A fundamental molecular feature of olfactory systems is that individual neurons express only one receptor from a large odorant receptor gene family. While numerous theories have been proposed, the functional significance and evolutionary advantage of generating a sophisticated one-receptor-per neuron expression pattern is not well understood. Using the genetically tractable Drosophila melanogaster as a model, we demonstrate that the breakdown of this highly restricted expression pattern of an odorant receptor in neurons leads to a deficit in the ability to exploit new food sources. We show that animals with ectopic co-expression of odorant receptors also have a competitive disadvantage in a complex environment with limiting food sources. At the level of the olfactory system, we find changes in both the behavioral and electrophysiological responses to odorants that are detected by endogenous receptors when an olfactory receptor is broadly misexpressed in chemosensory neurons. Taken together these results indicate that restrictive expression patterns and segregation of odorant receptors to individual neuron classes are important for sensitive odor-detection and appropriate olfactory behaviors.