-eat thing, traylessness doesn’t encourage shoplifting, as Dubner theorized. But I always appreciate a little sweatpants humor.

One important point raised in the post’s comments (see #30) is that hopefully as the amount food taken decreases, college kitchens will prepare less food. With *everyone* looking to save a buck these days, you’d think heeding student demand and preferences would happen. One can only hope.

Anyway, I’d like to see a Freakonomics follow-up that considers how schools are handling traylessness’ savings. I’d settle for straight-up economics.

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