Local Bar Have Smaller Glasses? You'll Drink Less

When larger cups are taken off the menu, people shift to smaller portions
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2024 5:00 PM CST
Local Bar Have Smaller Glasses? You'll Drink Less
A new study out of Cambridge University found that people drink less at pubs when the largest glasses are taken off the menu.   (Getty / PeopleImages)

Bars with large wine glasses may encourage more drinking, a new study found, but this doesn't necessarily bring in greater profits. In an effort to understand how portion size affects social drinking, a team from Cambridge University's Behavior and Health Research Unit created a trial with 21 pubs. They learned that when the largest glass of alcohol (typically around 8.5 ounces) was taken off the menu, patrons didn't order more drinks to make up the difference. "People tend to consume a specific number of units—in this case glasses—regardless of portion size," says author Dr. Eleni Mantzari in a release from Cambridge. "So, someone might decide at the outset they'll limit themselves to a couple of glasses of wine, and with less alcohol in each glass they drink less overall."

The paper, published in PLOS Medicine, also said that though the change meant a decrease in 7.6% of alcohol sold daily, it didn't affect revenue due to the higher profit margin smaller glasses ring up. When analyzing the costs at participating pubs, the researchers learned that buying two smaller glasses would end up costing more than purchasing one larger drink, the BBC reports. "Value for money is therefore likely to be one factor influencing a decision to buy larger rather than smaller glasses of wine," said the study's lead author, Professor Theresa Marteau. Proprietors observed similar thinking during the trial.

Charlotte Lyster of the Prince Albert pub in Stroud said some customers figured they'd buy more drinks when they discovered smaller sizes, but that wasn't the case. "They said, 'I'll just have another one,' but actually they didn't," she said. "People drink in rounds, so when they finished one, they would wait for someone else to go to the bar." Wine is the most popular alcoholic drink the UK and Europe, and the researchers hope these findings can influence habits. Alcohol consumption is the fifth leading contributor to premature death and disease globally. While some watering holes may be on board to make changes based on these findings in the UK, Cambridge notes that alcohol companies would likely push back. (Alcohol's 'health halo' is losing its luster).

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