Have you ever walked past a Cinnabon store with ZERO intention of eating anything, smelled the tempting aroma emanating from the shop, and turned right around and bought a cinnamon roll? Yeah, that’s all calculated.

Food establishments including Cinnabon, Panera, and Starbucks are increasingly relying on smells to draw in customers and nudge them to buy more, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Here are some of the ways that Cinnabon lures customers with smells:

  • The chain places ovens near the front of its stores so the smell escapes when oven doors open. Putting ovens in the back of stores at a test location “significantly” lowered sales, president of Cinnabon Kat Cole tells the WSJ.
  • The bakeries are intentionally located in malls or airports, not outside, so smells can linger. 
  • Cinnamon rolls are baked at least every 30 minutes. Some store operators heat additional sheets of brown sugar and cinnamon to keep the aroma in the air.
  • Cinnabon executives instruct franchisees to buy “the weakest hood possible,” so the scent vents back into the store.

“Scent is most effective when subtle,” Edward Burke, spokesman for Scentair Technologies Inc. (one of the largest sellers of scent diffusers), tells the WSJ. Sweet smells like brown sugar and apple work great in diffusing systems, explains Burke, while cooked-food aromas, like charred steak, don’t smell “authentic.”

Scent marketing extends well beyond restaurants and coffee shops. Mr. Burke says that many hotels now use scent, especially tea-derived aromas. Cinnamon and other homey scents are popular at senior living homes.

So now you know that it isn’t your fault when you buy a muffin every time you walk by Panera—it’s just scent marketing decreasing your will power.

WSJ‘s Sarah Nassauer reports on the “scent marketing” trend in the video below.

[via Eater, WSJ]

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