Light my diner

Ambience is everything when it comes to choosing a romantic restaurant for that crucial first date. You want enough lighting to see each other but not enough so they can see the stain you leave on your shirt when the mushroom entrée falls from a fork held by nervous fingers. You want the music to be soft enough so they can hear your devastatingly witty observations on life but not so soft that you can’t pretend you can’t hear when they ask about your previous relationships. Despite these important considerations and as crucial as it is to what makes the world go round, there is more to a restaurant’s atmosphere than providing a romantic setting. After about nine months even couples go to a restaurant to eat and how much they eat and at what speed is affected by lighting and music in significant ways.

Lighting and music are expected to influence how much you eat in a restaurant because they affect how long you spend eating. Fast food restaurants are thought to contribute to people being overweight by using bright lights, yellow and red colours, and loud music that creates a hectic atmosphere and encourages faster eating. So these researchers wondered what would happen if you gave a fast-food restaurant a fine-dining makeover.

To do this they transformed part of a fast-food restaurant into a fine dining environment. To do this they used soft lighting and gentle jazz ballad instrumentals. Subjects were randomly assigned to eat in either the reformed part of the restaurant or the usual part of the restaurant. The results were interesting.

Even though people in the fine dining area spent more time eating, they actually consumed less food. This was despite the fact that they were more likely to order more food. The other interesting result was that people in the fine dining atmosphere ate less of the food that they ordered but reported that they enjoyed it much more. So a change in the lights and music can not only change food consumption but also increase satisfaction.

Whether out at a restaurant or at home, you will eat less and enjoy it more if you are less distracted and more focused on your food. So a bit of delicate lighting and some well chosen jazz might be part of your sensible eating and weight management plan. Which jazz do you choose? “You’re not the only oyster in my stew” by Fats Waller seems a logical place to start.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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