It’s Not What You Eat. It’s How You Eat It

March 12, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Oliver Wainwright wrote about how the tools we use to eat can change our perception of what we’re eating:

  • As Centives has previously covered, the metal that cutlery is coated in can affect its taste.
  • Because of their “reduction potential” copper and zinc add a sour, metallic taste to food.
  • Since gold is inert it adds more of a creamy taste to foods.
  • The science is important – if cutlery were to accentuate the taste of sweetness, then food could actually have less sugar in it.
  • Scientists are also experimenting with other dinner items. A gold leafed wand can be dipped into a jar of Nutella to replicate the experience of licking your fingers.
  • Coating a bowl in rabbit fur adds a more tactile experience to soup.
  • The future may be electrical shocks delivered directly to the tongue to stimulate different taste buds.
  • The technology is a ways away though –at the moment the electric currents just taste sour.

Read more about what future cutlery could be like, why it’s not that great to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth, and more over here.

Source: The Guardian

Bow Before The Might Of Pizza

March 5, 2015 in Daily Bulletin


Even as fast food has suffered declining sales, pizza chains are seeing astonishing growth. The Economist explained why:

  • Pizza became popular in America after World War 2 when soldiers returned from Italy and spread it to the masses.
  • People (mistakenly) assume that pizza is healthier than other fast food as it contains what is seen as a good balance of meats, veggies, dairy, and grains.
  • After the financial crisis people stopped going out to eat, but ordering a pizza at home still seemed relatively cheap.
  • There is also innovation: from bacon stuffed crusts to pizza in a cone there are countless chains that offer a different take on the traditional pizza experience.
  • This keeps consumers coming back – and since many of these innovations are difficult to replicate at home, it also means that pizza chains offer an experience that people can’t get anywhere else.

Read more about the dominance of pizza here.

Source: The Economist

Restaurants Prefer You Skip Dessert

February 12, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

Roberto Ferman writes that most eateries would prefer you skipped the sweet dish:

  • While diners are willing to pay $20-$30 for entrees, they are rarely willing to pay even close to that amount for dessert.
  • Yet desserts require the same high quality ingredients as other entries on the menu, driving margins down.
  • Dining establishments also have to hire a specialist pastry chef and reserve space in the kitchen to serve you pudding.
  • Some restaurants have given up on serving their own desserts and instead just outsource it to third party companies.
  • But this doesn’t solve the problem of diners hanging around, preventing the next set of paying customers from getting a table.

Read why restaurants want to encourage the consumption of dessert wines, why Yelp means that the dessert menu lives on, and more over here.

Source: The Washington Post

The Secrets That Menus Keep

December 23, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

The Economist reviewed The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu and outlined some fascinating statistics from the book:

  • Mid-level restaurants constantly describe their food as ‘fresh’ – indicating anxiety about how people perceive their food.
  • The cheapest restaurants like to assure diners that their food is ‘real’
  • Expensive ones avoid such terms – suggesting that their food is fresh or real would allow patrons to consider the possibility that the food could be anything else.
  •  More expensive dishes have longer names. Each extra letter in a dish’s name roughly adds $0.18 to the cost.
  • Filler words such as “tasty” bring down the price by 9%, since it’s clear the restaurant has nothing useful to say about the food.
  • Expensive food is sexy. High end restaurants may describe their food as “seductive” or “orgasmic”.

Read some other fascinating insights, find out why people like to describe their guilty pleasures as ‘addictive’, get some insights about reviewers, and more over at the full article here. We can only imagine how good the book is which you can find here.

Source: The Economist


December 11, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Brad Tuttle assembled 10 facts about drive-thrus. Some of the more interesting ones include:

  • Drive-thrus are getting slower. This year the average wait time is a record 203 seconds. Centives has previously noted that for every extra second that customers have to wait at a drive-thru, restaurants have to lower their prices by four cents.
  • Drive-thrus are quickest in the morning when people have fairly simple orders for coffee, and during the mid-afternoon ‘snack’ hours.
  • They’re slowest during lunch when people are likely to order for multiple people and menus usually expand to include more items.
  • Wendy’s has the quickest drive-thru. Chick-fil-A has the most accurate drive-thru with 87% of drive-thru orders being correct.
  • The first drive-thru opened in 1947. McDonald’s opened its first drive-thru several decades later in 1975.
  • 40% of Starbucks locations now have drive-thrus and this proportion is set to grow.
  • Chipotle refuses to open drive-thrus. Analysts argue that it would destroy the experience of being able to see the fresh ingredients being put together.

Read other facts, find out which restaurant has the least accurate drive-thru, and find out why Panera studied drive-thrus for ten years before deciding to introduce one over here.

