Weighing up the benefits of Brazilian ‘Por Kilo’ restaurants


Attention all university executives and caterers!! Sick of seeing your university students spending their lunch money at off-campus eateries?  Want to create a pioneering, healthy and sustainable lunchtime culture your university will be known for? Well, Brazil may just be leading the ‘weigh’  (yes, I will be overusing this pun) with its wealth of popular pay-per-kilo restaurants.

Indeed, lunchtime for Brazilians is perhaps their most important meal of the day.  Take a midday stroll through the business districts and student hubs of Rio de Janeiro and there´s not a soggy supermarket sandwich in sight. Although Brazil is the world’s 6th-largest economy with its fair share of multinational fast-food chains, Brazilians have managed to preserve their nutritious traditional cuisine by tweaking its lunchtime delivery to match the fast pace of modern life.  I believe that U.K. universities could adopt this system to revolutionise lunchtime eating setting the trend for a national lifestyle overhaul.

How this works:

  • 30 – 40 dishes provided daily in buffet arrangement (these change daily, with the exception of a few staples, meaning that customers dont get bored and cave into unhealthier/processed foods).
  • Quick self service (high turnover of customers, quick for busy students/ lectureres)
  • Fill up your plate – get it weighed – eat (set price per 100g)
  • Pay as you leave (prices are roughly equivalent to that of global chains, but infinitely more healthy and sustainable!)

Example dishes ‘designed’ by the individual:

Cost = £5.52

Cost = £5.52

Cost = £5.19

Cost = £5.19

Cost = £4.62

Cost = £4.62

This model provides a varied and exciting lunchtime eating experience, allowing the customer to ‘design’ their own plate with a high majority of healthy vegetarian local dishes.  This culture of food autonomy may also have positive implications for appetite regulation, where in the absence of relenteless marketing and supersize portions; customers may make healthier choices more suited to their current huger levels, reducing overeating.  Furthermore, although a small number of high welfare, planet friendly meat dishes will be on offer (so as not to alientate potential customers), students will be able to get more for their money by selecting vegetarian options, encouraging less meat consumption on campus which may trickle down to influence diet outside of university.

Why is this good for your university?

  • More money being spent on campus and going back into your university/union
  • Attractive to potential undergraduates as sustainability is important to students (see NUS report here)
  • Better environmental record and less food waste will help towards becoming a Transition University
  • Better relationships with local businesses (who could provide some dishes)
  • Power to change the diet and health of thousands of people

How would this protect the environment?

  • Food will be locally produced cutting down on ‘food miles’
  • Focus on responsible supply chains ensures no environmental damage in other countries
  • Food will be non-processed and mainly vegetarian (where meat is used it will be organic)
  • Reduction in meat consumption across campus promotes better food production balance
  • Less food waste due to easier portion control
  • Any food leftovers to be taken away by students (see sustainable restaurants rating)

How will this make your students/staff healthier?

  • This model would provide an active education in healthy diets and sustainable food systems
  • Students living on a budget will be able to get their 5 portions of fruit and veg in one meal
  • Over time there may be an attitude shift towards vegetarianism/part-time vegetarianism (supporting part-time carnivoremeat-free Mondays)
  • Recipes will be provided, suggestions of dishes welcome

So, let’s leave the sad student salad bar as a thing of the past. The pay-per-kilo culture would actively reduce meat consumption across your campus with obvious health and environmental impacts, not to mention the added profits and publicity for your institution. Your university has the opportunity to take the lead in educating and inspiring those who have had no formal education in nutrition or sustainable food systems and the potential to spark a lunchtime revolution in colleges, businesses and the wider community…

(This is my entry for Friends of the Earth’s Get Gobby competition, thanks to Alan Adojaan for the photo!)


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About Rosa Whalen

I am a PhD student at the University of Liverpool interested in the way unhealthy foods are marketed to children.

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