Research now appears to support what some restaurateurs and take-away food outlets have noticed for years.

That men buy and eat larger meals when in the company of women, versus when eating alone or with other men.

In a recent study, researchers studied the eating behaviours of men at an Italian restaurant and recorded who they dined with and how much they ate. The results showed that men dining with women ate significantly more food, than those men who dined alone or in all male groups. The overeating happened across various scenarios, including where the man and the woman were in a romantic relationship, and where one woman dined with a group of men. The overeating also happened with both “unhealthy” (pizza) and “healthy” (salad) foods. Women, on the other hand, were found to eat about the same amount regardless of the sex of their fellow diners. Why this phenomenon occurs is up for debate, but the researchers theorise that, from an evolutionary perspective, it could be an unconscious “showing off” by men.

So how does one use this consumer psychology information? Men looking to control their weight might want to dine alone or with men only, or they should consciously watch for signs of overeating when dining with women. On the other hand, food vendors, who want to increase their sales, might want to encourage male diners and increase the number of visible female service staff, and actively encourage and select men who are dining with women.

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