As reported in The Wall Street Journal, however, I may be not be fully aware of the impact the environment has on my food choices. Researchers have shown that environmental cues such imagery (e.g. pictures of boats and sailors) and ambient music affect what diners order and how long they stay at the table. To determine if the weight of a server had any impact, researchers observed almost 500 interactions between diners and servers in 60 different causal full service restaurants. Servers were categorized as high body or low body mass index (BMI) if their BMI was either greater than or lower than 25.
There was an equal representation of men and women and high and low BMI amongst both the diners and servers. Diners ordered fewer items if served by a high rather than low BMI waitress and more items if served by a high rather than low BMI waiter. Diners were four times as likely to order dessert if served by a high BMI server and ordered 17% more alcoholic beverages if served by a high BMI server. While it is tempting to dismiss the data as relatively inconsequential, Americans spent 221 billion dollars at full service restaurants in 2015 and full service restaurants have been identified as a key source of food surplus.
While I rarely order dessert eating in a restaurant, I suspect the next time I dine at a restaurant I will need to be a touch more cognizant of my food choices and whether I am truly making an independent decision.