Good-looking servers influence how food tastes – for better and worse: B.C. study

Men were more likely to be influenced by an attractive server, new research says

A good-looking waiter or waitress can play a big role in how your food tastes, one B.C. study suggests.

Three business professors from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University set out to determine how physical attraction affects taste perception using online surveys and lab experiments, and published their findings in the Journal of Retailing in September.

A relatively good meal served by someone attractive will leave the guest happy, they found, while a less-than-satisfying meal results in the opposite reaction.

In other words: “When the server is attractive, good food tastes better, but bad food tastes worse.”

That’s because of the “negative disconfirmation effect,” when a person who already has high expectations is let down. In the restaurant scenario, they had expected the food to be especially good because of the server’s appearance, and were that much more disappointed when it wasn’t.

Men were more likely to be influenced by an attractive server, the study also found, while women were more likely to be affected by the restaurant’s location and noise.

READ MORE: New bill would prohibit employers from requiring women to wear high heels in B.C.

Study looks at how attractiveness of a server impacts a guests’s likeness of meal (Study graphic.)

”We believe restaurateurs should remain focused on what kind of experience they are actually offering,” SFU assistant marketing professor Lilly Lin wrote in a column this week for research network The Conversation.

“If the goal is to have diners focus on the food — including quality, sourcing, sustainability and taste — then distracting environmental cues that fail to align with the menu should, at the very least, be reconsidered.”

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