In the wake of the rising popularity of open-concept residential plans, researchers wanted to investigate whether an easier access to the kitchen plays a role in people’s eating habits. The findings suggest that open-floor plans may actually promote overeating.
Coauthor of the study Kim Rollings said, “Open kitchen-dining area floor plans remove visual and physical barriers between humans and food. Our results suggest that people may eat more in a dining area with direct view of and access to the serving area, versus a separate dining space.”
The study observed the eating habits of 57 college students who completed two dinning sessions at Cornell’s Food and Brand lab. The students were served food buffet-style. For one meal, the students had a direct view and access to the food, and in the other experience, there were two folding screens separating the dining area and food area.
Students in the open area were more likely to go back up and get more food, accounting for 10 percent more servings, compared to those in the closed eating arrangement. Every time the participants went up for more food they added 170 calories to their meal.
Rollings added, “In order to reduce food consumption, results suggest that serving areas should be placed out of sight from diners. Diners may also choose to eat in areas facing away or separated from buffet-style serving areas.”
The researchers suggest re-working kitchen and dining layouts may also help with the childhood obesity problem. Designers may want to rethink floor plans of homes and restaurants in order to cut back on promoting extra calorie intake.