How Your Waiter’s Waistline Could Affect Yours — and Your Pocketbook

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A recent study found that a waiter's weight influences the amount of food and drinks we order when eating out. Here's the skinny.

If you’re trying to watch your weight and you’re dining out, having a skinny waiter assigned to your table could be just what you need to avoid overeating, ordering dessert or downing one too many drinks.

A recent study published in the journal Environment and Behavior suggests that diners who order their food and drinks from heavier waitstaff were four times more likely to order dessert and order nearly 18 percent more alcoholic drinks than those assigned a thinner server.

“No one goes to a restaurant to start a diet. As a result, we are tremendously susceptible to cues that give us a license to order and eat what we want,” says Tim Doering, researcher at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and lead author of the study. “A fun, happy, heavy waiter, might lead a diner to say, ‘What the heck’ and to cut loose a little.”

The study involved the observation of 497 diners in 60 casual American restaurants, including Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s.

“A heavy waiter or waitress seems to have an even bigger influence on the skinniest diners,” Doering noted.

According to Inverse, the study suggests that despite some restaurants’ hesitancy or outright discrimination in hiring overweight employees, bringing on waitstaff that has more meat on their bones could actually be a boon to business. If a curvier waiter leads people to purchase more food and alcohol, then the restaurant stands to benefit from a potential increase in sales.

“Along with the size of your waiter, the lighting, music and even where you sit has been shown to unknowingly bias what you order,” the Cornell Food and Brand Lab explains here.

Before you try to search out the skinniest waiter in a restaurant to order from, the researchers suggest that diners who are trying to eat healthy or save money decide what they’re going to order before they talk to their server. That limits the influence of external factors – like the waiter’s weight – on ordering decisions.

What do you think of the study? Do you feel more comfortable ordering dessert, alcoholic beverages and bigger or less-healthy meals from a heavier waiter? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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