Source: Time

How Restaurants Cut Corners

December 8, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

There was an uproar when it was discovered that Olive Garden doesn’t salt the water in which it serves its pasta. That’s just the beginning of what the restaurant industry does to try to cut costs wrote Olga Oksman:

  • Serving steak with heavier cutlery will lead customers to think that the steak they’re eating is higher grade than it really is.
  • If food prices jump then restaurants may decrease the size of dinner plates, thus serving smaller portions for the same price.
  • Playing around with the amount of foam in glasses of beer can save up to 20 beers per keg.
  • Overpricing common wines will outrage customers. Which is why restaurants purchase wines not commonly available then overprice those.
  • The Patagonian toothfish sounds like an unappealing dish. Call it Chilean Sea Bass instead and voila you have a fancy sounding meal.
  • Patrons first glance at the middle of a single page menu. Therefore restaurants will place their highest margin items in that area.
  • One restaurant asked its employees to park in front of the restaurant to make it seem busier than it actually was. When it actually filled up workers moved their cars to the back.

Read other tricks of the trade, find out why you always get a new beer glass rather than a refill of your old one, and why opening a restaurant still isn’t all that lucrative even after all of this over here.

Source: The Guardian

Food And Gender

November 21, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

GrubHub is an online food delivery service that links up with local restaurants. James McWilliams wrote about what the company has found in an analysis of orders and gender:

  • Women are more likely to order food at work and eat it at their desk. Men are more likely to go out for lunch.
  • Men are often night owls, with their rates of ordering being substantially higher than women between 10pm and 2am.
  • Women are more likely to order juices, and frozen yogurt, while men prefer sodas and milkshakes.
  • Women like edamame, avocado rolls and plantains. Men like poutine, and Sriacha hot sauce.
  • In terms of ethnic food women prefer Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean. Men prefer Greek, Turkish, and Mediterranean.
  • When they do agree on a type of food their menu choices differ. Women will go for vegetable kormas and ensaladas, while men opt for meat samosas and chorizo sausage tacos.

Read many more details here.

Source: The Pacific Standard

Restaurant Menus

March 31, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Megan Garber looked at the design of restaurant menus:

  • A restaurant’s menu, says the head of menu design at IHOP, is “the single most important representation of the brand in the restaurant, other than the building itself”.
  • The first menu appeared in France during the 1700s.
  • Before then restaurants would serve whatever food they wanted to serve and people would play a flat price to eat at communal tables.
  • In recent times there has been criticism of menus that are too long. Simple chains that focus on a few items such as Chipotle’s have been successful.
  • Menu designers have to consider things such as lighting in the restaurant and how things might get darker towards the evening.
  • Colours also change by season. Applebee’s menu has brighter colours in spring.
  • Menus are living documents. They’re usually updated every few months with some experimental dishes. If those dishes are successful they make it onto the permanent menu.

Read about how menu design is like web design, the menu’s Chinese origins, and how IHOP’s menu redesign helped boost sales over here.

Source: The Atlantic

Future Fork

January 16, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Do you eat your food with a normal fork? You pleb. Valentina Palladino presented what is possibly the future of forks:

  • Studies indicate that people who eat more slowly release more hormones that make them feel full, thus controlling diet.
  • The Hapifork was made to make sure you slow down your eating.
  • It has a small light that turns green if you eat at a reasonable pace. Eat too fast and the light turns red and the fork begins to vibrate.
  • Its battery lasts for a week and it can connect to your phone via Bluetooth.

The full article is a review of the fork, its limitations, and more. Read it here.

Source: The Verge

Ivy League Waiters

January 2, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Ivy League students are increasingly working as waiters. But this isn’t a tale of the desperation of students looking to avoid youth unemployment. Alina Dizik’s article was about top students choosing to wait tables as a career:

  • With the price of entrees at top tier restaurants rising about $100 restaurants are committed to providing a top class dining experience.
  • This includes hiring the best waiters possible. Head waiters can make as much as $150,000 a year with tips.
  • It’s not a job for the faint hearted. Each of the plates in a 16 course tasting dinner menu can have up to 15 ingredients and various preparation styles. Waiters are expected to be able to answer questions about each of.
  • Some dishes require other skills such as the ability to perform a card trick that goes with a seasonal chocolate cheesecake.
  • Only 10% of those who apply for jobs as waiters at top restaurants get accepted – rivalling admission rates at top universities.
  • Restaurants for their part offer ‘courses’ such as a rundown on various cocktails or the art of wine tasting.

Read about what it takes to be a top waiter, the input that they get to have on new dishes, and more over here.

Source: The Wall Street Journal