How Food Can Help Your Negotiations

Just browse Netflix to confirm it: We're obsessed with food and what it can tell us about culture. Whether it's The Great British Bake-Off or Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown, we want to know about how food can reveal more about ourselves and the world. It's not just a revelatory experience, though — food is an excellent tool in business dealings, and always has been.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have just published a study about how food can change negotiations. Specifically, the team wanted to find out how the act of sharing food could change an outcome. Negotiating is already an intensely social and intellectual exercise: You have to know how you're going to win over your particular partner, and be flexible enough to find your way there. The UofC researchers landed on an excellent mechanism for heightening cooperation, and it's as simple as sharing a plate of nachos.

The study itself is pretty ingenious. Negotiating partners were given either one bowl of chips and salsa to split or separate bowls for themselves. Those who shared their plates came to an agreement more quickly than those who didn't, no matter how well each partner liked the other or not. This may be more appropriate for landing a big sale than asking for a raise, but it's worth considering.

"Basically, every meal that you're eating alone is a missed opportunity to connect to someone," said co-author Ayelet Fishbach in a press release. "And every meal that involves food sharing fully utilizes the opportunity to create that social bond."