Are we really affected by our expectaions when we experience food? I would like to say that we are to a very high degree. But it is quite complex to be able to give an as positive experience as possible. Sometimes it's about building an expectation for the whole evening, like when I worked serving at pub shows.
When I have worked in a restaurant, I have always claimed that the serving staff has a more important job than the chef. Since a good serving can save a bad chef, but unfortunately a good chef cannot save a bad serving. To have a positive experience of a meal, we need to have some kind of expectation. If we get extra triggers that build up our expectation that the food will be good, we are more likely to perceive what we eat as good. The psychology behind this is about exchanging anxiety for enthusiasm. When the server speaks with enthusiasm and clearly conveys her love for the food, our brain will adjust to the fact that what we will eat will be good. And we will also find it easier to feel that the food is good, especially when the server comes with a big smile and asks the leading question "did it taste good?". I use that trick mainly when I'm unsure of the guest's opinion, or I had a lack of time to be able to respond to criticism from the guest. Otherwise, I like to take time with my guests and ask open-ended questions that invite engagement. My main goal is always for you as a guest to have the most enjoyable meal experience possible.
There is also a certain risk in building up a high expectation. If the experience of the meal does not manage to live up to the guest's high expectations, it can backfire and it will instead be a very bad experience. Although the food would be super good as an everyday dinner, it becomes a big disappointment when it is served at a time when the expectation was so much higher. I would generally say that it is rarely the food itself and the expectation of it that is the biggest problem though. It is much more common with dissatisfied guests because the service did not live up to their expectations. No matter how we twist and turn, it ends up that the server plays a bigger role than the food itself.
This may be worth thinking about the next time you invite for a dinner. We often spend a lot of time and thought on the food itself, but maybe not as much on the serving. Also remember that there are many tricks to save the situation when serving, if the food would not have turned out as you had intended. My big favorite is to always finish with something little sweet (big fan of desserts) to ensure a nice finish. Which is the main memory you then carry with you from the table.
I hope you found value in these thoughts.
And remember: Only eat what you enjoy, and enjoy all you eat!