Koert van Ittersum, associate professor of marketing
Published on: 09-08-2012
A new study from Georgia Tech and Cornell University shows that
softer lighting and relaxing ambient music in a fast food restaurant
affects the eating patterns of customers. The report shows that
customers in fancier dining areas will eat up to 18 percent fewer
calories than those in typical restaurant conditions. The findings are published online in the journal Psychological Reports.
Tech Scheller College of Business Professor Koert van Ittersum and Cornell’s Brian Wansink modified
the dining area of a Hardee’s restaurant for the study. One half of the
seating area was unchanged and featured the typical fast food
environment: bright colors and lighting, loud noise and music. The other
side of the restaurant was transformed into a soundproof, fine dining
area, complete with pictures, window shades, indirect lighting and white
tablecloths. Jazz music was also piped into the area.
Customers were randomly seated, timed while eating and surveyed after the meal.
expected, van Ittersum noticed that people in both areas ordered
similar foods and similar numbers of calories. “But those in the fine
dining area ate an average of 18 percent less of their meals, even
though they spent more time at the table,” he said. “Those sitting in
the fancier area also rated the food as tasting better than those who
sat in the traditional dining section.”
Previous studies have
shown that people are more likely to eat faster and spend less time at
the table if the restaurant is loud.
“These are clues for people
who want to control their calories,” says van Ittersum. “The more relaxing the environment,
the less a person tends to eat.”
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