Have you ever noticed how different the atmosphere is in a fast food restaurant compared to a higher end sit down restaurant? Usually fast food restaurant have bright lights and either upbeat music playing in the background or no music playing at all. And of course the purpose is not only to get your food fast but to eat it fast as well. However in sit down restaurants, the lighting tends to be much dimmer and almost always had softer more relaxing music. What if I told you these differences in atmosphere cause about an 18% difference in the amount of calories you have during a meal.
According to a study done by Cornell University, people tend to eat on average 175 more calories in a brightly lit fast food restaurant than they would in that same fast food restaurant when it was dimly lit and played relaxing music. There was no difference in the types of food people ordered, they just ate less of it and were more satisfied with their meal. This challenges earlier studies stating that people tend to mindlessly eat more food when they are relaxed.
It seems that restaurant owners have picked up on this fact a long time ago. I'm pretty sure you have never walked into a McDonald's with mood lighting or into an upscale restaurant where they didn't want you to relax and take your to time to enjoy your meal. In the past few years many fast food chains have come under fire for purposely using tactics to make people eat more and therefore make them fat.
So what do you think? Are fast food restaurants doing this to us on purpose? Or is it just a coincidence? In the mean time, maybe its better to take your fast food meals back home and enjoy them in your own relaxing environment. It couldn't hurt.