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PRICING: Want higher restaurant ratings? Charge more.

If you own a restaurant or are thinking of starting one, consider how much the prices you charge effect the ratings your food earns.  Here's a fact of life confirmed by new research:

Taste perception can be manipulated by price alone.

Customers paying more at a restaurant buffet perceive the food as tastier than the same food offered at a lower price, suggesting taste perception can be manipulated by price alone. Researchers in nutrition, economics and consumer behavior often assume that taste is a given -- a person naturally either likes or dislikes a food. But a new study suggests taste perception, as well as feelings of overeating and guilt, can be manipulated by price alone.

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"We were fascinated to find that pricing has little impact on how much one eats, but a huge impact on how you interpret the experience," said Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a professor at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University who oversaw the research. "Simply cutting the price of food at a restaurant dramatically affects how customers evaluate and appreciate the food."

The researchers teamed up with a high-quality Italian buffet in upstate New York to study how pricing affects customers' perceptions. They presented 139 diners with a menu that offered an all-you-can-eat buffet priced at either $4 or $8. Customers were then asked to evaluate the food and the restaurant and rate their first, middle and last taste of the food on a nine-point scale.

Those who paid $8 for the buffet reported enjoying their food on average 11 percent more than those who paid $4, though the two groups ate the same amount of food overall. People who paid the lower price also more often reported feeling like they had overeaten, felt more guilt about the meal, and reported liking the food less and less throughout the course of the meal.

"We were surprised by the striking pattern we saw," said Ozge Sigirci, a researcher at Cornell University Food and Brand Lab who conducted the study. "If the food is there, you are going to eat it, but the pricing very much affects how you are going to feel about your meal and how you will evaluate the restaurant."

Wansink is author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, an upcoming book about how design choices influence eating behavior.
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Story Source: Materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).  "Don't like the food? Try paying more." ScienceDaily

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