Saturday, September 14, 2013

Placate Lighter Diners with Smaller Plates

Nation’s Restaurant News says Olive Garden restaurants are augmenting their small plates menu, for a total of seven selections. One announced objective is to better attract diners who want a light meal at a low price.
     If these diners take up four-top tables which would otherwise be occupied by bigger-plate bigger-budget customers, Olive Garden might need to swallow smaller revenues. A body of consumer behavior research indicates that when people eat from littler plates, they feel full sooner.
     It has to do with what’s called the Delboeuf illusion: Draw two dots of the same size on separate parts of a piece of paper. Draw a small circle around one of the dots and a large circle around the other. Then show the paper to a friend and ask which of the dots is bigger. The correct answer, as you know, is that neither of the dots is larger. You drew them the same size. But the overwhelming majority of people will say the dot surrounded by the small circle is larger. The brain subconsciously judges the size of the dot by comparing it to the size of the surrounding circle.
     Experiments at Cornell University and in restaurants have shown that diners serve themselves less on small plates than on large plates because they judge the quantity of the food by comparing it to the size of the surrounding plate.
     But another body of consumer behavior research indicates Olive Garden’s small plate diners will end up eating more. Researchers at Technical University of Lisbon and Tilburg University found that when tempting high-calorie foods are offered in small sizes, people manage to consume a larger quantity. They order a multitude of the small offerings. Large servings trigger concerns about overeating. Smaller servings are perceived as innocent pleasures, relaxing the defenses against devouring second and third helpings.
     Olive Garden is probably aware of this phenomenon. Another announced objective of the small plates menu is to fit the reputation Millennials have for seeking variety. Rather than ordering a single large entrée, the diner can construct a meal from a bunch of the small plates.
     If you’re inspired to implement a small-plate initiative in your retailing, do keep the forks small. Researchers at University of Utah-Salt Lake City watched what people ate in a popular Italian restaurant. Some diners had been provided large forks and others, small forks.
     The big fork people ate less.

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Fork Over Those Smaller Plates

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