Environmental conditioning as a food service marketing strategy: Effects of pleasant ambient scents on patient satisfaction

Nancy Louise Sherman Glover


The emerging research on odor stimuli suggests a direct relationship between the pleasantness of the environment and evaluations of products and services. Theorists have proposed that basic emotional states mediate approach-avoidance behaviors in environmental situations. Marketers have used odors in an attempt to evoke positive approach behaviors from consumers. A conceptual model is presented that illustrates the use of odor stimuli as environmental cues to influence emotional and physiological responses to food services. The implication that a pleasant ambient odor can play a role in marketing hospital food services heightens the need to explore this environmental stimulus. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between pleasant ambient odor stimuli and patient satisfaction ratings on hospital food services. The study population consisted of 104 male patients that resided in a hospital domiciliary. The individual case dropout yielded 35 subjects that participated in each of four odor conditioning study periods. A series of dependent t -tests yielded no differences (p > .05) in patient scoring on food service quality factors prior to and after conditioning the environment with odor stimuli. These patients remained very satisfied with food services with and without environmental cueing using two pleasant ambient scents. Refinement of the rate of odor stimuli from constant to varying in intensity and frequency is advocated as a modification to the study protocol. Environmental conditioning using odors congruent with food choices and the pairing of pleasant odor stimuli with other non-fixed environmental cues are discussed as focal points for future investigations.