Red and Yellow Make Us Eat: How Restaurants Suck Us In

DDD_RedAndYellowHowRestaurantsSuckUsInIt’s likely that you have heard that the color red makes people feel hungry. Well, it’s true. Research has suggested that appetites are sparked when we see the color red or when we are in red places (as opposed to when we are in blue places, which, for some reason, make us not want to eat as much). But have you noticed how flat out pervasive the color red is in restaurant chains? And have you noticed how frequently it is coupled with the color yellow? ¬†Between red and yellow (often used together), you can account for the logos and color schemes of almost all major restaurant chains.

Consider my quick list of examples: McDonald’s, Arby’s, Wendy’s, Panda Express, Chick-fil-A, KFC, Dairy Queen, Carl’s Jr., Pizza Hut, In-N-Out, Denny’s, Outback Steakhouse, Ruby Tuesday’s, Pei Wei, Bojangles, Popeye’s, Z Teja’s, Texas Roadhouse, Cafe Rio, Moe’s, Qdoba, Smash Burger, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Taco Time, Taco John’s, TGI Friday’s, Zupa’s, Jack in the Box, P.F. Chang, … and on, and on, and on.

Examples to the contrary? Olive Garden, Taco Bell, and Subway. (Of course there are others, but red and yellow certainly dominate the food chain market).

It’s such a common phenomenon, that some have even labeled it the Ketchup and Mustard theory. The idea is that red and yellow, in combination, make the perfect visual and psychological companionship for making us want to stop and eat. Red, which we know from research done in color psychology, makes feel warm, comforted, and loved. If a good meal should make us feel the same way, shouldn’t restaurants be using that color? After all, we don’t wan to feel cold (blue) while eating, nor do we necessarily want to feel jealous and fertile (green), evil and sad (black), or even exotic and artificial (purple) when eating our normal dinner. Sure other colors cause emotions that might be nice if attached to dinnertime (green can also make us feel lucky and purple can make us feel wise), but food is usually enjoyed most when it’s warm and when we’re with loved ones. Those two things make us feel comforted and comfortable; red is the best way to do this.

So why yellow? Yellow is cheery and exciting. It also grabs attention (we can see yellow from far distances really well–like those jumbo golden arches). Perhaps most interesting, though, is that research has shown the color yellow has the ability to speed up our metabolism! This means, in theory, when we’re around yellow we burn more calories. Does that make us want to eat more? Someone seems to think so…

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