The presence of food during an enjoyable activity makes you enjoy it less according to new research from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).
The researchers, Dr Anne-Kathrin Klesse and Dr Emily Garbinsky found that people mentally simulate how the food will taste, decreasing their engagement with the ongoing experience. This results in lower levels of enjoyment.
Companies intentionally use food to create enjoyable customer experiences. For instance, amusement parks, movie theatres, and concert venues all offer food accompaniments to boost customers’ enjoyment of these experiences. However, this research indicates that this strategy may actually backfire.
The results also suggest that the presence of food can increase consumers’ enjoyment of negative experiences. The researchers experimented by asking participants to view unpleasant pictures. Food improved their enjoyment of this experience. Businesses may want to present tasty food in situations where consumers engage in less enjoyable experiences, for example while queuing, to make the experience less negative.
According to Professor Klesse; “Being able to fully enjoy experiences is central to happiness and wellbeing. Our research offers important insights into what environmental factors can negatively impact consumers’ enjoyment of ongoing experiences. It is important to create a setting in which consumers can be fully engaged to maximise the enjoyment from experiences, such as listening to a concert. The presence of tempting food is therefore detrimental because it distracts consumers who are invited to imagine what they’ll taste next, and this actually decreases their engagement with and enjoyment of their current experience.”
The research was conducted over 10 studies using a variety of experiences. These experiences were either in the presence or absence of tempting food, like cookies or desserts. Afterwards, they indicated their level of enjoyment of that experience.
The paper has been published in Journal of Marketing Research under the title How (and When) the Presence of Food Decreases Enjoyment of Customer Experiences.