Every wondered why Coke tastes better from a glass bottle than a plastic bottle? Why a neat swirl of spaghetti is more delicious than a heap dumped on your plate? Turns out it’s science. Gastrophysics if you want to use the fancy word.


The term has been coined by Oxford experimental psychologist Charles Spence who has researched in detail how all of the senses (even hearing) as well as mood and expectations influence the taste of food.

His book, The Recent Meal, has uncovered some interesting insights as how outside influences affect the taste of our food. Here’s a few of the best examples.

Fancy restaurants know what they are doing

If we pay more for a wine we think it’s more delicious. Heavy cultery implies quality (for example, yoghurt will be perceived as creamier). Classical music in the background encourages diners to choose more expensive options while loud music increases soft drink sales.

Sad movies may make you fat

Professor Brian Wansink from Cornell University found that viewers of sad movie Solaris munched 55% more popcorn than those who watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Eating in front of the tv also encourages you to eat more as you don’t realise when you are full.

Eating with friends may also make you fat

We eat 35% more when with one other person, 75% more with three others and twice as much when there are seven or more diners. Variety also encourages overeating. A bowl of mixed M&Ms will be eaten quicker than a bowl of just one colour.

Colour matters

People eat less from red plates and blue lighting has also been shown to discourage overeating. Charles Spence also tricked wine experts into reviewing a white wine with red food colouring as a red wine, even when the 54-strong panel had already reviewed the wine in its original white form.

Wine also tasted 50% sweeter when consumed under a red light. The reason? Our eyes are our most influential sense, with vision taking up the most brain space, and so the expectation implanted in our minds by colour can overrule the taste and aroma put together.

Blame your friend

The diner who orders first tends to enjoy their food or drink more. Those who follow often instinctively dismiss what others have ordered (there’s a psychological phenomenon called the “need for uniqueness”) and end up picking something they wouldn’t ordinarily chose.


So how to we react to this information? Despair at the fact we are all easily influenced dupes? Or accept that outside influences such as presentation, company, music and even the colour of the plate are as much of a part of the eating experience as the food itself? We’re plumping for the latter. Just don’t tell that to the wine critics.

Are you fast, progressive, and not a total ****?

Then you may consider replying to a job advert for a chef at a new restaurant in Clarkson, Glasgow, Scotland.


Then again, maybe not.

You see, the obnoxious job ad which was placed on Gumtree  warns “the money is sh*t”, the kitchen is the “size of a closet” and anyone who is unfortunate enough to apply for the role with a cover letter featuring standard business cliches such as team player will cause the the advertiser to “stab myself in the face with a pencil.”

The boss? Well he’s just “only a d***head for the first three years you know me. After that I’m a total sweetheart.”

We have a feeling a number of chefs will be reading it and thinking this doesn’t sound so bad compared to what they put up with.

If so, well sorry, you can’t apply for it anyway. The ad has now been taken down.

We have all had traumatic dining experiences. Meals out so bad we logged online afterwards to leave the most scathing insult of all – a one star review.

The memory of a limp pasta and rude waiter may make you shudder with horror, but according to a report from linguists at Stanford University, diners who left one star restaurant reviews on Yelp adopted the same phrases as actual trauma victims.

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Professor Daniel Jurafsky, who studied the language in nearly a million online reviews of restaurants across the USA, said diners who left one star reviews used the past tense to distance themselves from the event, and terms such as “we” and “us” to share the pain.

He found that disastrous meals out were more often down to poor service than bad food, prompting reviewers to post scathing accounts filled with past tense narratives and first-person plural personal pronouns.

“These are exactly the same characteristics we see in people’s writing after they’ve been traumatised,” Jurafsky told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Jose. “These people have suffered minor traumas from bad service, rudeness, or being cheated.

“When fans of Princess Diana were writing after her death, or when people were blogging after a campus tragedy, people talked in the past tense to distance themselves from the bad event, and referred to ‘us as a group’ and that ‘we are going to get through it together’,” he explained.

Sex and drug references

Meanwhile, diners who ate in expensive restaurants littered their reviews with sexual phrases while cheap restaurant reviews referenced drug taking.

“People who liked the expensive restaurants referred to ‘orgasmic pastry’, ‘seductively-seared foie gras’ and even ‘very naughty deep-fried pork belly’,” Jurafsky said, quoting from some of the reviews he studied.

But in cheaper restaurants diners talked of craving, being addicted, and needing a fix of items on the menus. One described garlic noodles as their drug of choice. All manner of food, from chips to cupcakes, was likened to crack.

Junk food, such as pizzas, chips and desserts, drew the most drug references from reviewers. “It’s as if they are feeling guilty, and that talking about the food as a drug, as an addiction, makes them feel less guilty, because they cannot help themselves. It’s like ‘the cupcake made me eat it’,” Jurafsky said.

Traumatic dining experiences

Back to the one star reviews. Here at simpleERB we firmly believe that as unpleasant as a bad restaurant experience can be, a little bit of trauma can build character and through the bad times you can emerge wiser.

Be strong. We’re here for you.



Often restaurants will go out of their way to say they are kid friendly. Whether it’s a play area or just a box of crayons on the table, being welcoming to families is a big thing to some places. Others, like this cafe in Australia are very exact about how they want their little visitors to behave. Fair play to them for being so open but do you think this makes the cafe look good or bad? Are you more or less likely to visit?

In the past, other cafe’s have come up with less blunt hints to parents about badly behaved younger guests.


