Considering that 58% of Americans eat at a restaurant at least once a week – while British people spend on average £288,000 in their lifetime eating out – it’s no surprise restaurant owners are getting savvier at telling our personality types apart.
When you realize that menu psychology is a thing, and there are psychological tricks to entice us into buying all the courses at dinner, it’s no surprise that your waiter may know more about you then the person you’re dining with.
You can spot online meetups a mile away
Restaurant staff are, after all, dedicated people watchers according to therapist and body language expert Sally Baker: “People watching is a skill that can make a service go quicker so restaurant owners learn all this stuff very quickly and easily,” she says.
Yes, they know when you’ve been stood up, they can tell when one of those quiet-but-serious arguments is happening and they see you when your dining partner has been on the phone for 20 minutes and left you awkward and bored.
Here, various food establishment founders reveal what runs through their minds when we step through their doors and order. And, trust us, it is not a judgement-free zone…
They know if you’re on a first date.
As if you weren’t nervous already, the person serving you is also evaluating how it’s going.
Owner and CEO of London-based cafe Arapina Michaela Pontiki says it’s all about the lack of phone interaction.
It’s all to do with little outward flashes of nervousness that are easy to spot
“I can tell when a couple is on a first [or one of the first] date/s because they’ll be looking at each other in the eyes,” he says. “And, they’re usually holding hands and leaning towards each other but, the ultimate thing is that they are by no means on their phones!”
And according to body language expert Baker, it’s all to do with little outward flashes of nervousness that are easy to spot like repeated self-grooming of hair or frequent small adjustments to clothes.
“Any body language accompanied by micro-movements such as fidgeting or repeatedly touching their face is a tell-tale sign of first date nerves,” says Baker.
They can tell who you’re with.
“Couples speak more conversationally when they order,” reveal Oli Midgley and George Zhuravlov, founders of London-based health conscious cafe and coffee shop The Good Yard. “And, one might order for both of them or insist on paying at the end – we get a lot of women ordering green juices for their boyfriends!”
You can just tell when someone is in charge and the partner just follows
While Ms Ting Li, general Manager at Mayfair-based Chinese street food restaurant Murger HanHan, says you can also tell who the alpha in the couple is: “The decision maker is always the alpha in the couple and it doesn’t matter male or female, you can just tell when someone is in charge and the partner just follows.”
They know if you’re having an affair.
Yes, the myth is true – some people just can’t help frequenting their favorite spots, even if it means exposing themselves as cheaters.
Midgley and Zhuralov admit that the food hospitality business can involve seeing infidelity on site: “We’ve definitely seen the same customers take dates in – and then return with their wives or husbands,” they reveal.
They can tell what your food habits are like.
They may not be nutritionists but how and what you order can say a lot about what you’re eating outside and at home apparently.
You find out how open minded or cautious a person is from what they order
“How decisive someone is about their food choices can tell you a lot about someone’s life,” says Pontiki. “And, I can definitely tell customer’s nutritional habits at home by what and how they order.”
Li agrees: “You find out how open minded or cautious a person is from what they order, too. The former will try new dishes, even its something they have never heard of while the cautious will go for the ‘safe’ options.”
So next time you’re wondering if you should order that trusty pad thai again, maybe try something you can’t really pronounce?
They know if you’re meeting someone for the first time.
Todd Brinkman, head of Eat and Drink at Stoke in Charlotte, North Carolina, says that digital dating has changed the bar scene considerably.
You can tell when they don’t really know each other
“In a city center like Uptown Charlotte, you can spot online meetups a mile away,” he admits. “It’s obvious when a couple is there together, yet you can tell when they don’t really know each other.
“You don’t even need to hear a word they say to notice that they are basically interviewing each other. But, if a couple does that for at least an hour, they probably have a shot!”
They can tell your job role.
“Career juniors usually come down with a big list of other people’s orders and always pay cash and ask for receipts,” say Midgley and Zhuralov. “While career seniors tend to be very to the point and order extra shots in their coffee.”
The more casual the attire, the higher up they tend to be
Pontiki adds that how you dress says it all, along with your posture and decisiveness.
But, interestingly, this differentiation is apparently changing with the rise of millennial professionals. According to Brinkman: “Millennials are now a driving force in the bar world as they have disposable income and a bit of financial freedom, so you can’t tell a junior or senior level professional based on age anymore.”
“It’s about how they dress and carry themselves, especially now suit and ties are a thing of the past. The more casual the attire, the higher up they tend to be,” he says.
So, next time you’re enjoying a casual Friday dress code, go live it up at a restaurant alright?
They can tell if you’re having a bad day.
So, if you want sympathy from a stranger, eating out may be the way to get it.
“You can easily tell if someone is celebrating a ‘fill in the blank’ as they tend to tell others about what happened, especially the bartenders or wait staff,” says Brinkman. “While the quiet guests are the ones usually having a bad day, especially if they stew over a shot and a beer instead of a glass of wine or a proper cocktail.”
While Midgley and Zhuralov say that you can tell someone’s emotional state from what they order: “Some customers order literally the same thing every day, while others will digress and order something difficult and ask to speak to the manager.”
See, apparently even restaurant owners can tell when we’re having an off day.
They know whether you’ll tip (or not).
Our attitude definitely exudes how generous we’re going to be – and wait staff is uniquely attuned to this.
“Smiley, happy customers – or people trying to hit on our staff are the most likely to tip,” say Midgley and Zhuralov. “Or people with loose change,” they add.
They can tell your personality type.
Ever walk into somewhere and feel like the waiting staff have just given you a onceover? Well, they probably did – but it’s not for the reason you might think. And no, they’re not always checking you out.
The way they walk and talk can explain a lot
“Hairstyles are the first thing I notice about people,” admits Li. “Looks are the first impression you get from people, but it’s then followed by the way they dress, who they are out in the restaurant with, how they treat the waiting staff and how they speak to their company.”
And considering that researchers at the University of Kansas concluded that you can judge a stranger’s income, political views, emotional and other important personality traits just by looking at their shoes, it’s no wonder waiters can tell a lot about you so quickly.
“It’s always good to tell whether they are easier going or serious as that will change the way we look after and serve them. Also, the way they walk and talk can explain a lot as well as you will know if they have a big ego or are more shy.”
They can tell if you’re frugal.
“Some customers comment on how expensive a menu is – or they try to swap out a very cheap menu item with an expensive menu item,” say Midgley and Zhuralov. So, next time you walk in with a Groupon, just ask yourself if it’s worth it (and yes, it probably will be.)
They can tell if you’re a nice person.
The old rule about being nice to everyone will always ring true, with the World Economic Forum measuring countries by how kind their populations are to strangers (FYI, United States comes 9th on the list) – so know that it doesn’t go unnoticed.
Anyone who clicks their fingers to get a waiter’s attention is an egocentric type
“Table manner is a very important indication of someone,” says Li.
“A person who is rude to waiting staff gives a pretty accurate and damning insight into their personality,” states Baker. “Anyone who clicks their fingers to get a waiter’s attention is an egocentric type.”