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An experiment conducted in a naturalistic dining context is reported, in which the impact of different styles of plating on diners' experience of the food was assessed. A hundred and sixty three diners were separated into two groups during a luncheon event held in a large dining room. Each group of diners was served the same menu, with a variation in the visual presentation of the ingredients on the plate. The results revealed that the diners were willing to pay significantly more for the appetizer (a salad), when arranged in an artistically-inspired manner (M = £5.94 vs. £4.10). The main course was liked more, and considered more artistic, when the various elements were presented in the centre of the plate, rather than placed off to one side. The participants also reported being willing to pay significantly more for the centred than for the offset plating (M = £15.35 vs. £11.65). These results are consistent with the claim that people "eat first with their eyes", and that a diner's experience of the very same ingredients can be significantly enhanced (or diminished) simply by changing the visual layout of the food elements of the dish. Results such as these suggest that theories regarding the perception of food can potentially be confirmed (or disconfirmed) outside of the confines of the laboratory (i.e., in naturalistic dining settings).

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





45 - 50


Dining, Food aesthetics, Food liking, Perception, Plating, Adult, Aged, Art, Choice Behavior, Emotions, Female, Food Preferences, Food Services, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Photic Stimulation, Taste, Visual Perception, Young Adult