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The Hooters effect: How good-looking waitresses sway our taste buds

Relevant topics Archive, Conversion

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    Expectancies caused by a good-looking waiter/waitress influence the experience of the food
  • Application:
    Good food should be served by an attractive waitress, preferably when targeting low-cognition males
  • From Marylou’s Coffee to Hooters – many food and restaurant concepts have the above-average looks of the serving staff engrained deeply within their brand DNA.

    But does it actually work? Do we truly enjoy our food better when it’s handed to us by someone standing high on the attractiveness ladder?

    A recent psychological research program – counting an impressive amount of 5 studies –dived into this very question. The researchers investigated in what ways waitresses’ attractiveness spills over into taste expectations and enjoyment.

    Their results may surprise you.

    Beauty changes our taste – but not always in the most desirable way

    The psychologists found that attractive waitresses do indeed alter our taste experience, but not always in the desired direction.

    Based on the standard ‘what is beautiful is good bias’, one would expect attractive staff to simply make the food taste better. However, this is not what the researchers found.

    Interestingly, each and every study led to the same conclusion: an attractive waitress simply makes whatever is in our mouths taste more extreme. In other words, good food becomes delicious, whereas a mediocre meal turns into a nauseatingly bad swill.

    The implication is clear. If the restaurant prides itself in its extraordinarily attractive staff, the chef should do every effort to do them justice with an appropriately tasty dish. If not, the good-looking waitress will merely spice up the bitter aftertaste of imperfection. Plain tasting food is better off served by a plain looking waiter.

    The psychology behind the Hooters effect

    The Hooters effect arises from the ancient psychological principle of expectation disconfirmation. Instead of relying on the objective value of an experience, we use our expectations as the yardstick against which the experience is measured. When a particular experience doesn’t meet our expectations, we have a tendency to jump towards a conclusion at the other end of the spectrum.

    In this case, the attractive waitress serves as an expectational anchor, indicating good food is about to arrive on the table. If the taste in turn falls short of these expectations, the ensuing dining experience becomes even worse.

    Not anyone’s taste buds are swayed so easily

    Don’t be afraid that attractive staff will ruin the enjoyment of your next restaurant visit. Chances are you aren’t so easily in influenced.

    First of all, the effect only occurred in men. Women seemed immune to staff attractiveness. Secondly, individuals who are generally motivated and able to engage in deeper thinking – scientifically called ‘high need for cognition’ individuals – remained untouched as well. Put differently, the effect comes to true fruition in an environment filled with mindless vessels of testosterone. Yes, Hooters was right all along.

  • New Neuromarketing The Hooters Effect
  • Reference:

    Lin, L., Hoegg, J., & Aquino, K. (2018). When Beauty Backfires: The Effects of Server Attractiveness on Consumer Taste Perceptions. Journal of Retailing.


    Further Reading

    • Men Beware: The Abercrombie & Fitch Effect

      Men Beware: The Abercrombie & Fitch Effect

      Have you ever dared to walk into an Abercrombie & Fitch store? Then the memory of the many muscled six-pack wielding employees probably hasn’t vanished from your mind. The brand seems to be built around the young and fit male employees who guide the customer towards a – likely – pricey fashion investment.

      Does this strategy work? Does the sight of bulging biceps, tall v-tapered physiques, and chiseled jawlines truly make the average Joe reach deeper into his wallet? Let’s find out – because science has found an answer.

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