“Sorry, you’re just not good-looking enough to sit up front” is not something you expect hear from a maître d’ as you’re led to a table deep in the recesses of some fashionable restaurant. But that’s the implication, according to the British documentary Tricks of the Restaurant Trade.
According to the Evening Standard, one finding of the four-part TV series, which premieres tonight on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, is that top London restaurants seat diners based on physical appearances: beautiful people by the windows, not-so-beautiful people in the back. Producers of the series performed an experiment, sending four attractive models to three high-end restaurants in London, then separately sending in cohost Adam Pearson, a man who “suffers from the condition neurofibromatosis, which leaves his face covered in tumors,” to the same locations. You can probably guess what happened: the models were seated in the front of the house, while the man was seated in the back or was even told there were no seats available, suggesting that seating decisions in professional restaurants mimic those made in a high school cafeteria.
Celebrity chef Simon Rimmer, who also cohosts the series, confirmed the allegations of shallowness: “A restaurant’s clientele give off a certain message about the place,” Rimmer says in the documentary. “Good-looking customers attract more people and make you more cash, so you sit them where they can be seen.”
Could this only be happening across the pond? Unlikely. Could a beautiful outfit and full face of makeup trick your way to that golden table? Possibly. What happens if your party is a mixture of the gorgeous and hideous? Are you seated in the middle? This may call for further investigation.