What CEO, entrepreneurs and marketers can learn from gastrophysics

One of my #bookin8days clients is a food chain expert. She recommended “Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating”. A fantastic book merging gastronomy and technology into yet another dimension of the experience economy. A book that is regularly quoted in this book.

It is not only food

Food is much more than the tongue (which detects at least five tastes); more even than the nose (which detects countless aromas). There are many other factors at play, which the book cover. Topics such as sensory science, neurogastronomy, mixology, art, theatrics, magic, storytelling, technology, experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, marketing, design, ventriloquism and behavioural economics.

Food is the conversation between our brain and our gut

Food is the conversation between our brain and our gut, mediated by our heart, that tells us whether we like food or not. Where your brain has to bind together the aromatic smell, the taste, the texture, the colour, the sound as your teeth bite through the juicy flesh, not to mention the feeling of the peach fuzz in your hand and mouth.

Tricking the mind

It is amazing what you can do to trick the mind. Such as sound, texture, colour, environment, naming, description, pricing, branding, cueing, genetics, culture, augmentation, shape, movement, plating, weight, temperature, music, tempo, lighting, stress, humidity, the IKEA effect (and other effects and biases), robotics, automation

The book starts with taste. Followed by smell, sight, sound, touch, atmosphere, social dining, airline food, memory, personalisation, experience,

Some cool concepts from the book

  • ‘Sound Bite’ menu in 2014, providing the option of sonic seasoning for their long-haul passengers.
  • Food perfume
  • Scented packaging
  • Aromafork comes with a bag of circular blotting papers to insert into the end of the fork and twenty small phials of different aromas intended to augment the flavour of food with each and every mouthful.
  • UK-based jelly-mongers have experimented with a series of ‘cloud bar’ installations, where punters could spend fifteen minutes or so in a space infused with a gin & tonic mist.
  • A Spanish company even launched a blue wine in 2016.
  • A growing number of South Koreans are using their mobile phones and laptops to watch other people consuming and talking about eating food online.
  • Sonic identity. Some years ago, Kellogg’s tried to patent their crunch.
  • The EverCrisp sonic app allowed you to ‘freshen up your stale crisps by using your mobile device to add a little more crunch.
  • Email, a pop-up restaurant in Amsterdam, only features tables for one.
  • The US site EatWith feels like a supper club, while UK-based VizEat emphasises the opportunity to eat with locals and get inside a culture by eating.
  • Telematic dinner party 
  • One recent start-up connecting them is Tablecrowd, which combines eating with social networking; another is Tabl, which offers essentially curated social dinners in the south of England.
  • Justin Roller, the maître d’ at Eleven Madison Park, is famous for googling every one of the diners before they arrive, looking for anything that can help his staff make diners feel both special and comfortable.
  • More and more mainstream venues are capitalising on the various online tools, such as Venga (and OpenTable), that allows the restaurateur to pick up some useful ‘diner-int.’.
  • Pizza Hut trialled a ‘subconscious’ menu that could, or so it was claimed, magically read your mind.
  • Spoon with an MP3 player hidden inside. The flavour–music combinations, in this case, included Cheddar cheese with a rousing bit of Elgar, fiery chilli with a Latin samba, blues for the BBQ-flavoured beans and Indian sitar music for the curry-flavoured beans!
  • De Muziekbonbon. You put the chocolate, which comes with a wire attached, into your mouth, and as you clench the piezoelectric strip (which vibrates when an electric current is passed through it) embedded in the bonbon between your teeth, you can faintly hear the bone-conduced sound of a piano resonating through your jawbone and carrying on all the way to your inner ear.
  • The ‘Bright Grill’ is an electric barbecue with an app that will alert you as soon as your sausages are cooked perfectly, even if you are away from the grill.
  • Supper will deliver high-end Michelin-starred cuisine direct to your front door.

