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FOOD > Soft music, lighting may help eat less

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Dimming the lights in a restaurant can help diners enjoy their meal more and eat less, says the new study.

Dimming the lights in a restaurant can help diners enjoy their meal more and eat less, says the new study.

Just as music and lighting can influence what shoppers buy, toning down the tunes and dimming the lights in a fast food restaurant can help diners enjoy their meal more and eat less, according to a U.S. study.

After transforming part of a fast food restaurant in Illinois with milder music and lighting, researchers found that customers ate 18 percent fewer calories than other people in the unmodified part of the restaurant.

“When we softened the lights and softened the music in the restaurant it didn’t change what people ordered, but what it did do was lead them to eat less and made them more satisfied and happier,” said Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing and consumer behavior at Cornell University in New York.

In the study Wansink said the bright lights, stimulating colors, sound-reflecting surfaces and loud music in fast food restaurants are not designed to be relaxing.

So they improved the mood in a section of a Hardee’s restaurant for the study, adding plants, paintings, indirect lights, tablecloths, candles and instrumental music.

More enjoyable food

After seating customers in both the original and restyled sections of the restaurant, they timed how long their meal lasted and how many calories they consumed. Customers in the modified section ate longer than those in the main dining area, consumed fewer calories and rated the food as more enjoyable.

“Spending that extra time eating a little more slowly at a more relaxed pace made a world of difference, not just to how much they ate but how much they liked it,” said Wansink, a former executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and the author of the book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think.”

“These results suggest that a more relaxed environment increases satisfaction and decreases consumption,” he added.

September/01/2012

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