Sunday, October 25, 2015

3 Reasons Why Restaurant-Food Tastes Better When Priced Expensively: Scientists Explain...

 

A scientific research from Cornell University found diners tend to rate the quality of their food higher if they pay more for it, and people who pay less for the same exact meal report feeling more guilty, bloated and uncomfortable.

restaurant-food-tastes-better-when-priced-expensively

The researchers offered 139 diners an all-you-can-eat buffet at a chic Italian restaurant for either $4 or $8 dollars. Though the diners ate the same food and the same amount, those who paid $8 rated their meal an average of 11 percent higher. The $4 diners were more likely to feel guilty and that they had overeaten.

Scientists determined that our sense of smell is affected by the information that is processed by the brain. Parmesan cheese and vomited undigested food are both full of butanoic acid, but we react differently according to the information we are provided with: we have a good response to the smell of Parmesan cheese, while we feel displeasure at the vomit.

Auguste Escoffier understood this psychological effect very well, thus he enthusiastically used deceiving power. He gave fancy names to his foods and served them on gold-plated silver dishes, having obtained a shiny clean plate collection from estate sales of aristocratic families. Escoffier never used plain names such as “steak with gravy sauce,” he provided magnificent names such as “filet de boeuf Richelieu.” He dressed his waiters in tuxedoes and personally directed the design of the interior of his restaurant. In short, his idea was that there must be a perfect atmosphere for a perfect dish, realizing that the atmosphere significantly affects our senses.

The cool people at College Humor even took on this well-documented economic trend with their trademark wit in a video:



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The Legendary Experiment that Embarrassed Wine Experts Around the World

A small amount of food in our mouth is only a small part of what we think when we taste it. Equally important are all the past experiences in our brains. In 2001, Frédéric Brochet at the University of Bordeaux tested two different bottles of the same medium quality wine (Morrot, Brochet and Dubourdieu 2001). One bottle had a luxury brand name, while the other was a plain brand. When experts tasted them, they evaluated the two wines as being completely different. The one bottled as a luxury brand received the comments “Tastes good with a good oak fragrance, several indefinable and complex tastes are harmoniously balanced, and it swallows smoothly.” On the other hand, the one bottled as a plain brand received the comments “The fragrance is weak and evaporates quickly. It has low proof, is flat, and tastes stale.” Although we taste all flavors simultaneously, and the trained wine experts made a lousy mistake, it is not solely their fault. From the beginning, prejudices direct our brains not to distinguish actual sense from perception. If we think that a wine is cheap, we really taste cheap wine.

The scientific inquiry adds to the body of research around how to maximize restaurants' bottom lines while managing customers' waistlines. Price cuts can actually hurt people's perception of a restaurant and cause diners to feel their meal was less worthwhile, the researchers found.

Another good example of this phenomenon, just consider lobster. Despite the fact that the price of lobster has plummeted to record lows, you will rarely see those savings passed on in a restaurant. An expert explains this paradox:

Putting an expensive item like lobster on the menu can also make it easier for restaurants to sell mid-tier items by making them seem cheaper by comparison. In addition, when it comes to steep price cuts, diners can often react with suspicion.

Therefore, next time you dine in a fancy restaurant, you might wonder... Is this expensive steak priced for hefty profit or to make it taste better?



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References:

Morrot G1, Brochet F, Dubourdieu D. 2001. The color of odors. Brain Lang. 2001 Nov; 79(2):309-20. PMID: 11712849

Nak-Eon Choi and Jung H Han. 2015.  How Flavor Works: The Science of Taste and Aroma. Wiley-Blackwell; 1st edition. ISBN-13: 978-1118865477



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