Last year, The New York Times wrote that certain restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn banned patrons from taking photos of their meals. That means no flash photography, no standing on chairs for a better angle, not even a quick pic for your Instagram followers before the first bite. Little do these restaurants know, this ban can actually make their customers' food taste worse, so to speak.
In a study by marketing professors and researchers Kathleen D. Vohs, Yajin Wang, Francesca Gino, and Michael Norton, it was concluded that any ritualized act—like snapping and sharing photos of what you're about to eat—is a beneficial behavior that encourages people to enjoy and continue engaging in good habits, like eating healthily or even practicing safe sex.
Furthermore, the joint University of Minnesota and Harvard Business School study discovered that when asked to perform the same brief activity before eating, participants were more satisfied with what they ate. The pause between receiving the food and eating it allowed individuals the opportunity to anticipate what was before them.
Another article in The New York Times points out that food and mealtimes are all about connecting, and snapping and uploading meal pics allows people to create a community online in a way that few other subjects can.
Although you might have a hard enough time waiting for dinner to roll around, the extra minute it takes to snap and upload a photo might be very helpful to helping you pay more attention to your food. The marketing research deduced that having a pre-meal ritual is akin to mindfulness training, and these days, mindful eating is seen a very effective way to cut back on binging.
Food photos aren't the only method of enjoying your meals. Any brief ritual performed before mealtime will help improve the quality of your dining experience. So try to create a ritual. If you're opposed to snapping pictures with your smartphone, choose another behavior.
Take a few moments to closely and carefully observe what's on your plate. Say a few words of gratitude for the food you're about to eat. Talk with a friend who enjoys food as much as you do before shoveling it into your mouth. No matter what pre-eating ritual you develop, the important part is that you pause before picking up your fork.
We all have that one friend: the one who can't wait to stand in line for the newest, hippest restaurants with overly precious menu items like beluga lentil soup. And of course, no true foodie survives a meal without taking pictures of every plate as it arrives. You might go crazy when they insist you do as they do, but it's worth giving their way a try.
After all, their weird habits at the table—such as dissecting the menu before ordering, or taking tiny tastes—are helping to improve their overall dining experience. As KQED blogger Jenny Oh explains, foodies are truly in it for the love of the meal, even if they're going about it in a weird manner.
Pick up a few of their tricks, and you might understand what it's all about. If each small pause makes your food taste better and makes you feel more present for what you're about to experience, then you're ahead of the time.