Why fast food chains use red to attract customers
By Kaela Bamberger
You would think fast food restaurants don’t have to do much to draw in customers: It’s easy, it’s quick, and it tastes like America. But places like McDonald’s and KFC are full of clever ruses to lure in today’s hurried, hungry patrons. Cheery, family-oriented commercials and catchy jingles are tactics employed outside the place of business, but what about within?
The common color theme applied in many restaurants is no accident. Red is in an overwhelming number of logos for places that sell food, like Wendy’s, Dairy Queen and your local diner. The color red also often decorates the interior, the seats and the menus. This is because red is proven to be an appetite stimulator. It raises blood pressure, heightens respiration and increases pulse. It is recommended that people who are picky eaters use red place mats or plates, but people who are trying to diet bring in the color blue to their kitchen or fridge.
The reason for the connection between hunger and the color red is attributed to psychology. One theory is that our primordial ancestors recognized red to mean ripe fruit. Red was also associated with the hunt and fresh meat.
“Colors are constructs of the brain, not physical realities, and the presumption would thus be that whatever color or color combination is most appealing to humans is attractive because of some ecological/evolutionary advantage,” explained Dale Purves, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University in an interview with AIGA.
The color could also be culturally assigned to quick cuisine. McDonald’s started the trend in the 1950s, and with its success other fast food chains rode its coattails.
These days it’s almost counter-productive to choose a different color because people assume ‘fast food’ when they see that bright red.
The final theory is that red is simply eye-catching. On the road, it’s used for hazard signs, and there are multiple animals that have developed red spots to let predators know to stay away.
“I don’t really know why red is such a good warning signal,” according to Karl R. Gegenfurtner of Gießen University in Germany, as reported in an interview of AIGA. “Charles Stromeyer and colleagues from Harvard have shown that the eye is best suited to detect small red spots of light.”
Fast food restaurants may use red to flag down those on the road who might not have otherwise stopped.Whichever reason it may be, beware of the hunger that arises upon sight. Whether it’s hazard or hamburger, red is out to influence what you’re thinking.
Kaela Bamberger is a freshman drama major who could really go for a Big Mac right now. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.