Study Finds Cooks Make Tastier Food When They Can See Diners

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Study Finds Cooks Make Tastier Food When They Can See Diners
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A new study reveals that cooks make better food when they can see their customers.

Researchers at Harvard Business School (HBS) and University College London conducted a two-week experiment with four scenarios at a real cafeteria. In one scenario, cooks and diners could not see each other. The second scenario had only the diners able to see cooks, and the third scenario had only the cooks able to see diners. Cooks and diners were visible to each other in the fourth scenario. Researchers timed the food preparation and took surveys about the service and food.

When cooks could see diners, the customer satisfaction of the food went up 10 percent. When cooks and diners could see each other, customer satisfaction shot up 17.3% and the service became 13.2% faster.

Ryan W. Buell, an assistant professor at HBS, explained to the Harvard Business Review that "seeing the customer can make employees feel more appreciated, more satisfied with their jobs and more willing to exert effort." Not only did the customer's perception of the quality of food improve, but the food was objectively better. For example, researchers noticed that cooks made eggs to order more often rather than make them in advance (and often overcooking them).

When asked if the stress of being watched while cooking was a factor, the researchers responded that many of the cooks said they loved seeing their customers. "We found that reciprocity plays a much bigger role than stress or accountability. This is more about gratitude—which is a powerful force," explained Tami Kim, a doctoral student at HBS, to the Harvard Business Review.

Check out the slideshow above to learn more about the study's findings.