Salmon with wine

Why Food Presentation Matters

Every experienced chef knows that eating is about more than just taste — taste, after all, comes after the initial sensation of actually seeing your meal. It may seem like a cliche saying, but people really do eat with their eyes. That’s the reason why you might start getting hungry after looking at pictures of well-presented dishes online. Therefore, the mere appearance of your food ends up being one of the main indicators of how pleasant your meal will be.

Also known as food plating, food presentation is a fascinating, complex subject with centuries of history. Though it’s often thought of as less important than the actual taste of a meal, it can be integral to increasing the flavor of your food and determining whether you enjoy it.

What Is Food Presentation?

Put simply, presenting food is arranging food to enhance how it looks on the plate. Consider the last time you saw an ad for a fast food restaurant. When you went to order the burger you saw in the ad, you may have been disappointed when you unwrapped it, seeing that it didn’t look nearly as perfect as it did on TV. Even though it tastes the same, the burger was more appetizing to you when it looked good. That’s the power of food presentation!

There are numerous factors chefs can consider while crafting a presentable meal:

  • Colors: The colors of a meal’s ingredients play a significant role. While bright, vibrant colors can add energy, complementary colors create a contrast that adds visual layers to the meal, and too many dull colors may seem unappealing. By seeing what we eat, we can assume a food’s flavor before we even taste it. Additionally, red and green colors can tell us whether a food is nutritious or not.
  • Textures: Texture adds depth to a meal — you can create it by using hard and soft foods or drizzling sauces as a finishing touch to add variety to a plate.
  • Themes: A dish can even match designated themes. Maybe it’s the overall feel of your establishment or a certain food that corresponds to a time or area of the world. If you’re going for a specific look, you can blend colors, textures and organize food in a way that reflects that theme.
  • Layering: Layering food refers to stacking it on the plate. Certain layering methods and height preferences can often make a meal more pleasing to the eye.
  • Portions: Controlling the portions of a dish will also impact your experience. If a plate is piled high and crowded with food, you’ll likely be in a different frame of mind compared to when your plate is visible and neatly decorated with food.
  • Decoration: Chefs will add garnishes to decorate their food and give it a final aesthetic appeal. Those small garnishes might seem tedious, but they can add necessary versatility and notes of flavor to a dish.

Ultimately, a neat, organized plate with thought put into the food’s aesthetic and appeal will enhance the eating experience.

The History of Food Presentation

Elaborate food presentations can be traced back to early centuries and was popular in countries like Macedonia. Musicians played to dancing women as food and drinks were served in wonderful excess. Cooked birds and fish were set in the belly of a pig, and food was served on silver and crystal platters alongside golden spoons and ivory bread baskets.

These were feasts reserved for only the wealthy and powerful, and the elaborate, excessive celebrations symbolized their status and class. In the 1800s, Marie-Antoine Careme, regarded as the first celebrity chef, brought the art of plating to the era of Napoleon Bonaparte. From that point, food presentation become increasingly important in cooking and baking.

Soon, the rise of modern cuisine came about with a special focus on the plate. In the twentieth century, chefs began to put emphasis on organization, moving away from heaps of food in a single dish. As a result, food presentation became more complex, relying on geometry and colors. Over time, more chefs, especially ones looking to serve high-end meals, began adopting food plating though to varying degrees of effectiveness.

Today, food presentation has become more important than ever. Thanks to social media, advertisements and cameras, stunning food presentations are instantly available to millions of eyes. In some cases, the way your food looks may be more important than how it tastes — a picture on a popular foodie’s Instagram page may encourage someone to eat at a particular establishment.

Though restaurants regard food presentation on different levels of importance, it’s evident that chefs, critics and customers alike place some value on presentation.

Why Does Food Presentation Matter?

While food presentation holds historical significance, you may be curious as to why it matters for your business. Here are several reasons why you should consider prioritizing food plating in your establishment.

1. Focuses on the First Impression

Today, a first impression is crucial in the food industry. With so much competition, creating a notable first impression can be the tool you need to set you above the rest. A well-crafted, tasteful-looking meal has the power to transcend the dinner plate — one picture can spiral through the digital world, gathering likes and reposts and bringing attention back to your dish. These visual platforms have emphasized the need for excellent food presentation.

With a focus on crafting a great food presentation, you can offer people an excellent first impression and have a chance to reach a broader audience.

2. Engages Multiple Senses

If you really think about how you eat, you’ll likely realize that eating is an experience that initiates much more than just taste. When your plate of food arrives at your table, you see the food, you smell the food and you may even hear some crackling or sizzling as it’s brought out to you. Each phase of the experience should be honed and refined to cater to the guest and make the experience as comprehensive as possible.

A meal may smell and taste delicious, but when the plate is a cluttered mess of confusing colors, it might take away from the smell and taste. Similarly, a dish with bland flavors could be brought up to par with a stellar presentation. Ultimately, presenting food to customers is a necessary step in the cooking process to ensure someone will enjoy their meal without hesitating based on the appearance.

