Our Work

Health Data for Action Restaurant Environment

Restaurants are a key element of the food environment. Americans will likely spend more than $1 trillion at restaurants in 2019 (up from $825 billion in 2018). Restaurants spend billions of dollars annually in advertising to attract customers ($6.3B in 2015), and – on a typical day, one-third of Americans will eat at a fast food restaurant. The combination of unhealthy food and advertising exposure can exacerbate disparities as fast food restaurants, for example, are more densely located in low-income and minority communities. There are significant gaps in knowledge about the effect of the restaurant environment on obesity risk. The overall objective of this application is to examine the effect of the changing restaurant environment on obesity risk and disparities. We will: 1) examine a decade of national trends in chain restaurant advertising using objective data from 300 unique restaurants that together represent half of all U.S. restaurant revenue; 2) conduct the first longitudinal study examining whether changes to restaurant advertising among the nations’ 300 top selling restaurants are associated with population weight gain, obesity risk and disparities; 3) examine whether changes to chain restaurant calories per capita are associated with population weight gain, obesity risk and disparities.


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Sara Bleich

Project Team

Jessica Jones-Smith, Co-Investigator

Project Period

June 2018-Dec 2019

Project Status


Project Contact

Jessica Jones-Smith