Are Your Appetizers TOO Good?

Are Your Appetizers TOO Good?

Maybe it’s not a case of your main course offerings not being good enough to really capture the attention of your target audience; maybe it’s a matter of your appetizers being too good. This may seem quite obvious in the real-world sphere — but now there is some science behind that intuitive thinking.

Researchers examined something called “hedonic contrast” — the perceived experiential gap, difference or contrast of enjoyment that occurs between foods served in different meal courses. In their study, primary authors Jacob Lahne (Drexel University) and Debra Zellner (Montclair State University) served the same pasta main course (pasta with garlic and oil) after either a “good” or “mediocre” bruschetta appetizer.

The study moved the testing out of the laboratory and into a more realistic setting, the training restaurant of a culinary school.

A really good appetizer by Chef John Baltazar (Photo: WREats).

A really good appetizer by Chef John Baltazar (Photo: WREats).

The results they reported in the journal Food Quality and Preference found that the pasta was rated worse by subjects eating the good appetizer than by subjects eating the mediocre one. This suggests that the “hedonic value” of an appetizer could influence the experience of a diner while eating the meal’s main course.

This, in turn, gives the restaurateur and chef pause for thought and perhaps suggests a careful strategy that progressively builds and enhances the experience of a multi-course meal: a really, really good appetizer may cause a guest a diminished experience with his or her main course.

That’s not good for anybody.

 

 

 

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