Why are we so attracted to Fast-Food?

Fast food restaurants are designed to attract. There is even a field of science, to create every single detail to draw people in and make them spend more. Many of us don’t think about how these sophisticated strategies seem to make us abulic. To withstand the force and to create a healthier lifestyle requires some clever strategies.

Today, in part 1 we will focus on mind-hacking strategies, part 2 (you find here) is reserved for simple steps towards better health and some great information about fast-food itself!

Rewards with Fast Food 

Fast food we can have on the go, while walking, driving or working.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

As the name suggests, we can get the food fast. No waiting time in a restaurant, we don’t have to have an hour lunch break. We can eat while walking, driving or even working. In addition, the food-presentation is attractive for the primitive parts of our brain. They tell us to eat, whenever food is available. Many people enjoy the taste of the food itself, because we love sugar and fat anyway. Our reward-based learning system connects food to the feeling of comfort from our childhood already. Seeing fast-food ads or restaurants creates the urge to feel this pleasure again. Based on the expected emotions and pictures in our brain, we choose the food with the highest probability to experience the positive emotions (e.g. reward, entertainment, comfort). Giving in to the emotional desire, strengthens “comfort” as a motive comfort” to choose food, while it weakens “hunger” and “nourishment” as triggers and intentions to eat.

The Mind-Hacking Strategies 

Just pure willpower is not enough to change, because it’s too convenient to stick to our habits. Part of the success is to see through the mind-hacking strategies of the fast-food industry, your behaviour and needs.

Fast Food logos are highly visible and influence your choices all the time.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Visibility: Think of your favourite Fast-Food chain and the visibility they achieve by huge logos, advertisements, being present in each mall or shopping centre or being visible from the highway from miles away. These triggers remind you permanently of their existence.

It’s a bit like someone whispering the name of this fast-food chain into your ear all the time. It influences your decisions!

Convenience: The fast-food industry promises convenience. You don’t even have to go into restaurants anymore, you can drive through or just order your favourite fast-food from home. Including breakfast, coffee and cake options into their menu a couple of years ago, made it possible for many fast food fans to even have their breakfast and afternoon snack from their favourite fast-food brand [1], without having to think about an alternative solution. What a great marketing move.

Making kids bring their parents to the fast food restaurant is a successful strategy.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Making things familiar: The restaurants look and the food tastes the same wherever you go. Our brain loves everything familiar. An important part of this marketing-strategy is to make kids bring their parents. Receiving movie-themed collectibles for free (toys, glasses etc.) with a meal-purchase is a very successful strategy [2].

Kids will stay customers and bring their kids eventually, because it is familiar. Parents shape the food preferences of their kids, which means they make healthy meal choices in their kids future less likely, just by being a role model! 

Presentation: Marketing claims pretend to get a lot for your money and the presentation supports the impression: everything seems to be so sumptuous. Huge pictures in advertisements and restaurants make us feel hungry all the time. Which is somewhat dangerous in a society where we can eat everywhere and all the time.

Promised savings make you buy more than you intended, which means you probably eat it as well.
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Savings: Other widely used strategies are: Getting something for free once you buy a product and suggesting certain combinations of products or coupons to buy extra items more often than intended.

Loyalty programs reward people based on the frequency they visit the fast food restaurant. When they “earn” a meal for free, many people are hooked because of the possible savings.

Upsell: How often have you been asked if you want to have an additional drink or desert? Even if you didn’t plan on adding those to your order, chances are that you did, because you had to decide fast. Being under pressure with decisions is usually good for the restaurant and turns out to be not as good for the customer. Fast food chains use this knowledge without any shame. But the strategy is even trickier: When you are asked what size of drink you wish, often it’s suggested to take the biggest size instead of letting you choose. This increases the probability to agree without thinking.

These so called “upsell-strategies” are incredibly successful and create big extra sales. If you are not prepared, chances are you will be taken in by the manipulation.

Fast-Food Restaurants are often not very comfortable, because they don't want you to stay too long.
Photo credit: Pixabay

Restaurants: The restaurants itself are mostly everything else than comfortable. Do you know why? Because you paid already when you ordered your food. Staying longer than necessary is not beneficial for these restaurants so they want you to leave soon to make space for other guests.

Seeing through the claims and recognizing how we ourselves respond, is probably the most important part.

Here are two tasks for your observation during the next days, if you are interested. 

  1. Start to pay attention to the claims, the design, the promises of your favourite food-chains. How do they try to hook us?
  2. Which kind of emotions, expectations and memories are connected to fast food for YOU? Try to realise that these are just the pictures in your brain, based on past experiences. That doesn’t mean, you can’t change in future.

Stay tuned for part 2 with incredible simple tips and tricks on how to get healthier and how to escape the spell of fast food.


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Here you find part 2 about “How to end a Fast Food Lifestyle easily

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