Want to be assured of a good meal? Hit up a restaurant with an open kitchen, as a new Harvard study found that food tastes better when chefs and diners can see each other.
For their research, featured in the November issue of Harvard Business Review, scientists rigged a cafeteria with iPads and livestreamed images of the kitchen and dining space to cooks and diners, under four different scenarios.
In the first, diners and cooks were blind to one another. In the second, diners could see the cooks; in the third, cooks were visible to the diners; and in the last, both diners and cooks were able to see one another.
Results showed that when diners and kitchen staff could see each other, customer satisfaction rates rose 17 percent higher compared to meals in which neither group could see the other.
Likewise, turns out service was also 13 percent faster.
Presumably, the results indicate that putting a face to the person who will eventually be tucking into their meal, as well as the ability to see the person cooking it, makes the dining experience more personable.
“We’ve learned that seeing the customer can make employees feel more appreciated, more satisfied with their jobs, and more willing to exert effort,” explained lead researcher Ryan Buell in the magazine.
In fact, not only did customers give higher ratings in an open-kitchen scenario, but observers tasked with taking notes and timing service noted that the quality of the cooking likewise improved.
For example, when researchers turned on the screens so that chefs could see their customers, the staff made eggs to order more often, rather than cooking them on the grill in advance — and by extension, overcooking them.
“We found that reciprocity plays a much bigger role than stress or accountability,” Buell said.
“This is more about gratitude — which is a powerful force. Cooks constantly said how much they loved seeing their customers.”