Tip to encourage dinner party guests to dispose of olive pits


Place an olive pit in the discard dish before the guest arrive.

Behavioral Economics 101: Dinner Party Application


  1. Similarly, if you want people to help themselves to cake, remove a slice before you put it out – I guess that way nobody will think they’re taking the first slice when it’s too early to start on dessert.

  2. I work in a Food Product Development Lab and we do tastings everyday. If you don’t put 1 dirty spoon in the discard container people are running all over the lab looking for a trash can.
    The Nudge is a beautiful thing.

  3. I am always the first to plow into an untouched smorgasboard. Sometimes I have to work my way through a hovering crowd of hesitant hungry people, who are too polite to dirty the serving spoons. I like to bellow “move it people, hungry man comin’ through!” whenever I elbow someone. I think of it as my special service to the community.

  4. Reminds me of the fake fly drawed in airport toilets to help men center the target…

  5. I wonder if there is a difference between placing a single pit in the discard plate vs. eating an olive and placing the pit on the discard plate. Not because it actually matters, but I wonder what the power of nudges are compared to modeling.

  6. Like putting a couple dollars in the tip jar.
    Put in paper, people tip with paper.
    Put in change, people tip in change.

  7. The trouble with leaving only one is that it looks like the olives are bitter, or the cake stale. So I always eat 3 or 4 of each.

    More seriously, yes, this is a good idea. Also pistachio nut shells. And wine… Any dinner party I ever do is fairly informal and help-yourselfy, often buffet style cum bbq, (no linen and silverware) so I like to have a couple of bottles of wine open with a bit taken off the top. Make them feel at home, basically, not in some kind of complex social test.

    Another top tip, I think, is have plenty of bread on show, of the French baguette type (helps if this is in France), and cheese and bowls of fruit. That way, people can relax – even if the purported main course is crap at least they know they won’t starve to death.

  8. I work in a french brasserie (not in france!) and when we serve olives, people still end up putting the pits on the table, when there is clearly an extra plate left there for that purpose. as a server, I can’t stand there and eat an olive for them as example…

  9. I noticed this at a family reunion a ways back, local cherries were ripe and we had a big box of ’em. People walked around with a napkin full of cherry detritus until they came across a garbage can.

    I instead got a disposable cup, put it at my table, and used it to store my pits/stems in it. Within minutes the cup was full from everyone else borrowing my ‘ingenuity’.

  10. At last, a potential solution to the olive pip problem. You cannot imagine for how long this has plagued me.

  11. Want to see something else just as awesome? Next time you host a party put out a little bowl directly beside the bottle opener and one bottle cap in it – then say goodbye to picking up bottle caps around your house for the next week!

    I LOVE IT. Everyone who has had the same problem sees this work implements it with satisfying success! *starry clean freak eyes*

  12. the whole point of complex dining etiquette is exclusion. You don’t hold dinner parties to feed people, they are for showing who is fit to attend. Status games, not enjoying a meal with company.

    A feast now, that is a different matter.

  13. So next time that I have a reporter from Kazakhstan over for dinner, should I leave a tip in the toilet?

  14. Why would people feel weird eating foods that haven’t been primed? If there’s food, it is to be eaten. Not only as politeness from the host, but it is your duty as a guest to either bring something, or eat what is provided. I wonder how official manners weigh in on this.

    Priming the pit-dish with a pit makes sense. Monkey see, monkey do. Then again, I have a hard time avoiding shiny tasty olives in a dish.

    You could, of course, make a sign for the dish, or lay a napkin on it when serving in a restaurant. I haven’t figured out a cute icon for olive pits yet.

  15. Best solution for me was to just get an olive pitter and pit them before serving. Also use it to pit fresh cherries for the best cherry pie ever.

  16. #18 – you sound like a man I used to work with. He would happily eat anything on offer, several servings of it, and had no qualms starting off or finishing off the last piece. I figured it was because he was German.

    #19 – pitted olives are nowhere near as nice.

  17. Yes! It works!

    I work as a waitress for a catering company sometimes to earn some extra money. I was trained to always put a ‘nudge’ in the waste baskets- we put a cloth napkin lined basket on the coffee table, for example, and I put a spoon and a torn open sugar packet in it to indicate to people that it is a trash container. During cocktail hour if I am not passing hor d’ouvres or drinks, I will carry a similar basket with a crumpled up paper napkin in it for people to drop their toothpicks and such in. Guests are very pleased to know that there is an appropriate place to leave their trash, especially at formal gatherings where they worry about all the etiquette that they never learned!

  18. I do this with edamame husks. If you don’t, people who aren’t used to them try to eat them.

  19. Nudge: Put a quart of tequila and a bag of Cheetos in a blender. Serve to guests as they arrive.

  20. Very closely related: “salting” the hat.

    When busking (or begging or whatever) anyone who knows what they are doing will toss a few coins of their own into the hat/guitar case/cup/whatever. People are significantly more likely to give money when it seems that other people have also given money.

  21. people have mentioned pitted olives however noone seems to have noticed. WHY NOT PITTED OLIVES PEOPLE? stuff some blue cheese in them or something … this is a high maintenance crowd.

  22. Also works at the end of the party when the last straggles won’t get the clue that it’s time to go. Start cleaning up.

  23. I do something similar by throwing up in the planter before the guests arrive. If I’m really on the ball I pass out on the front lawn, as well.

  24. Anon, it’s because unpitted olives are tastier! I like them better anyway. Living in Spain, people are trained to dispose of their olive pits properly (practically all olives here come with pits). But when I serve them to my American friends, they always need a nudge to dispose of their olives properly. This definitely works!

    I have a little tray where the pit container is attached to the olive container. It’s the perfect thing for this.

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