Marco Baldocchi Group
Mobile & Augmented Reality Developer Agency
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Neuromarketing and the “energy-saving menu”

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How to order dishes for a better customer experience

How are dishes offered at the restaurant?

Who decides the order with which they are presented on the menu?

And still, today it is very fashionable, especially in restaurants of “haute cuisine” the formula in which the chef decides which dishes to taste or which order to propose.

Apparently, it is a unique food and wine experience with high emotional value but the question is: at what “cognitive cost”?

Have you ever heard of “energy-saving menu”?

Let’s start from the beginning.

To answer our questions we carried out an analysis with my lab and together with a chef.

The starting point was, in fact, to understand what aspects were most relevant to the participants of a tasting experience in a high-end restaurant.

Our attention was particularly focused on some

features such as the most sophisticated design of the dish or storytelling.

So we analyzed how they could affect the emotional impact and the perception of taste in customers.

The dishes' storytelling

The first results confirmed that the “most sought after” dishes from a visual point of view or “told” dishes with words that recall all the senses (not only taste!) were perceived as more “engaging” by the participants in the experiment.

To understand what I mean by “more engaged” I want to give you some data of our research:

Public: consumers in line with restaurant customers, between 35 and 55 years old, of medium-high social/economic level, who like to live a gastronomic experience of haute cuisine.

Aspects analyzed: the level of “emotional engagement” related to the influence of presentation, food and the time when it was served.

Non-variable features: restaurant, atmosphere, table arrangement, menu, serving staff, presentation of courses.

Instruments used: GSR, EEG and Eye-tracking. The first provided us with the emotional intensity experienced. The second provided us with the interpretation of sensations and emotions (in particular the level of “cognitive stress felt to live the tasting experience”) and the third provided us with the visual points of interest of the individual courses (and possible “visual distraction”).

So, what is the great discovery related to the order of the courses?

The interesting discovery was that after the half of the tasting experience (consisting in 9 courses), the levels of emotions and attention decreased drastically.

The dishes no longer had the same emotional impact even though they were “special and sought after”.

The first reflection was that the cognitive effort was too intense and therefore the experience lost value.

In fact, it is scientifically proven that the mind, in a more or less long time, returns to its natural and habitual state of balance and tranquility.

In practice, just as our organism regulates body temperature, oxygen level in the blood or sleep, it tries to compensate for a psychological balance.

This concept is called emotional evanescence.

Second Neuromarketing test: valley-peak-valley

Taking into account this emotional self-regulation, it was important to organize a menu that would allow for less cognitive effort.

Analyzing the data “plate by plate”, we decided to organize a second experiment.

This time, the menu consisted of dishes that created a dynamic flow of emotional changes (peak-valley-peak) concluding the experience with one of the most “impactful” courses.

The results were really interesting!

The average threshold of emotional reaction was extremely higher:

For the presentation of dishes +62% while for the tasting phase the average was even varied from negative to positive.

We concluded the test with an interview (recorded and with analysis of facial microexpressions) face-to-face with the candidates.

In both cases they reported that the experience had been very interesting.

In the first case, 32% reported that it had been “long-lasting” .

However, the two experiences had the same duration.

This is what Neuromarketing teaches us

We can therefore conclude that we can speak of “regulation of emotions” referring to processes through which we are able, subconsciously or consciously, to control and balance our emotions.

In this way, we can reduce, maintain or intensify the emotional experience resulting from exposure to a stimulus.

The alternation of dishes with different emotional impact has generated a result of less cognitive effort on the part of the candidates with the consequent better perception of the experience and of the dishes tasted.

And you, have you ever felt a “long-lasting” feeling at a dinner?

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