In yet another blow to our sense of self-control (to say nothing of our waistlines), it now appears that overweight waiters may inspire people to eat and drink more.
That’s the latest finding from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, which over the years has produced an array of discoveries about the unconscious factors that influence eating.Lab Director Brian Wansink has gained renown for showing that he can manipulate how much people eat by varying lighting, music, the colors and arrangement of jelly beans and the size of one’s fellow diners. In one famous experiment, Dr. Wansink and colleagues fed people soup. But some bowls were rigged up to subtly refill themselves from a large unseen reservoir. “Despite consuming 73% more,” the scientists wrote of the subjects with the refilling bowls, “they did not believe they had consumed more, nor did they perceive themselves as more sated than those eating from normal bowls.”
“If you have a heavy server,” says Mr. Döring, “you order more.” Diners with servers with an over 25 BMI (Body Mass Index) – and thus considered “overweight” – were four times likelier to order dessert and ordered 17% more alcoholic beverages. The disparity in ordering was particularly pronounced when diners below the BMI threshold of 25 had a server who was at or over the threshold. Or as Mr. Döring put it, “A heavy waiter or waitress seems to have an even bigger influence on the skinniest diners.”