Most people hosting guests or simply holding a pleasant family dinner at home want to make a good impression. However, when serving meals for special occasions, home chefs often pull out all the stops to create tasty treats that will delight all the guests. They spend hours in the kitchen getting every dish just right, but that's not always enough.
If you're someone who loves to cook and show off those culinary skills, there's something you should know. How people feel about the meal isn't just a product of how delicious the food is and how you present it. The color of the dinnerware may also have an outsized effect on how much enjoyment guests get out of the meal.
Understanding Color Psychology
The best place to start getting an understanding of why the color of the plates on which you serve meals matters is with color psychology. This fascinating field studies the impact of color on not just visual perception but also emotion and behavior, and it plays an outsized role in appetite, food enjoyment, and feelings of satiety.
Because the impacts of color on human psychology are subconscious, most people don't realize that they're responding not just to how food tastes and looks but also to what colors they're exposed to while eating it. Experts recognize that most people follow distinct patterns of color recognition and interpretation in the context of food enjoyment, though. If you want to start taking advantage of color psychology, here's what you need to know:
- Blue is a calming color that relaxes and can suppress their appetites.
- Green has an association in most people's minds with healthfulness, so eating off of green plates can encourage them to choose healthier foods and portion sizes.
- Yellow tends to cheer people up, which can increase their appetites.
- Red is a color associated with passion in positive and negative ways, and it can increase people's hunger.
- Pink can make food look unnatural, so it's best to avoid it in dinnerware unless you have a specific purpose in mind.
- Black, while not technically a color, can be used to create a chic, modern feel that complements unique presentations and tastes.
- White can accent dishes and cause diners to focus on the food.
Different color combinations can also impact people's psychology, as can current trends. However, the general information offered above still applies.
Color, Presentation, and Pre-Meal Perceptions of Food
Now that you understand the basics of color psychology and its role in appetite and food choices, let's dive into how it impacts people's perception of meals. From children to adults, people of all ages respond to plate color. More specifically, the color of the plates significantly influences their appreciation of the dishes served on them before they even take a single bite.
According to cognitive neuroscience researchers, this influence is due to shared associations between sensory attributes, including colors and shapes. In other words, the parts of our brains that take in and process information about color communicate with the ones responsible for generating emotional responses to meals and those that process taste.
In terms of pre-meal perceptions, the color of the plate can set up an expectation in diners' minds. For example, exposure to yellow or green before eating can cause people to perceive food as tasting more lemony and fresh. Researchers call this phenomenon sensation transference and apply it to both foods and beverages
Color also has an indirect impact on people's perception of food. Plates that feature contrasting colors can bring out the colors of certain foods. Plating carrots on blue dinnerware, for example, will make the orange of the vegetable pop, which can improve diners' first impression of the meal.
Plate Color and Meal Appreciation
Most people have little difficulty seeing how plate color could influence people's pre-meal perceptions of food. You might, however, be surprised to learn that it can also impact how they perceive the flavor of a particular dish. Plate colors that make the foods you serve look brighter or more intense can also cause people to perceive the taste of those foods as stronger.
There's more to the association between plate color and meal flavor than color contrast. Even color psychology can't explain the phenomenon fully. Most researchers think that people also make cultural associations with different colors and that those associations influence perceived taste and general appreciation of food.
Let's take a look at an example. In the United States and other Western countries, red is associated with love and sweetness. Plating a dessert on red dinnerware can thus be used to conjure up that association in people's minds, making diners perceive the taste as being sweeter.
How You Can Take Advantage of These Associations
Wondering how you can take full advantage of the various associations and effects described above? The first step is to gain an understanding of the occasion, the audience, and the meal you plan to serve. Planning a theme and menu well in advance will give you time to seek affordable dinnerware in appropriate colors.
Try to consider not just the basic color but also how the foods you plan to serve will look on the plate. Use color contrast to full advantage, take cultural associations into account, and remember that presentation is everything. Even perfectly chosen dinnerware won't make up for a sloppily arranged plate.
When purchasing new dishes, don't forget to take quality into account. You can't go out and buy black paper plates and then expect the guests to perceive a meal served on them as being chic and trendy just because of the color. The shape, weight, and overall quality of the plates will also make a difference.
Start Creating More Colorful Dining Experiences
If you're ready to start creating more colorful and memorable dining experiences for guests, remember that it takes some trial and error to get each element right. Try different hues, patterns, or plate shapes, and note how diners respond. Purchasing high-quality melamine plates will allow you to experiment using quality dinnerware without spending a fortune, so don't be afraid to branch out and try something new.