I’ll take the check! a longitudinal replication analysis of gender biases in bill placement from restaurant servers

Eric Swank, Breanne Fahs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Traditional gender scripts in restaurants assume that men wield money, while women are framed as ‘accessories’ who do not pay restaurant checks in mixed-gender settings. While some research has addressed how servers replicate this script at U.S. restaurants, no previous research has looked at this practice longitudinally over time. This study explores how bill placement practices are connected to gendered power dynamics via observations of server and customer interactions about the restaurant check placement. Drawing from audit studies from the 1970s and 2010s, this study examined historical trends in gendered check placements. Comparing data from the 1970s in Phoenix, Arizona, we examined data from an audit of 176 visits to restaurants in Phoenix in the 2010s. This study sent out two-person teams of one cisgender man and one cisgender woman, with the woman always requesting the bill. Results found little change between the 1970s and 2010s, as the majority of servers placed the bill in the middle of the table. That said, the percentage of men receiving the bill surprisingly increased over time, while the number of times women received the bill decreased to almost never. This data contradicts accounts of a decrease in sexism and sexist behaviour over time. Further, the type of restaurant and server characteristics (such as age and gender of server, average check price, type of food served) did not influence bill placement tendencies. Implications for understanding the behavioural practices of sexism, the patriarchal coding of restaurant check placement and the importance of tracking and studying mundane expressions of sexism are explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • gender bias
  • gender role
  • hospitality
  • service industry
  • sexism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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