3. Enhances the Meal

This is probably the most apparent reason food presentation matters — it’ll make the food taste better. If you’ve ever watched a cooking show where the focus is entirely on crafting a stunning, delicious meal, you may feel inspired to take some time with your next meal at home so you can savor the flavors. If someone can tell that the dish was organized with intent and design for the eye, they’ll probably be more likely to focus on how it tastes, and in turn, enjoy it more.

4. Shows Effort

In many ways, eating is a beautiful, time-honored act that helps us build connections with others. This element can often become obscured in the plethora of fast food and restaurant chains, but accepting food from a place of business means you’re trusting them to give you a good meal. By putting time into the presentation of your meals, you can help people have the best culinary experience possible.

How can you show a customer they can trust you and you’ve put effort and detail into every aspect of your meal? Create a unique food presentation. This is about more than just organizing food on a plate — it’s about sending a message to your customers. It communicates that you’re putting care into the meal and honoring that trust with quality presentation.

5. Separates One Dish From Another

If you offer a dish that’s similar to one that another establishment serves, creating a unique presentation can completely change the dish. With a simple twinge of aesthetic, you can lift your dish over one with the same ingredients and create a completely different experience without sacrificing any flavor.

6. Creates Personality

Crafting a food presentation is a way to inject personality into your dishes. It allows you to make a signature dish based on looks alone, and you could even create something lasting and iconic with a slight change in design.

7. Emphasizes Mindful Eating

All too often, people are rushing from one place to another, and the importance of eating can get lost in the chaos of the day. But more and more, people are discovering that you can add so much more value to your meals by simply stopping and focusing on the different flavors and textures of the food. This is something known as mindful eating, which emphasizes slowing down your eating to enhance tastes.

Inspire mindful eating by creating a food presentation that asks to be savored. Remember that food piled up on a plate doesn’t carry the same mindful inspiration that a thoughtful, delicate design does, with garnishes and decoration and a keen eye for colors and texture. When people see your presentation, they may slow down instinctively to reflect on the appearance, and in turn, they can really enjoy the flavors of your dish.

Food Presentation Tips

Discovering the importance and the meaning of food presentation is one thing — but to put it into practice can be an entirely different challenge. Here are some food plating tips for creating an excellent meal:

  • Create height: Building a plate vertically instead of horizontally creates a neater appearance and will enhance the dish’s aesthetic.
  • Use contrast: Use contrasting colors to add some boldness and stimulate your customers. Strong, unique colors will likely prime someone for interesting flavors. Instead of using artificial colors, you can use ingredients that are predisposed to striking colors, such as carrots, purple cauliflower and green beans.
  • Match themes: To take your food presentation to the next level, you can match the theme of your food to your business. This is an effective way to show customers the level of detail in your establishment and create a certain feel of continuity and ease. When people eat, they usually want to be relaxed, and presenting a meal that matches the overall theme of where they’re eating can be just the strategy to complement their emotions.
  • Serve small portions: A smaller portion will bring more attention to the aesthetic of the meal. Instead of just focusing on finishing what’s on their plate, a small portion inspires someone to savor the meal.
  • Pick suitable dinnerware: Picking the right dining materials is just as important as organizing the food itself. Choosing the right dinnerware can mean anything from choosing the size and shape of the plate to finding the proper silverware and tablecloths.

These tips for food plating can help you can take your dishes to the next level, impressing customers and bringing more attention to your food. When you deliver and present food that you’ve put thought into throughout the cooking and plating process, you can ensure your customers will have a one-of-a-kind experience.

Choosing American Dining Creations

It matters how you prepare your food. From making a fantastic first impression to enhancing the meal itself, food presentation has various benefits that make it worthwhile to invest in. Whether you’re a business trying to show appreciation for your co-workers, a university crafting meals for students or a stadium serving unique food to hungry fans, food presentation will always have its place in the culinary experience.

For a company with an expert eye for food presentation, choose American Dining Creations. Since our start 80 years ago, we’ve evolved into a comprehensive hospitality partner, with a focus on fresh ingredients and delicious, high-quality food. Though the company has grown over the years, American Dining Creations remains family-owned and dedicated to excellent customer service. This focus allows us to mold our catering and dining services to the specifications of our customer’s needs, providing them a unique experience they can’t truly get anywhere else.

Contact Us to Learn More

At American Dining Creations, we use our hospitality knowledge to create a simple, convenient culinary service that quickly gives you what you need. We’re committed to sustainability and use locally-sourced food to help guarantee the freshness and ethics of our meals.

For comprehensive dining or catering services, choose American Dining Creations. We’ll help you create the experience you’re looking for, using fresh, healthy,  sustainable ingredients, expert customer service care and an eye for appealing meals that will bring many benefits to your place of business. Contact us today!