Bite, Chew, Repeat.

Happy U.S. Independence Day. In the grand tradition of this country, citizens everywhere will be gathering together to play and eat. Other than infants, none will need instructions on how to masticate their food. Some, however, might require detailed documentation on how to successfully transfer said food to their mouth. Particularly if the food isn't a hamburger or hot dog.

Thoughtful restaurants like Tomatina and Chipotle afford a good dining experience by providing wordless help for wrangling their piadines and burritos.

The piadine instructions, shown on the left above, arrive on a slip of paper tucked next to the open-faced sandwich. They use culturally-reckless "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" gestures to indicate the correct procedure to follow. That is, pick up the piadine and don't use utensils. The orientation of the hands and arms provide a strong clue to the correct orientation of the paper, which is important because otherwise you might inadvertently reverse the meaning of the thumbs. But just to be sure you get the right message, Tomatina adds two arrows at the top to reinforce the downward gesture. Unfortunately, arrows like this typically mean "this end up" so their impact is lessened. Finally, it's interesting that a left hand is shown making the negative gesture and that the hands below it belong to someone else. The right hand indicates the smart way, and the hands shown are positioned as if they belong to the reader. A subtle reinforcement of "this means you."

The instructions from Chipotle, shown on the right, are easier on the eye and better orientated. They're printed on the back of every napkin, which might be an issue for discoverability. They encourage the use of both hands and even going so far as to let the reader fill in the step implied between 2 and 3 -- the bite -- which is wisely omitted from the instructions. (It would require a change in perspective, for one thing.)

If these were instructions for setting up a computer, some might complain that they're incomplete. After all, there is no mention at all of actually eating, and certainly they've forgotten the warning about chewing with your mouth open.

Posted: July 4, 2003 link to this item, Tweet this item, respond to this item