Where To Sit At A Restaurant If You Don't Want To Overeat

Just because you're on a diet doesn't mean you can't eat out, right? After all, you're in control over what you order and how much of it you eat or drink. And where you sit in the restaurant has no bearing on your health.

Think again.

According Brian Wasink, food psychologist and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, we may be fooling ourselves into a false sense of self-control when it comes to dining out. His new book, Slim By Design, suggests a strong connection between several factors in a restaurant and the number of calories a patron consumes.

Visiting 27 restaurants around the country, Wasink and his team mapped and measured the layout of every one. They also collected nightly dinner receipts for three months from each of the restaurants.

By analyzing these A-1-smeared artifacts, we were able to figure out whether somebody at Table 91 way in back was more likely to order salad or less likely to order an extra drink than somebody at Table 7 — which is way up front, next to the door and bar."

A sampling of his observations:

  • People who sat in well-lit sections or window-adjacent parts of restaurants were more likely to order healthier food
  • People who sat in dark tables or comfortable booths were more likely to order heavier food (and more of it)
  • People were 73% more likely to order dessert at tables farthest from the front door
  • Sitting closer to the bar (within two tables) resulted in a table ordering an average of three or more alcoholic drinks, compared to tables that were further away from the bottle-slinging action
  • Diners near TVs ate more fried foods compared to people sitting in other areas of the restaurant
  • Salads were more frequently ordered (and dessert less so) at high-top tables with less surface area

So it looks like if you're trying to stay healthy while dining out, you should sit at a high table near the door or a window. Pick a well-lit place, and avoid plush seats and the bar.

Not necessarily highly scientific, but all good things to keep in mind the next time you dine out! And if you're up for it, ask the host or hostess for a table near the front of the restaurant. It probably won't stop you from ordering dessert but it might make you stop and think before you do.

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