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do food displays really entice anyone?

when a restaurant displays dishes from their menu, say by the front door, does it actually attract people to eat there or deter them? a favorite thai spot of mine does this and it irks me every time i walk in. i found out about this place on chowhound so i knew it was good, but if it had not been recommended and i was just walking by for the first time i would get the impression that it was a cheesy restaurant and not eat there. i understand that the idea is for people to see it and hope that they say "that looks good! let's eat here!" but does that ever happen? this also extends to dessert trays/carts being wheeled to the table, as well as the "dog and pony show" that they perform at steakhouses such as Morton's and the like.

personally, i find it kind of strange and sometimes gross. i can't decide if i'm more offended by real food on display or the plastic replicas of food on display. though sometimes those plastic replicas are downright hilarious!

any opinions?

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  1. the plastic ones make me laugh. No it is not enticing whether plastic or real food.

    1. Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey is famous for this as well as the free tastes of clam chowder. It always makes me feel like the restaurants are desperate for business ( which they may be in this economic climate) and less apt to go in. Funnily enough, a friend one time tried all of the free chowder tastes offered and reported back that they all tasted the same.

      1. I LOVE the plastic food displays after having lived in Japan....it is practically an art form over there...

        2 Replies
        1. re: Mag454

          I was going to mention Japan as well. I am a huge fan. Plus, if I didn't know how to say the dish I wanted, I could just go to the window and point it out. I would probably have spent hours picking a place if I had to attempt to read each menu because my Japanese reading skills are only so so.

          1. re: Mag454

            Yes, I love those as well. I've found no correlation between plastic food on display and the quality of the restaurant (if it's an Asian place). But I'm not a fan of real food sitting outside the restaurant, going bad.

          2. I remember a restaurant in Verona Italy. I remember the meal was delicious, but ten years later, I couldn't tell youwhat we had. But I still vividly recall the antipasto selection on a cold table near the entrance! If I were to retrn to Verona, you can bet I'd track down the restaurant and return.

            1. My refrigerator is covered in food displays...you know those popular kitchy magnets that were all the rage a few years ago. My kids go nuts for plastic food magnets. Some are quite beautiful.

              But, even I with a silly food magnet collection prefers frig display over restaurant side show.

              1. The display does not necessarily make me want to eat at an establishment, but I am entranced by them nonetheless. Plastic or wax replicas of my food is not any different from photos of my food, IMHO. The artistry is impressive. The taste counts. If the food lives up to the hype, well then...if not, well, it's just a laugh at the plastic show.


                1. I am always enticed by whole seafood in a refrigerated window display case. Otherwise, no. In particular, dessert trays and meat displays at the table a la Morton's turn me off.

                  1. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but every place I've ever eaten where they have pictures of the food, the food is bad!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bite Me

                      There's actually a wonderful Thai restaurant in Queens, NY that does have pics of the food so that non-Thais can picture what they're ordering as opposed to leaving it up to chance. Aside from restaurants where they may be serving cuisine unfamiliar to a lot of patrons, I'd have to agree with you.

                    2. There was one restaurant that got good reviews but had such horribly sad desserts in the window, I never tried it.

                      1. I dunno...I've only seen it in Japan but I think those are pretty successful. They look really realistic and it gives me an idea of what it is

                        and food displays always work in bakeries, ugh...they look so good...