Food Envy Causes Unrest at the Dinner Table

OpenTable, the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations and part of The Priceline Group (NASDAQ: PCLN), today announced the findings of its recent “food envy” survey conducted online by Harris Poll, which revealed nearly all Americans who have experienced food envy (91%) have pined for a different dish while dining out. For almost a third (30%), food envy has also resulted in some tense moments at the dinner table.

According to the survey, it doesn’t take long for dish jealously to set in once seated at the table. While it can strike at any time, food envy is most likely to arise the moment the food arrives (32%). For those who have experienced food envy, it was enough to stir up feelings of disappointment (40%), regret (37%), and hunger (33%). Women are more likely than men to feel let down or disappointed by their dish choice (43% vs. 36%). For younger diners ages 18 – 34, food envy appears to be a more practical matter, as they are more likely to feel hungry when compared to their older counterparts ages 35+ (48% vs 27%).

“We’ve all been caught eyeing others’ plates from across the table, silently comparing our dish against those of our companions,” said Caroline Potter, Chief Dining Officer, OpenTable. “Sometimes we feel satisfied with our selections, but at other times, we’ve all wished we had ordered what another guest picked. It’s indicative of how much we value our dining experience, and how a little envy can sometimes be a good thing as it prompts us to choose what we really want.”

And while nearly 2 in 5 of those who experience food envy (39%) will try to settle things amicably to overcome the feeling of food envy by visiting the restaurant on a later date and ordering the dish they desire, nearly one third (31%) will push their companions to share meals or steal from their dish. Furthermore, this may explain why close to one third of Americans who have experienced food envy (30%) admit it has caused tension with a friend or partner while dining out, with men and younger adults far more likely to experience tension than their female (35% of men vs. 26% of women) and older peers (42% of 18-34 year olds vs. 25% of adults 35+), respectively.

Those who experience food envy say that indecision (41%) and a desire to experiment with new dishes but later regretting it (33%) are the top two reasons why it happens in the first place when dining out. And while a vast majority (84%) admit to taking proactive steps to help avoid food envy when dining out, including previewing the restaurant menu beforehand (46%), glancing at what others are eating before ordering (34%), and asking the restaurant staff for recommendations (32%), food envy still prevails.

Although most of those who experience food envy (91%) say it has happened while dining out, not all instances take place at the restaurant. A majority of those who have experienced food envy (82%) say it happens regularly/occasionally when they just walk past food that smells good. At least half also experience food envy when they see food on TV (68%) or social media (50%) or while having a conversation about food (57%).

About the Survey:
The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of OpenTable from March 16March 20, 2017 among 2,198 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, including 1,679 who have ever experienced food envy. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling errors can be calculated.