Why is food presentation so important?

We eat with our eyes!

By Jeremy Ryland


Most chefs know that presentation is important. In fact, the presentation of a dish is just as important as the flavour. Food has to look good and be visually appealing for us to want to eat it. So much of what we choose to eat is based on expectation – we look at a piece of chocolate cake and we can almost taste it before we touch it. In fact, good-looking food can be healthier than plain food as the visual anticipation makes our mouths water and our stomachs register as being hungry, increasing the flow of saliva, gastric and pancreatic juices making the food easier to digest and absorb all the nutrients.


Creating good-looking food is an art and chefs are as much artists as artisans. Arranging food carefully on the plate, ensuring no spills and balancing the visual appeal takes time and effort – but it is worth it. Studies have shown that people will pay more for beautifully presented dishes and often perceive that they taste better than plainer ones – even when using identical ingredients.


Even the crockery is important. Ferran Adrià was able to show that a dessert served on a white plate was considered 15 per cent more intense, 10 per cent sweeter and was 10 per cent more liked than exactly the same dessert served on a black plate. Bear in mind that brown and blue plates, colours that suppress appetite, can also negatively affect our perception of taste. But no matter how delicious a dish might be, it will be downgraded if it is served on a dirty plate. Make sure all of your plates are sparkling clean.


When a Gault&Millau reviewer visits a restaurant, one of the things they are looking at is presentation. The dishes presented must be appealing and appetising. Creative good looking food is awarded more than plain sloppy food – no matter how good it tastes. But it is not just the food. The venue itself must also be presented well. After all, first impressions count and it is said that the first three seconds set the scene!


Rubbish in the pot plants at the entrance. Dirty carpets. Greasy tables. Tired drooping flowers. Lights that don’t work. Torn and stained menus. Fingerprints on glassware. Untidy uniforms – or no uniforms. These are all things that are all too common even in the best of establishments.


Before every service, every restaurant owner or manager, should walk out of the back of their restaurant and walk back in through the front, casting a critical eye on everything. Look at your venue from the point of view of the customer. Attention to detail is important.


As a reviewer, we rate everything from the booking process to the farewell. Everything from the noise levels, the cleanliness of the toilets and the ease of paying the bill has an effect on the final score. Dining out today is all about the experience and customers are no longer willing to tolerate mediocrity.70 per cent of people say they prefer a cool experience over a cool product. 

Why do people walk past several cafes and all congregate at one? It’s all about a positive experience from the greeting to the goodbye. And yet, when reviewing for the 2018 Guide, only eight restaurants of the 969 evaluated – that’s 0.8 per cent - actively engaged with our anonymous reviewers, to give them a reason to return.


So remember, first impressions count – and the presentation of your whole experience is just as vital as the presentation and flavour of the food.

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