Nature Ambience in a Lunch Restaurant Has the Potential to Evoke Positive Emotions, Reduce Stress, and Support Healthy Food Choices and Sustainable Behavior: A Field Experiment among Finnish Customers

Foods. 2022 Mar 26;11(7):964. doi: 10.3390/foods11070964.


Laboratory experiments have indicated that exposure to restorative ambiences in food environments can lead to beneficial outcomes for consumers, but there is little evidence if this positive effect holds true in real-life consumption conditions. Therefore, the aim of this study was to analyze the effects of lunch restaurant ambience on customers' emotional responses, stress recovery, food choices, and generation of plate waste. The expectation was that ambience inducing positive emotional responses would lead to alleviated stress, healthier food choices, and reduced plate waste. A field experiment with a baseline and two experimental ambiences ('nature ambience' to induce positive emotions and 'fast food ambience' to induce less positive emotions) including visual and auditory stimuli was conducted in a lunch restaurant for one week per ambience. Emotional responses, and objective and subjective stress were measured from a subgroup of participants (n = 32). Food choices and plate waste were measured for all customers (n = 1610-1805 depending on the study week). During 'nature ambience' week, customers more often chose vegetarian dishes and generated less plate waste. The results on emotional responses and stress recovery were partially in line with the expectations. The study provides real-life evidence that restaurant ambience modification could lead to beneficial consequences for customers.

Keywords: emotions; environmental sustainability; field experiment; food choice; food environment; stress.