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The Importance of Sight in Food

When you sit down at a restaurant, what catches your eye? The fully-stocked bar, the fancy hardbound menus or the good-looking group of diners on the adjacent table?

Many of us listen to our taste buds when it comes to rating our restaurant experiences, but what if we were to analyse what our eyes get up to during an average restaurant trip? How much of what you see effects your experience and how much of this has been purposely devised by the Head Chef of the restaurant?

We spoke to Garry Durrant, Head Chef of The Arch London, to find out.

 1.      To what extent would you say people taste food with their eyes?

Our enjoyment of food is all about how it tastes, but I believe our eyes are the most used sense when we sit down to eat.

2.       How much time do you spend on making the dish visually appealing, and would you say this is just as important as how it tastes? 

When creating dishes, I probably spend the most amount of time making it visually appealing. I have the idea of taste and flavours, but I spend the most time getting it to look correct on the plate. The appearance of the dish is just as important as how it tastes, as perceptions of taste are typically dominated by what someone’s eye sees. 

3.       Which are the most visually pleasing dishes that are on offer on your menu? Why is it so important that they look good?

We have some very nice, visually appealing dishes on the menu such as Dressed Dorset crab, Herb rolled tuna, Fennel and orange salad, Rack of lamb, Pan fried gnocchi and Pineapple carpaccio. It is very important that these dishes look appetising, as the customer’s first visual impression can affect their overall dining experience. 

4.      Why do you think some restaurants display images of their food on a menu? 

I believe some restaurants display images of their food on a menu to entice and appeal to the customer as well as to advertise the quality and style of their food.

5.       Where are a diner’s eyes most drawn to first on a menu? Is there an order that you list the dishes on the menu, and if so what is the reason for this?  

When first looking at the menu, most people will normally look to the middle before travelling up to the top, so this is where you will probably find the higher profit margin dishes. When designing menus I like to keep them in order, for example fish, meat, vegetarian follow on in the same sequence. I believe this avoids confusion and makes it easier to read.

6.       Are there any dishes that don’t appear as well in photographs as they do in reality? 

Yes, I think there are some dishes that do not photograph as well as they look in real life. It isn’t the easiest thing to get right and it can be difficult to achieve the perfect food photo.

7.       Which dishes do you find most people take photographs of?

The most photographed dishes are the ones with bright vibrant colours and dishes that look clean on the plate.

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