Fast Food Restaurants’ Sneakiest Tricks
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Wednesday and we have almost made it through the middle of another work week. I hope you are having a beary safe and great week so far.
Nutrition is very important to people living with HIV and those with chronic health problems like cancer, diabetes and others. So today I thought I would blog about the secret reasons you still scarf down McDonald's, Taco Bell, and more.
Burger King’s slogan once was, “It just tastes better.” And while few would probably argue against the deliciousness of a juicy burger or hot batch of French fries, there’s no secret behind why you think it tastes so good. “Fast-food companies have one goal: to get you to come to their restaurant and not the place across the street,” says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life and a leading expert on eating behavior and food marketing.
Wansink argues that fast-food joints aren't evil—just business-oriented companies. But he does admit most restaurants tweak their recipes, dining environment, and advertising campaigns to make you crave a Big Mac over a Whopper, or a Frosty more than a McFlurry. Here are eight secret tricks most major fast-food chains use to entice you.
Telling you what to taste.
Finger Lickin' Good. Hot n' Juicy. Restaurants label their food specifically to increase the craveability of it, says Wansink.
Using descriptive keywords has a phenomenal impact on how we view a dining experience. If you market a hamburger as juicy, people eat it and think, "Man, this is incredibly juicy!"
The burger, of course, has to hold its own, but your taste experience is incredibly subjective. Naming items with descriptive terms likes “smokehouse burger” or “buttery biscuit” ensures these are the features that will stand out and heighten your experience.
Keeping the ads in your line of view — constantly.
It’s easy to resist influence when you can skip over Pizza Hut ads thanks to TiVo, but what about your drive to work? A 2013 UCLA study found that areas with more outdoor advertisements dedicated to fast food and soft drinks were more likely to have overweight residents than places where al fresco ads were for other goods.
Almost every chain does it: Second to TV time, most fast food companies spend more on billboards, bus ads, and other outside space than any on other media outlet, according to the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.
Offering to supersize your value meal.
Upselling — a marketing strategy that promotes upgrades or add-ons — encourages customers to spend a small amount to upgrade to a larger portion of food. And while you think you’re getting a deal, these so-called bargains are actually costing you more.
“The restaurant makes more money, while you are really just buying extra calories,” says Margo Wootan, D.Sc., of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit watchdog group that advocates for safer and more healthful foods.
In fact, a 2010 study in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing found that when choosing among the same items, people opted for larger portions when buying as a combo meal than a la carte.
Bundles and upgrades actually mean unnecessary money and calories: Doubling your drink from 7-Eleven's Gulp to a Double Gulp will only cost you 52 cents extra, but it tacks on 400 more calories . . . and that's still 52 cents you wouldn’t have spent otherwise.
Overwhelming you with delicious smells.
Restaurants know a smell can induce cravings, and most of the time, food establishments take advantage of this.
In fact, there are entire companies to assist them: ScentAir, among others, has managed to duplicate the smell of waffle cones, popcorn, cinnamon buns, coffee, and even grilled hamburgers. They sell the scents to places that use artificial odors to replace a food’s natural aroma, or to enhance the real thing.
And while the vast majority of their client lists aren’t disclosed, those included on ScentAir’s website are McDonalds—which uses, among other scents, apple pie to remind you to order dessert—and 7-Eleven.
And the smell can actually make your food taste better: a team conducted a study that found smelling odors consistent with what you’re eating makes you like the meal more.
It definitely makes the dining experience much more attractive to people, but unfortunately it also makes you want to get the fries instead of the salad.
Keeping kids distracted.
If you could feed your family, eat your meal in peace, and have your kids entertain themselves, wouldn’t you? That's what most fast-food places are banking on.
Kids don’t care about the food as much as the McDonald’s ball pit. Parents, having a chance to get some work taken care of while my kids are entertained for 45 minutes definitely influences them to consider restaurants with a play place over others.
Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, In-N-Out Burger, Carl’s Jr., Burger King — why do they all have the same color scheme? Because red and yellow have been proven to make you want to eat more.
A handful of studies show that yellow stimulates appetite, partially because seeing the color actually causes your brain to secrete serotonin, the happiness hormone. And a University of Rochester study found that when people see red, their reactions become both faster and more forceful, like inhaling your burger in under 2 minutes.
Artificially enhancing tastiness.
Most of us forfeit asking, “What's in this?” when it tastes as good as McDonald’s fries. After all, we know fat, sugar, and salt will make anything delicious—and addictive. But the flavor may come from more than a few extra spices.
Chicken McNuggets, for example, are made up of real chicken—in addition to dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent also used in Silly Putty; propylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze; and autolyzed yeast extract, a chemical similar to MSG whose main purpose is to artificially enhance the taste and craveability of food.
Wendy’s Frosty contains guar gum, cellulose gum, and carrageenan—all used to manufacture a thicker texture, which studies have shown people find more satisfying.
Plus, refined carbohydrates—which include almost everything served at a fast-food joint—can trigger hankerings similar to the cravings drug addicts experience, according to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Encouraging group meals.
Eating by yourself is mighty lonely, but much healthier: Studies show you consume about 30 percent more when you're with another person, Wansink says.
If your buddy buys a dessert, you feel more justified in getting one as well. And the larger the group, the more indulgent you are: “In a group of seven or more, people consume about 90 percent more calories on average than when they're by themselves,” he adds.
And with spacious tables, no complications of a waiter or split checks, and great deals like two large pizzas for 10 bucks or family-size buckets of chicken, fast-food restaurants are a haven for accommodating as big of a group as you can gather.
Now you know some of the reasons you crave fast food so now it's up to you to make an informed decision.
Hope you have a beary safe and great Wednesday!
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,