Beyond Taste Cliches: Men and Women Really Do Order Differently in Restaurants

Many of us don’t like to think that we fall into any specific stereotype, but it appears that, when it comes to what we order in restaurants, we often do.
Menu & Cutlery on A Restaurant Table

Menu & Cutlery on A Restaurant Table

Photo by: Darren Baker ©Photograph Darren Baker

Darren Baker, Photograph Darren Baker

Most of us probably don’t like to think of ourselves as falling into any specific stereotypes, including gender-based ones, but it appears that, when it comes to what we order in restaurants, we often do.

Men go for the meat. Women like their vegetables. Those gender-based taste preferences, while somewhat oversimplified, aren’t only the stuff of cliche, the Wall Street Journal reports. Rather, they frequently hold true.

“Many chefs say it is remarkable how many diners continue to order largely along gender-based lines,” Alina Dizik writes in the Journal. “Restaurants and menu consultants say it pays to balance gender preferences, both when designing individual dishes and when planning the overall menu.”

So what do we glean from Dizik’s piece about how men and women order differently when they dine out – and how restaurants accommodate these differences? Here are a few findings:

  • Women tend to be more calorie-conscious when placing their orders, so chefs and consultants are adjusting by adding menu options that feature a simple protein (fish, chicken, etc.) without heavy sides and sauces. After all, no one relishes looking high-maintenance by ordering things “on the side.”
  • Women often order entrees that are healthy and prominently feature vegetables — and then blow their calorie budget on dessert.
  • Men lean more to substantial, meaty and starchy entrees.
  • These patterns start in childhood; little girls tend to eat more vegetables than little boys – at least according to one expert on the psychology of food and gender, Dr. Elizabeth Capaldi Phillips, of Arizona State University.
  • Women steer clear of dishes described as “hearty” and gravitate toward those labeled “delicate”; men do the opposite.
  • Some restaurants add cheese or a little meat to vegetable dishes to broaden their appeal to include men as well as women.
  • Restaurants generally craft their dessert choices to appeal to women, sometimes offering mini-portions to allow them to sample and satisfy their sweet tooth with a little less guilt.
  • When it comes to dessert, women tend to go for chocolate desserts with a fancy fruit twist – and with exotic descriptions. (Dizik’s pastry source mentions “rosemary water granita” and “raspberry coulis.”) Guess what men like? Flavors that evoke childhood, like peanut butter, caramel corn and brownies. So to encourage sharing between the genders, restaurants may try to combine elements that cater to these predilections – putting a humble cookie on a fancy French dessert, say, or an edible flower on a homey classic.  Ah, sweet harmony. Can’t we all just eat dessert together and get along?
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