You are how you eat
The Dutch university of Wageningen has opened a restaurant of the future that doubles as a research lab. Cameras and other data monitoring devices will help the Center for Innovative Consumer Studies “find out what influences people: colors, taste, personnel. We try to focus on one stimulus, like light,” said Rene Koster, head of the center, as overhead bulbs switched through green, red, orange and blue.
“This restaurant is a playground of possibilities. We can ask the staff to be less friendly and visible or the reverse,” he said. “The changes must be small. If you were making changes every day it would be too disruptive. People wouldn’t like it.”
From a control room, researchers can direct cameras built into the ceiling of the restaurant to zoom in on individual diners and their plates. They watch how people walk through the restaurant, what food catches their eye, whether they always sit at the same table and how much food they throw away.
Koster said researchers can experiment with variables like noise, smells, furniture and food packaging. Is the same ham and cheese sandwich more appealing if it is wrapped in cellophane, under a glass cover or on offer in a vending machine?
They had already noticed that one table where the plastic chairs had pink flowery covers was always occupied.
Koster said observation is much better than questionnaires for consumer research as many choices are unconscious.