Being attended to by an overweight waiter actually influences how we order food and drinks at a restaurant, a new study from the Environment and Behavior journal suggests.
Specifically, the more overweight your server is, the more food you order, and the more likely you are to end the meal with dessert.
In the study, researchers observed approximately 500 total interactions between customers and waiters across 60 full-service restaurants. Researchers established body mass index (BMI) estimates for both, and recorded the amount of food and drinks ordered during each interaction.
Even when researchers controlled for variables like ethnicity, gender, and age, the data established a strong correlation between a waiter’s BMI and the amount of food his tables ordered, regardless of their own body type. Interestingly, customers who were served by a heavy waiter were four times as likely to order desserts as those with more slender waiters, and ordered 18 percent more alcoholic beverages. It’s not exactly clear why this is, but researchers Tim Döring and Brian Wansink suggest that it’s because a “heavy person sets a social norm,” especially in a setting like a restaurant.
“In a novel approach, we showed that diners can be influenced by their surroundings in general and furthermore by their social interactions in particular,” wrote Döring and Wansink. “This study suggests that it does not take profound interactions between individuals to alter their eating behavior.”