Diners Spend More In Lavender-Scented Restaurant

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The effects of smell are
rarely researched in psychological studies. That’s why it’s great to come
across this study by Gueguen and Petr (2006) on the effect of different smells
on how much time and money people spend in a restaurant. But not, as you might
imagine, the smell of the food, but the smell of lavender.
A very small (22
place-setting) pizzerria in Brittany, France, was the site for this fascinating
experiment. On three apparently identical Saturdays in May, three different
experimental conditions were tested. In the first condition no aroma was
dispersed – other than that occurring in the natural course of cooking and serving
pizzas. On the second Saturday, the smell of lemon was diffused into the
atmosphere of the restaurant. Finally, on the third Saturday, it was the turn
of lavender.
The authors tell us there were
no significant differences in the weather conditions or in the patrons of the
restaurant on the three evenings.
Lemon, generally found to be
an activating smell, did increase the amount of money spent but not by a
statistically significant amount. It was actually the relaxing scent of
lavender that increased spending per person from 17.5 Euros to 21.1 Euros on
average. That’s a statistically significant 20% increase. Not a bad return on
the investment of three electric fragrance diffusers.
But unfortunately for all
Gordon Ramsay wannabes, I have discovered a potentially fatal flaw in the plan.
Not only did spending go up in the lavender condition, but so did the average
amount of time spent in the restaurant, from 91.3 minutes to 105.7 minutes –
about 15%.
In busy restaurants, owners
often want a high throughput of diners. More covers equals more cash-o-la.
People hanging around drinking coffee and soaking up lavender aren’t
necessarily racking up the profits. On the other hand, on quiet nights, it’s
better to be selling those coffees than not and a half-full restaurant always
looks better to passing trade than one that’s almost empty.
(Warning: the following
sentences contain puns – please look away if you’re of a nervous disposition.)
So here it is for you Gordon,
on a plate: only use the lavender on quiet weekdays when you want people to
hang around, but can it Friday and Saturday nights.
You see it’s not all
pie-in-the-sky here on PsyBlog, fat cats are also catered for.
Stop groaning, I did warn you.
the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD
is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from
University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about
scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.