How Does Restaurant Decor Affect How Much You Eat?

restaurant sign, front of restaurant

In most restaurants, the décor isn’t an accident — it’s intended to keep you seated at the table longer or to get you to eat and run.

Think about how long it takes you to gobble down a Big Mac or a shortstack of pancakes with bacon.  The red and gold color schemes, noise levels, and general hustle and bustle in many diners and fast food restaurants encourage you to eat quickly – and allows the restaurant to “turn the tables,” or to get another group of people seated at the table you just vacated pretty quickly so they can serve more food and make more money.   The white tablecloths, soft music or hushed sounds  of fancier restaurants make it pleasant for you to linger longer — and order another glass of wine, dessert, coffee, and after dinner drink – from which the restaurant makes more money.

Watch your waistline, too.  According to Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating and director of Cornell’s Food and brand Lab, the atmosphere of a restaurant can get you to overeat in two ways:  if it’s really pleasant you want to stay longer — and therefore order and eat more.  If it’s very brightly lit and possibly loud and irritating you usually gulp and run, probably overeating before you realize that you’re full.

Know your restaurant and its setting:  think about pacing yourself in the speed environment and avoiding the temptation to keep ordering in the relaxed environment.

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