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Why Dressing Well Could Get You Better Service in Restaurants

A new study from hospitality researchers at the University of Missouri says that waitstaff give more attentive service to diners wearing nice clothes.
Photo via Flickr user Jens karlsson

Restaurant service can make or break a meal out. The food might be faultless but if the waitress is determined not to make eye contact or the waiter acts like they'd rather be trapped at Fyre Festival than clearing your table, it can make you wish you'd stayed at home and got takeout.

But hospitality management professors from the University of Missouri may have found a way to ensure attentive, polite service every time you eat out. (And not just by not acting like a dick.) According to the professors, getting service with a smile could all come down to wearing polished shoes and a snappy jacket.


In a new study, published last week in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, Missouri researchers found that diners who are well-dressed are more likely to receive good service from restaurant waitstaff. The findings show that waiters perceive restaurant guests who have made an effort with their clothing to be more generous tippers. And better tips lead to a better quality of service.

The study saw researchers from Missouri's College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources survey 222 current and former restaurant waiters. They were shown pictures of people of different races, genders, and dress and then asked who they thought would leave good and bad tips. The results showed that a customer's race did not significantly affect servers' perception of whether they'd tip well.

Commenting in a press release, Dae-Young Kim, lead author of the study and associate hospitality management professor at Missouri, said that waiters stereotype customers based on first impressions to work out where best to devote their time for more reward.

He said: "For servers, especially busy servers, they often have to make decisions about how to best devote their time and energy, so they look for ways to identify which customers will reward them the most for their service. The more professionally dressed a customer is, the more likely a server is to stereotype them as a good tipper, regardless of their race or gender."

But Kim did add that the study may be specific to American tipping culture: "The [American] tipping culture can motivate servers to provide quality service to some customers, it may result in unequal service for others."

Still, dressing well could be worth a try in British restaurants—if only to justify that payday ASOS binge.