6 things that subconsciously influence your restaurant order

When you go out to a restaurant for a meal with your family or friends, you see a lot of things happening around you. Waiters bustling around, music playing, chatter of other customers and you also have a long list of items on a menu for you to navigate.

restaurant order

While all of these seem like the usual things at a restaurant, research shows that all of these factor into influencing what you decide to eat for that meal. Some of these can push you to make healthier choices and some, not so much.

A recent study conducted by scientists at the Cornell University, has come up with a surprising list of things that impact your restaurant order.

Your waiter’s BMI

When you get to your table at a restaurant, you have a waiter there to take your orders and help you throughout your meal. What you might not know is that his BMI (body mass index) is a direct influence on what you eat or drink during that meal. A study published by the journal Environment & Behavior showed that people were more likely to order dessert when they had heavier waiters. The effect was substantially more on slimmer people. Scientists say that, when you have a heavy waiter, your mind subconsciously thinks “What the heck? Let’s live it up” and you end up ordering more. It’s better if you decide whether or not you want to have dessert before you sit down for your meal.

Your Companion’s Weight

When you are dining with your friend with a big body size, you are more likely to order unhealthy food. Research shows that you also reduce ordering healthy food with them, even if they are eating healthy.

The Ambiance

We all love going to fancy restaurants with soft music and dim lighting because it makes the dining experience so much better. Researchers found that even when eating fast food, if you eat at a fine dining setting, you are likely to eat slowly and lesser than people eating the same type of food at a typical fast food joint. Diners also claimed that fine dining setting made the food more enjoyable.

The Food Names

It’s not a secret that the names of food items in a restaurant’s menu affects what you order. We’re more likely to order food that has a descriptive name than the ones with a simple and straight-forward name. For example, think succulent Italian pasta with seafood marinated in spicy sauce vs. seafood pasta. Studies reveal that people think the food with a descriptive name is more delicious than the simple one, even though they are the exact same food. People were even willing to pay 12% more for the descriptive ones.

The Order of Food in a Buffet

When ordering a buffet, you usually stock up on the food item you see first. PLOS One study showed that the food placed at the beginning of the buffet line is eaten the most and it also influences what you eat next. For the study, they created two buffet lines, one with healthy food placed first and one with not-so-healthy food. 86% people had healthy food when offered first and only 55% ate fruits when it was last in the order. On the other hand, 75% ate cheesy eggs when it was first in the buffet order, and only 29% took them when it was found last. What you need to understand from this is – start at the salad section.

The Restaurant’s Specials

waiter explaining

We’re all a bit lazy when it comes to ordering food at the restaurant. It’s either that or we are very conflicted about what to order when we have so many choices. A study by the journal Psychology & Marketing showed people were more likely to order the special items of the menu or the items the waiter points out to them. While this is not really that bad, you may end up eating items that are unhealthy or ones that you wouldn’t have chosen otherwise. It’s always better to go with your initial choice and not let the menu confuse you.

The subconscious is a powerful thing. The next time you visit a restaurant, keep these things in mind and know that what you are craving to eat might not be what you really want.

Shalini Prasad

She has been a content specialist for more than four years. She is a passionate reader and loves to read about Science, Philosophy, History and Psychology. She also enjoys sci-fi books and general fiction.

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