Some interesting facts and figures

  • People’s ratings of one and the same drink may vary by 20% or more as a function of the sensory backdrop where it is served.
  • Adding more descriptive elements, such as when a restaurateur describes a dish as ‘Neapolitan pasta with crispy fresh organic garden salad’, is likely to increase the number of positive comments that a dish garners.
  • We will pay more for exactly the same food, like a ploughman’s sandwich, if we are told that the cheese inside was produced by farmer John Biggs from Duxfield Farms in Cumbria.
  • Researchers have described an odour verbally as ‘smelly cheese’ and found that people rated it as more pleasant than when exactly the same odour was labelled as ‘sweaty socks’ instead. 
  • Supertasters may have as many as sixteen times more papillae on the front of their tongue than others.
  • While more than half of the brain is involved in processing what we see, only something like 1% of the cortex is directly involved in taste perception.
  • It turns out that the olfactory receptors in our nose are actually an extension of our brain. It is only a couple of synapses from the cells in the olfactory epithelium lining the inside of the nose through to the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls.
  • A freshly ground cup of coffee is one of the most universally liked smells.
  • Food chains tend to locate their stores in those positions in a mall that ensure the optimal dispersion of their signature smell. 
  • In 2015, just as in the year before, food was the second most searched-for category on the internet (after pornography).
  • Food or beverage companies might be able to increase perceived sweetness by up to 10% by getting the colour of their product or the packaging in which it comes.
  • Most beer and carbonated water brand logos are angular, not round.
  • Frozen strawberry mousse was rated as tasting 10% sweeter and 15% more flavourful and was liked significantly more when eaten from a white plate rather than from a black plate.
  • Research shows that enhancing the visual contrast on the plate can substantially increase food and liquid intake.
  • The plateware on which food is served and its colour (not to mention its size) will likely modify your behaviour.
  • ‘Protein in motion is the kind of energetic food stimulus that our brains have evolved to detect, track and concentrate on visually. Another reason to show food in motion (real or implied) is that it looks more desirable, partly because it is perceived to be fresher.
  • Adding a spoon approaching the bowl from the right will result in people being around 15% more willing to purchase the product than if the spoon approaches from the left instead.
  • The more food porn you view, the higher your Body Mass Index (BMI).
  • Many manufacturers are now trying to engineer the ‘right’ noises into their machines.
  • By changing the sound of the crunch, researchers were able to change people’s perception of the crunchiness and freshness of the crisps. You can play the same sonic tricks with apples, celery, carrots or, in fact, with any other noisy food, be it dry, like crisps and crackers, or moist, like fruit and vegetables.
  • Our brains appear to have a remarkably hard time distinguishing the product from the packaging.
  • Noise is currently the second most common complaint amongst restaurant-goers, behind poor service.
  • Touch is the largest and earliest developing of our senses, with the skin accounting for about 16–18% of body mass.2 Ignore it at your peril!
  • When French music is played, the majority of people buy French wine; however, when distinctively German (Bierkeller) music is played instead, the majority of wines sold are German.
  • Playing classical music in the background tends to result in people splashing out more. A 10% increase in the average bill is not unheard of.
  • Playing faster music has been shown, across several studies, to result in people eating and drinking more rapidly.
  • When slow music is played, diners spend more than 10 minutes longer eating, bringing the total duration of their restaurant stay up to almost an hour.
  • Slowing the music down increased the restaurant’s gross margin by almost 15%,
  • The less comfortable the chair, the shorter your stay will be. McDonald’s has been doing this for years;
  • Nearly half of all meals are now eaten alone, and more than a quarter of us eat by ourselves more often than we eat in company.
  • According to a recent survey, 78% of Brits virtually never invite their friends over at mealtimes anymore.
  • According to a 2013 UK Government survey, people living alone throw away 40% more of their food than those living with others.11
  • People eat 15% more food with the telly on as compared to when it is off. 
  • Party of one is the fastest-growing size for reservations at restaurants in the UK.
  • Tomato juice makes up 27% of the drinks ordered in the sky.
  • The consumer has a great-tasting first bite, and then their brain will ‘fill in’ the rest by assuming that it tastes exactly as the first mouthful did.
  • People do not have a clear memory of the flavour of the food that they had tasted only a moment or two earlier.
  • Any successful restaurant needs to have a few staple dishes that they are known for, dishes that customers remember and will come back to experience time and again.
  • Ending a meal on a high note will lead to greater remembered enjoyment. A surprise shot of limoncello might well be engineering a more positive memory by ending the encounter with a mood-inducing unexpected gift.
  • Memory seems to be focused on detecting change rather than on identification and precise recognition of the food stimuli that we have encountered previously. So introduce changes to your cooking (such as reducing the salt) gradually, and whatever you do, don’t let them know what you are up to.
  • The first letter of our last name has been shown to influence certain aspects of our behaviour. Those with a surname beginning with the letter ‘Z’ are slightly more impatient!
  • We all tend to prefer items that have a similar spelling as the first letters of our name (the ‘name-letter effect’).
  • Poor service is the number-one criticism of diners year after year.
  • Those who had prepared the meal themselves (or, to put it better, who thought that they had) rated it as tasting much better than those who believed that they were evaluating a dish made by someone else.
  • Electric taste Researchers can now deliver rudimentary taste sensations simply by electrocuting your tongue in the right way.
  • Royal Caribbean International teamed up with Mark Shakr to create the world’s first ‘bionic bar’ (i.e., a robot cocktail maker) aboard the newest addition to its fleet, the Quantum of the Seas.


When we get into technology, we are moving into AI, robotics, 3D food printers, replicators, NASA, holographic, screens, virtual and augmented reality, miniaturisation, data, sensors, software, and apps. The question, of course, is where this is going and what this means for the future of restaurants. Will people continue to go out to eat in restaurants?

What is facing restaurateurs and chefs is facing you too

“Gastrophysics” is not only for restaurateurs but for every entrepreneur and CEO wondering how all the development in sensory science, art, theatrics, magic, storytelling, technology, experimental psychology, neuroscience, marketing, and design, behavioural economics, etc. (see “Exponential, “The Genesis Machine, “The minister for the future” and many more on my website.


The book is excellent for marketers too. Lots of applicable lessons. Add to the other 17 books from this blog 

PS Also read “Work clean

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
× How can I help you?