Body language scores drinks: scientists

By Mathew Dearnaley

David Wilkinson agrees eye contact helps but it's who's waited longest that counts with him. Photo / Sarah Ivey
David Wilkinson agrees eye contact helps but it's who's waited longest that counts with him. Photo / Sarah Ivey

New research suggests people sick of waiting to be served at a bar can speed things up with their body language and by looking directly at serving staff.

The findings, from Bielefeld University in Germany and published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal, say getting served ahead of others at a busy bar is down to body language and concentrating on winning the attention of those pouring the drinks.

Patrons sidling up to bars between other customers were often left waiting longer, as were those who divided their attention by chatting with friends or perusing menus.

Holding a wallet or purse had some success, but gesturing with a hand or head to a bartender was less effective, reported scientists after observing 105 bids to order drinks at three German and Scottish nightclubs.

Lead researcher Sebastian Loth said customers identified themselves as ordering or non-ordering patrons through their behaviour.

Two signals were necessary to ensure timely service. "First, the customers position themselves directly at the bar and, secondly, look at the bartender," said Dr Loth.

"If one of these signals was absent, the participants judged the customers as not bidding for attention."

Auckland bar manager David Wilkinson was unswayed by psychologists' advice though. After 15 years' experience in the hospitality industry he agrees eye contact helps, but says it is the job of bar staff to try to assess who has been waiting longest rather than succumbing to pushy patrons.

"I don't like people pushing in or calling out for a drink from the end of the bar," he said yesterday afternoon, between taking orders at the Shakespeare Hotel and Brewery.

"People who try to push in don't get anywhere - not when I'm serving, anyway."

He said he wasn't influenced by gender or height, and his preferred way of dealing with the stroppy minority was to "just grin and smile".

At the same time, he always tried to stay alert and keep an eye on people entering the bar, to intercept anybody too intoxicated to serve and suggest politely they go elsewhere.

David's top five hates

1. Stroppy patrons trying to push in between those who have been waiting longer for drinks.

2. Intoxicated patrons demanding unsuccessfully to be served.

3. Patrons calling out for drinks from the other end of a bar.

4. Gamblers demanding change for pokie machines from bartenders busy pouring drinks.

5. Patrons who can't make up their minds what to order while keeping others waiting.

- NZ Herald

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