Hospitality/Leisure

Bright food tastes better, say scientists

Two identical plates of food, one under bright light and the other under dim light
In an experiment at a fine-dining restaurant in the Netherlands, scientists discovered that guests eating under bright ambient light perceived the overall taste of the dish as more intense as opposed to those exposed to the dim ambient light.

DINERS believe food that’s brightly lit tastes better, researchers have discovered. 

In an experiment at a fine-dining restaurant in the Netherlands, scientists found that guests eating under bright ambient light perceived the overall taste of the dish as more intense as opposed to those exposed to the dim lighting.

The findings could force a rethink of how lighting professionals, restauranteurs and others in the hospitality sector design lighting. 

In the assessment, the team from Maastricht University manipulated the light intensity by adapting the illuminance levels of the 55W pendant lamps (warm white light) above each table. 

In the dim light condition, the illuminance was set at 13 lx and in the bright light condition, the luminance was set at 300 lx. 

Depending on the day that the guests were visiting the restaurant, they were assigned to either the dim or the bright ambient light condition. 

A total of 152 people participated in the study.

They were all served a special dish which contained the four basic tastes (salt, sour, sweet, and bitter) and multiple textures (such as crispy and creamy elements) while being as balanced as possible. 

The dish could be consumed within two or three bites.

The diners were then asked to rate the perceived overall taste intensity of the dish on a nine-point Likert satisfaction scale.

Participants in the bright ambient light condition rated the overall taste as more intense as opposed to guests in the dim ambient light condition.

However, light intensity had no effect on the pleasantness of the perceived overall taste intensity.

In the experiment, the team from Maastricht University manipulated the light intensity by adapting the illuminance levels of the 55W pendant lamps (warm white light) above each table. 

The findings are consistent with prior research into lighting which have demonstrated that there are lower taste thresholds of sweet and salty foods and increased taste intensity perception of sweet food in brightly-lit environments compared to dimly-lit ones.

Luke Garnsworthy, founder of Hertfordshire-based restaurant Crockers Tring, told The Telegraph that good lighting is vital because ‘the first taste is with the eyes.

‘That’s why great chefs go to such lengths to create not just tasty food but beautiful looking plates,’ he said.

‘In my mind, it makes perfect sense to light the table and therefore the plate properly. 

‘We want our guests to be able to feast with their eyes, and also to share photos of the dishes with their friends.’ 

  • Read the full research paper HERE.