If regulators really want to lessen fast food’s impact on obesity, they should mandate Kenny G playlists and dimmer switches for McDonald’s and the like. Or at least that’s the implication of a new study on ambiance’s influence on calorie consumption.
The research found that quick-service patrons consumed 18 percent fewer calories, and enjoyed their meals more, when they ate in dining areas pimped out with softer lighting, mellower music, and upscale touches like tablecloths and candlelight.
The insights were generated not by wiring study participants in a lab setting but by taking a Hardee’s in Illinois and giving part of it a makeover to make the dining area warmer and comfier. Patrons who ate their burgers and fries in that section tended to stay longer, eat less, but enjoy it more, according to the data.
The findings from the experiment, published in Psychological Reports, were reported jointly by Brian Wainsink of Cornell University, and Koert Van Ittersum of Georgia Institute of Technology.
The report is a validation of the current trend in quick-service design. Chains ranging from McDonald’s to Jack in the Box have been striving to give their restaurants more of a residential feel, a strategy that they expect to boost on-premise dining and dinner sales.