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How Much You Eat in a Restaurant Depends on Where You Sit

Margaret Minnicks has been a writer for many years. She writes about entertainment, celebrities, books, movies, foods, drinks, and health.


You might be surprised to know that where you sit in a restaurant affects how much you will spend and how much you will eat and drink. There are sections in some restaurants that subliminally get customers to order more food and the most expensive items. Hostesses know this and will seat people at "fat tables" to provoke them to order more food.

The unofficial name for the tables has nothing to do with a person's weight. The tables are called that because of the amount of food that is typically consumed there.

Brian Wansink, former director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and a leading food psychologist, visited about 27 restaurants all over the country every day for three months. He watched where people were sitting and when he compared receipts over 90 days, he found some interesting things that most people don't know about when it comes to the seating arrangement in some restaurants.

The former executive director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion published his findings in a book called Slim by Design.


''Fat Tables"

There are certain tables in a restaurant that hostesses and waiters refer to as "fat tables." Those are the tables they know customers will order more foods. This is a way for restaurants to make more money from unsuspecting customers.

So, where are the "fat tables" located in most restaurants?

At Or Near the Bar

People who sit at or near the bar tend to order more food to go along with the drinks they also order. They think they are hungrier than they are. Even if they don't order drinks from the bar, they see it and feel hungry.

People sitting within two tables of the bar drink an average of three more beers or mixed drinks than those sitting one table farther away.

Brian Wansink, author of "Slim By Design"

Brian Wansink, author of "Slim By Design"

Near a Television

Because people can't keep from watching sports even when they are dining out, restaurants have capitalized on that trend. You would expect to see televisions in sports bars, but there are televisions in restaurants to get people to eat and drink more.

Watching television in restaurants might distract people from thinking twice about what they order. The closer a table is to a television screen, the more fried foods a person will eat.

This man is sitting in the back. He is not watching TV but one is there.

This man is sitting in the back. He is not watching TV but one is there.

Back Tables

Those who sit in the back in the corner in the dark tend to order more food. When you sit in the dark you feel invisible, and it is easier to eat more because you don't see clearly how much you are eating so you don't feel as guilty.

Wansink discovered that people who order healthier foods are the ones sitting by a window or in a well-lit part of the restaurant. Those who eat heavier foods and order more of it are those who sit at a dark table or booth.


A booth becomes customers' security blanket when they go out to eat. It becomes a person's holding place that provokes them to order more from the menu. Those people tend to avoid salads, but they do not avoid desserts.

Often times when a person is dining alone, he or she will prefer a booth for seclusion to avoid interacting with others. If no booth is available, the person might choose to sit in a corner in the back of the restaurant because he prefers to feel invisible. Because the person is not accountable to anyone, the customer feels free to order whatever he wants without thinking about calories or the price of the meal.

Away from Front Door

People who sit far away from the front door eat the heavier meals and order the most expensive desserts. Very seldom do those people fill up off of a salad. If they do order a salad, they also order a big meal to go along with it.

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The person sitting away from the front door tends to end the meal with a dessert.

People sitting near a window

People sitting near a window

By a Window

Those who are seated in well-lit areas of a restaurant or near a window will eat healthier. They might look outside and admire nature. This makes them think about exercising and prompt them to order a healthy green salad


Now that you know about "fat tables," you can be in charge of your own pocketbook and your own weight by not accepting where you are seated when you go to a restaurant. You can tell the hostess to seat you by the window or in a well-lighted area at a table by a window.

When you go to places like Golden Corral where you can choose your own seating, don't choose a table in the back in the dark. In restaurants where there are booths and tables, choose a table over a booth.

Family eating in a well-lighted area of a restaurant

Family eating in a well-lighted area of a restaurant

Ideal Place to Sit in a Restaurant

Use the following guidelines to have an ideal dining experience that will prevent you from overeating and overspending.

  • Sit in a well-lighted area.
  • Choose a table rather than a booth.
  • Try to sit in the middle of the restaurant.
  • Ask for a window seat, if there are any.
  • Avoid sitting in the corner in the back in the dark.
  • Sit closer to the front door.
  • Sit away from the bar.
  • Sit where you can't see or hear the television.
  • Ways to Save Money When Eating Out
    All families eat out from time to time. They usually spend more money than they need to because there are some things they don't know. Learn to save money the next time you eat out with your family or friends.


Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on June 19, 2018:

Peggy and Linda, I didn't know about this either until I stumbled across this information and thought it was interesting enough to share.

Since I wrote the article, a waitress confirms that this is true. I will check it out the next time I go to out to eat.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 18, 2018:

I never realized that where you might sit in a restaurant affects what you might order and consume. Very interesting!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 18, 2018:

This is an interesting article. I didn't realize that "fat tables" existed. I'll remember the information that you've shared when I next visit a restaurant.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on June 16, 2018:

From The Heart, Thanks for reading and commenting. I found the information to be quite interesting enough to share.

Shizette on June 16, 2018:

Interesting article!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on June 16, 2018:

Louise, I recently found out about the seating arrangement in restaurants, but the information seems logical. The next time I go out to eat, I am going to be more observant.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on June 16, 2018:

I had never really thought about where you sit in a restaurant determines how much you will eat. That was very interesting to learn.

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