ITHACA, N.Y. — A restaurant’s choice of lighting and music may increase satisfaction with a meal and reduce calorie intake, according to a study conducted at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab.
“When we did a makeover of a fast-food restaurant, we found that softer music and lighting led diners to eat 175 fewer calories and enjoy it more,” said Brian Wansink, professor of marketing and the study’s lead author.
Mr. Wansink and his co-author, Koert van Ittersum of the Georgia Institute of Technology, found that softening the lighting and music in fast-food restaurants didn’t change what people ordered, but it caused them to eat 18% less of what they ordered — 775 calories instead of 949. They also rated the food as more enjoyable.
The results are posted on-line in the journal Psychological Reports.
According to the authors, the study counters the popular notion that people who dine in a relaxed environment, with soft lighting and mellow music, will order more food and eat more than those in a more typical dining environment.
“These results suggest that a more relaxed environment increases satisfaction and decreases consumption,” Mr. Wansink said. “This is important information for fast-food restaurants, which are often accused of contributing to obesity: Making simple changes away from brighter lights and sound-reflecting surfaces can go a long way toward reducing overeating — and increase their customers’ satisfaction at the same time.”