We’ve all heard the expression “Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs” to justify overordering at a restaurant, but when you order food online your brain might be the one that’s too big for your stomach. The phycology of ordering online is actually quite cool, and will certainly make you think.
When we walk into a restaurant, our brains are overwhelmed with stimuli, and if we’ve been in the restaurant before we might even start craving something that we are in the mood for. Basically, when we say we want “KFC” or “Domino’s” we really mean that we want fried chicken or pizza and we associate the food with the location.
You walk in, are accosted by stimuli, and eventually get to what you want. When we order online, however, that stimuli is removed. Ordering online often uses pictures to help showcase items, and those pictures are the first stimuli your brain is attached too. Instead of thinking “Here’s what I want” your brain instantly thinks “What looks good?”
This leads to your brain picking out more items that look good, and then you crave and order more items. In addition, the screens often give more information than a menu does, allowing greater customization of orders without having to ask about them. A paper menu is designed to show options, but an online menu shows custom options.
For instance you might not know that you can put spicy mustard on a cheeseburger just by looking at the menu, but you do with online ordering and this opens you to new foods and flavors. You spend more time on the menu and by extension, buy more of the food items that end up looking good to you and your brain.
So before you place an online order, look back and ask if that’s something you would really eat.