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The Waiter’s Weight: Does a server’s BMI relate to how much food diners order?

While much is known about the influences of the physical environment on diners’ eating behavior, less is known about how characteristics of the wait staff influence such behaviors. This study examines how server’s body type and gender influence the eating behaviors of diners in full service restaurants. This study also examined whether or not the effects of the server are different between slim and heavy diners.

A total of 497 diners were observed at one of 60 different full service-restaurants across the United States and some in Europe. Various features of the diner and server were recorded, including body type, age, weight, and gender. The amount of food and beverages ordered and left over were recorded for each diner. Analyses of covariance and multiple linear regressions were used to describe how BMI and gender of the diner and server influenced the eating and ordering behaviors of diners.

The results of this study found that the BMI of the server has positive effects on the number of food items ordered. Additionally, diners ordered fewer items if served by a high BMI female server and more items if served by a high BMI male server. High BMI servers were also associated with a greater number of diners ordering desserts regardless of gender. The effects of the server did not differ for high and low BMI diners.

The results of this study demonstrate that social interactions influence the eating and ordering behavior of diners in real-life environments. These results are beneficial to those trying to change eating habits inside and outside the home, as it illuminates some of the environmental cues that may influence eating behavior.