When dining out, your server can certainly influence what you eat: Maybe he makes the evening’s specials sound extra tantalizing or guides you away from a not-so-stellar chicken dish. But it turns out one of the biggest influences a waiter may have over your ordering started years ago—when he decided to stop going to spin classes.
In a study from the journal Environment and Behavior, researchers looked at 497 different interactions between diners and waiters at 60 different full-service restaurants in the U.S., France and Spain, including larger chains like TGI Fridays as well as smaller independent eateries (as long as they met certain criteria like serving alcohol). From there, the study specifically looked at the body-mass index of both those eating and those serving the food, as well the amount of food and drinks ordered.
Interestingly, heavier waiters correlated to all sorts of increased food and drink consumption, regardless of the diner’s BMI and even after accounting for other variables like height and age. “Specifically, [diners] were four times as likely to order desserts and they ordered 17.65 percent more alcoholic drinks” when a server had a BMI over 25, the authors wrote. “Environmental settings have been recognized as crucial cues to a person’s eating behaviour,” the researchers said, suggesting that their findings might be because a “heavy person sets a social norm” when providing service.
So, although asking, “Can I have a skinnier waiter? I’m on a diet,” might be rude, it’s not entirely illogical. Or, on the flip side, if you own a restaurant with sluggish sales, maybe see if you can find some ex-football players to add to your service staff.