Paris Posts #1: Presentation Shapes Behavior

For the next week or two, I'm going to be sharing several thoughts gleaned from a few days spent recently in Paris.

Visit a breakfast buffet at a Parisian hotel and you get this: elegant platters of wafer-thin slices of melon and small bowls containing fresh berries and citrus fruits. Every item on the buffet is artfully displayed in small dishes and containers. Instead of huge spoons or scoops you will find forks and tablespoons for serving yourself. Plates are of the salad size (6-8") and bowls are smaller as well. You find yourself selecting less food but actually enjoying it all without feeling stuffed. Hot items are made to order so that your eggs are fresh and tasty (no need for salt and pepper and you won't find it on your table anyway) and your coffee is always steaming hot. Even in meeting rooms, you will find no urn of coffee over flaming sterno, but instead self-serve automatic espresso and coffee machines that make individual cups.

Visit a breakfast buffet in any American hotel and you are likely to find large plastic tubs containing 2" chunks of melon, pineapple, and other fruit along with vats of scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, and sausage. It is a bountiful buffet indeed. 12" plates are stacked high at the end of the buffet and people often do their best to fill them.

Presentation clearly matters and not just in terms of beauty and visual interest. Everything about the French way of displaying food leads to less eating and to consumption enjoyed at a more leisurely pace. You find yourself sampling and grazing over an extended period of time instead of shoveling and stockpiling as fast as you can. Less consumption, less obesity, less food waste, less food cost, more taste, more enjoyment, and more quality.

In short? Chunks lead to chunkiness while slices lead to slender. How might your personal and professional efforts be more successful if you change the presentation to change the behavior you want adopted?

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