A new study from the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University has found that the weight of a restaurant’s waiter has a strong correlation with a diner's decision to order additional drinks and dessert.

The study, which has been published in the current issue of the journal Environment and Behavior, observed 457 diners in 60 casual American restaurants. Researchers compared the BMI (Body Mass Index) of the diner to the BMI of the diner’s waitperson.

The study found that diners who ordered their meals from heavier wait staff were four times more likely to order dessert, and ordered 17 percent more alcohol.

Tim Doering researcher at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and lead author of the study said that diners are “tremendously susceptible” to cues that give them "a license to order and eat what they want."

“No one goes to a restaurant to start a diet,” says Doering. “…A fun, happy, heavy waiter, might lead a diner to say ‘What the heck’ and to cut loose a little.”

Doering also noted that a heavy waiter or waitress appeared to have an “even bigger influence” on the skinniest diners.

In addition to the size of the waitperson, ambient factors such as the lighting and music along with where diners are seated in a restaurant can also influence what a diner orders.

The study was self-funded by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.


Image: Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

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