Hungry Eyes: How Restaurants Create Envy through Food Presentation

Hungry Eyes: How Restaurants Create Envy through Food Presentation

We’ve all heard the old saying “We eat with the eyes first”. Whether it’s your local fast food sandwich shop or any top class fine dining restaurants, planning, practice and thought have gone into the presentation of every meal you pay to eat.

Our decades of experience running some of the finest restaurants Bedfordview, Sandton and Melrose have to offer has taught us that people don’t only expect a taste sensation and impeccable service at our properties – they expect a visual feast too!

Food styling and photography are booming businesses today, with magazines and fine dining restaurants paying top dollar for the ultimate “food porn” photography to entice and tempt potential diners. But why is vision so important in an industry based on flavour and aroma? Simple.


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Human beings are visual creatures by nature, and with the media being as pervasive as it is today, visual cues are often all we have to go on when we’re being courted by fancy food magazines and fine dining restaurants’ menus. It is our eyes that betray us when we feel envy. We stare longingly at the things we want, and nowhere is this more obvious that in the case of a hungry person.

Just flip through any culinary magazine today and pay attention to the feelings it conjures up. There are techniques to simply make the dish look prettier, techniques to stimulate appetite and techniques to evoke emotion – all for a plate of food! Here are the basic components of a great-looking dish, whether it’s out at restaurants or simply at home.

The Support

The support of a dish can be simplified to refer mostly to the plate, but many Avant Gard chefs and restaurants today make use of a LOT more than plates! You may even have come across foods served in buckets or on wooden boards, or even on tiles or sheets of slate. Whatever the support, the patterns and colours should not interfere with the food, but should rather compliment it. The size is also important. A too-large plate will make a dish look insufficient and pretentious, while a small plate will make the food look cramped and messy.

The Focal Point

In most fine dining restaurants, the focal point is the thing that will attract the eye most strongly. The main ingredient is usually the focal point, and often the meat or fish component of a dish will be the star. It also tends to be the largest element on the plate, so care should be taken to avoid placing it in a position where it covers or overwhelms the other elements of the dish. In any case, the focal point must be accessible by the diner without having to break apart all other staging on the plate.


Naturally, certain foods are certain colours, and not much can be done to change that, but did you know that colour-psychology is often taken into account when styling a dish? Certain colours affect people in different ways. For example, red evokes speed and passion, causing diners to eat more, faster. Green represents health and freshness, while black and white are signs of class and elegance. Blue is not commonly found in foods found in nature, and therefore this shade actually acts as an appetite suppressant, and should be avoided when plating.


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In fine dining restaurants, texture is just as important as flavour to overall enjoyment of a meal. Just as it is a wonderful pleasure to get a bite of something crunchy while enjoying a creamy-smooth dessert, the eye, too, craves textures in the same way as the mouth. Try contrasting firm and soft, hard and gritty with smooth and creamy, wet and dry, hot and cold. These kinds of contrasts create interest and elevate the dish to new heights.

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