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Eat With Your Eyes: Why Plating Matters

It’s a common expression, ‘eat with your eyes’, thrown around kitchens during service, used by diners as they’re about to tuck into their food. Food presentation has become one of the key determining factors of a restaurant’s success, and with the rise of social media, this has only become more important. It’s no longer good enough for our food to taste nice, it has to look nice too, or be ‘instagrammable’.

The visual aesthetics of food is a huge part of the customer experience, from booking the restaurant, to selecting their meal, to eating it.


1 Perception

Perception is a key aspect of a successful dining experience. While taste is important, the first thing a customer does is look at their food; immediately they make a judgment about its appearance and this can impact their feelings throughout the meal. 

2 Quality

Good presentation also makes people think of high quality. Customers will deem a dish ‘worth the money’ if the food presentation is good, as it means time and care has gone into the creation of the meal – this also translates to highly trained, expert chefs and good organisation.

3 Elevates the dish

When you think about how to plate your food, it often means you’ll think more about the elements going into the meal. You will be challenged to create textures, with different ingredients and cooking techniques, adding exciting layers to the dish, making it not only aesthetically pleasing but tastier too.

4 Entices customers to come to your restaurant

Most people don’t just stumble across a restaurant, they take the time to research where to go. This may start with a google search, followed by browsing the menu and reading customer reviews. After this, people are highly likely to check out your social media, so they can see what the food looks like. They may even look at your tagged photos, to determine what others thought of their experience.


1 The plate

Different shapes suit different foods. Round plates are suitable for wholesome foods, whereas angular plates give the food a sleek, modern look. Bowls of course work for food like pasta or where there’s a sauce.

The size of the plate is also important as if it’s too small, it can make the dish look cluttered and messy; too big and it can give the illusion there isn’t much food.

Colour is an interesting one. Different colours can affect the psychology of a customer. The most important thing to remember is to stay away from blue, as it activates diet and controlled eating senses in human psychology.

White is the safest bet – classic and classy. There’s nothing boring about a white plate and it can help the colour of your food stand out.

2 Plating

Plating truly is an art form. And there are a lot of techniques you can learn to elevate the look of your dish, from a ‘purposefully messy’ splash of sauce to a perfect quenelle.

Use bottles to make shapes with sauce or practice with the back of the spoon to get the perfect ‘swoosh’ along a plate.

Plating using odd numbers, like 3 scallops or 3 racks of lamb, also looks more pleasing to the eye.

3 Garnishing

You can follow the clock method, where main ingredients such as chicken or fish are placed between 3 and 9 on the ‘imagined’ clock, carbohydrates like rice and potatoes between 9 and 12, and vegetables between 12 and 3.

Garnishing isn’t about a soggy salad leaf that gets pushed to one side, and remember you should never put anything on a plate if it can’t be eaten. Garnishing is there to add an extra layer of flavour and texture. Think about micro herbs, edible flowers, and toasted seeds or nuts.

Learning to create a beautiful plate of food can take time but it can be the difference between a good plate of food and a great plate of food.

For more inspiration, take a look on Pinterest or Instagram, using #foodie or #platingskills. For tutorials, head to YouTube, where you can learn to perfect a range of techniques that will truly give an extra edge to your restaurant. If you have a favourite chef, why not look at how they plate their food.


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