Food trucks are trendy, supplying fast food to hungry hipsters at festivals and busy corporate executives in business districts alike. Street food managers, however, might want to take into consideration the findings of a new study, if they care about their customers’ satisfaction and their business’ bottom line. According to researchers at the University of South Florida, eating while standing reduces one’s enjoyment and intake of food compared to eating while seated.
Standing food tastes worse
Researchers recruited 358 participants who took part in six experiments inside a lab. They either had chairs to sit in or none at all. Although the participants were told that they were there to take part in a simple taste test, 15 participants figured out the real purpose of the study and had to be excluded from it.
In order to understand how physical discomfort influences our perception of food and beverage, the researchers asked the volunteers to sample food under various conditions either sitting or standing. In each situation, the volunteers had to rate their physical and psychological stress, as well as how much they enjoyed the food. Across the board, sitting produced significantly more enjoyment of food than standing.
Next, the research team conducted three experiments meant to tease apart the interaction between discomfort and sensory perception.
During one notable experiment, the participants ate a cookie while standing after drinking a placebo drink which was supposedly meant to induce “physical relaxation”. Those who drank the fake-relaxing beverage rated the cookie as tastier than other standing participants who did not receive the drink, although not nearly as enjoyable as sitters. Another similar experiment evaluated how relaxation influenced the enjoyment of food with unpleasant-tasting foods. When participants sampled an overly salty brownie while standing they were more likely to rate it as less pleasant than those who were sitting.
These experiments suggest that sitting or standing can change a person’s attitude towards food or drink by shifting attention to the sensory experience. When you notice the feeling of discomfort from standing, it’s easier to be less impressed by good or bad food because you’re less focused on taste.
In a final experiment, the participants rated hot coffee while sitting or standing. The researchers were looking to establish how the two situations affected the perception of temperature. Those who were standing consumed less coffee and were less able to notice temperature than sitters.
The authors of the new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research say that their findings highlight an often ignored “sixth sense”: the vestibular sense which is responsible for balance and spatial orientation. Restaurant managers should be particularly concerned with the findings of their new study. Adding just a couple of sitting options to their food truck or street restaurant could significantly improve their clients’ satisfaction. On the flipside, if a person is looking to eat less food for weight management purposes, eating while standing might prove to be a nifty tactic.
“These findings have conceptual implications for broadening the frontiers of sensory marketing and for the effects of sensory systems on food taste perceptions. Given the increasing trend toward eating while standing, the findings also have practical implications for restaurant, retail, and other food-service environment designs,” the authors concluded.