Restaurant manners and playing with food

This is from PJ O’Rourke’s “Modern Manners”, which is thoroughly recommended by the team at simpleERB.


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The table manners you have in a restaurant are very different from those you have in the home of a friend because, in a restaurant, you’re allowed to play with food. If you eat enough expensive meals and drink enough expensive liquor in a restaurant, you’re allowed to do anything. But in the home of a friend, no matter how much you eat and drink, it won’t excuse you for “restoring” a Renoir with potatoes au gratin.





Playing with food is the main reason that dining in restaurants has become so popular. Playing with food is a psychologically powerful way of attracting attention to yourself. And restaurants are better places to attract attention than friends’ homes are, anyway. You usually know who’s going to be at a friend’s home. But practically anybody could be at a restaurant. If you attract enough attention in a restaurant, maybe a rich, beautiful person will give you money and sex.

Playing with food is easy. There are so many wonderful props right at hand. Breathes there a man with soul so dead that he’s immune to the theatrical possibilities of a plate full of fried calamari? Even bank presidents and Presbyterian ministers have been known to put the tentacle parts up their noses and pretend the garlic bread is Captain Nemo’s submarine, Nautilus. But playing with food must be done exactly right or it will lead to social disaster.

The secret to successful sport with foodstuffs is correct attitude. Playing with food has to be fast, loud, and enthusiastic. You must make your high spirits contagious before anyone has time for second thoughts. Second thoughts always consist of calling the police.

But if your attitude and timing are right, you can put a lettuce-leaf lion’s mane around the neck of your date, hold her at bay with your chair, command her to leap upon the table and rear up on her hind legs, and everyone will think it’s great fun.

Here are some other things you can do:

  • Use steamed mussels as castanets, slip sugar bowls over the toes of your shoes, and do a flamenco dance on your chair.
  • If everyone is having beef dishes, run around the table and try to put the cow back together.
  • Use any roast whole bird as a hand puppet. You can achieve remarkably realistic effects by jamming your thumb and forefinger into the wing sockets. Point out that the bird has lost it’s head, so it has no sense at all, which is why it’s flying around the table squeezing people’s noses.
  • Illustrate Persian Gulf battle strategy on the napkin in someone’s lap. Asparagus spears are capital ships; chunks of bouef bourguignon are air-to-surface missiles, et cetera.
  • Hang a grilled brook trout on the wall like a trophy, or, better, stand on the table and re-enact landing it with an umbrella and shoelace.
  • Gather up veal scallops and have an impromptu game of cards- sauce Milanese is trump.
  • Use a raw oyster to show someone what a French kiss would be like if she’d married a reptile.


The list is endless. Let imagination, rather than taste, be your guide.*

“That’s a fancy box at the top of the page, they must be the really good dishes.”

“Oh, the description makes it sounds so lovely and exotic. I’ll order that.”

Ever found yourself saying something like that when looking at a restaurant menu? If you have, there’s a fair chance that the person who designed it wanted to elicit those reactions. A recent study by Cornell University, as detailed on WSJ’s Marketwatch site reveals some of the tricks behind making restaurant menus irresistible.

Borders and elaborate descriptions, along with a high placement seem to be the place to find those high margin dishes whilst by denoting low calorie options, diners are more likely to stray from the healthy options with bland descriptions in favour of the less healthy dishes.

Have you ever noticed any of these tricks?

Ever had a discount for praying? Most of the time your surprise when you look at the bill is down to the second bottle of wine you forgot you had ordered, or the discretionary service charge that has been added, but imagine your surprise if you got the bill and found a discount, for praying.

This NPR article details the case of a diner in North Carolina who added a 15% discount to a customer who blessed her food but questions whether the discount would apply to all faiths, and if it’s fair. What’s the strangest discount you have seen offered and does your POS system have a ‘5% Praying in Public’ option?

How do you deal with email on vacation?

Email vacation

Thanks to the most excellent PHDcomics.com

Original here

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New Zealand  pizza chain Hell Pizza, (yes, “Hell Pizza”) are promoting themselves for Easter with a special rabbit pizza on a billboard made from rabbit skins.

The display features the tagline “Made from real rabbit. Like this billboard.”


After a bit of Twitter storm, Hell Pizza posted a note on its Facebook page to  bunny lovers, noting that they “sourced these rabbit skins via a professional animal tanning company, who in turn sourced them from local meat processing companies where the skins are a regular by-product.”

The company says that rabbits  are a “noted pest” that cause problems in the New Zealand environment. But, they also taste good.

Is this Myx-omatosis-ing it on social media? (No. You’re sacked, Ed.)




The Independent ran a piece today  about modern restaurant etiquette ,  (for diners and restaurateurs.)

e.g. for Diners

4. Thou Shalt Not Do a Stupid Squiggle in the Air

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 09.08.11Once, to ask for the bill, you snapped your fingers and yelled, “Garçon! LaddEESHee-on!” Now you sketch a rudimentary signature in the air with a languidly imperious hand. Waiters are liable to ask if you’re having a fit. Just call one over and say, “We’d like the bill please.”

…. for Restaurants

1. Thou Shalt Not offer Only One Dish

Steak-only restaurants are just about OK. Schnitzel restaurants serving three different meat schnitzels, we don’t mind. But we’re bored by the five places in Soho serving only ramen noodle soup. And we don’t like the sound of the risotto-only joint. What next? The Paella Palace? The Calves’ Liver Cave?


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