Can we really blame someone else for putting on a few extra kgs?

(27 /11 /2014)

The battle of the bulge – it seems to be something that most of us struggle with at some point in our lives.  We know that exercise combined with healthy food choices gives us the best chance to keep the weight down and our heart healthy but did you know that restaurants are actually fighting against us?  That where we sit inside a restaurant can actually impact on our dining choices?  Does that mean we can blame restaurants for making us fat?

Perhaps not but research undertaken by a group at Cornell University in the United States indicates that restaurant layout can affect your waistline.  As reported by the New York Post (article link below), just saying “no” to dessert is not enough – it seems that where a diner chooses to sit has some impact on menu choice.  According to the article, diners who sit near windows, in well-lit areas or at high-top tables favour healthier options such as salads or fish.  These people also tend to consume less and often forgo dessert.

Conversely, people dining at darkly lit tables or booths and who are further away from the door, go for the fattier options, eat fewer salads and tend to order dessert.  The researchers also found that groups of four people sitting within two tables of the bar would consume on average 3 more alcoholic drinks than groups just one table away.  And look out if you’re sitting near the TV – you’re more likely to consume a greater amount of fatty food than those at a regular table!

But why is this? The researchers visited 27 restaurants throughout the US tracking what customers ate and have suggested that dining in more conspicuous areas of the restaurant helps curtail overeating.  Basically, because people can see you, you want them to see that you’re eating well and not eating too much.  Apparently skinny people also tend to face away from the buffet and choose small plate sizes so that they eat less.  On the other side of the coin however, the researchers believe that overweight people choose the more hidden and darker areas of restaurants so they feel somewhat invisible and are less able to see what and how much they’re eat thereby reducing dietary guilt.  There also seems to be a tendency by staff to seat overweight people in these less conspicuous dining areas – a ploy to increase their spend on food and beverages perhaps?

What do you think?  Can we blame restaurants for contributing to our weight gain or is what we eat entirely in our control?  We have heard about how décor colour and music style can contribute to the decision making process particularly from a subconscious perspective, so is this a deliberate ploy to get consumers to purchase certain products and increase their spend?  There’s a science to it and many, many hours are spent considering how to influence the buyer decision process.  For those considering layout design for a new restaurant, there is a great deal of information out there and the research that we have just talked about, could be useful when thinking about how influence consumer purchases.  However, if you’re the patron, use this information to your advantage – as the guys who undertook this research say, if you want to be skinny, do what the skinny people do.

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