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Restaurants Seat 'Ugly' Diners in the Back. Is That OK?

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Getting a table at a hot restaurant is hard enough. And getting the best table? Forget about it -- especially if you're not among those blessed with outward beauty, according to a new documentary series. 

In an episode of the the UK Channel 4 series, "Tricks of the Restaurant Trade," the show's hosts delve into the practice of what's known as "The Golden Table." Put simply, restaurants seat the "best-looking customers" at the best table in the restaurant, in a highly visible spot, because good-looking customers attract more customers, which translates to more money for the business.

"Everybody likes to associate themselves with cool people and good-looking people," restaurateur Pete Gill, told interviewers. "And you want to feel like you're eating in a restaurant where there are cool, knowing people in that restaurant."

The story got more intriguing when reporter Adam Pearson performed a social experiment to see if the Golden Table practice held up at a number of restaurants. Pearson suffers from neurofibromatosis, which leaves his face covered in non-cancerous tumors, according to The Guardian. To test the "Golden Table," Pearson dispatched a pair of female models to see where they'd be seated at three different restaurants. He then followed up to by trying to be seated himself, along with a female friend. At the first two restaurants, the models received prominent seats, fully in view of a front window. At the third, the restaurant was entirely full, but a server squeezed the models in at the bar. 

Pearson, however, had an entirely different experience. At the first restaurant, he was seated "tucked away in a corner," as he described it. At the second, Pearson and friend were ignored for six minutes. They then left, only to return at the behest of producers, after which time they were seated... at the back of the restaurant. At the final eatery, where the models had squeezed in at the bar, Pearson and his companion attempted to take the models' seats as soon as they were vacated. A restaurant host told him there were no seats -- including the ones clearly open at the bar.

If you're reading this story in the US (likely), you won't be able to watch the show online, due to regional controls. Ya know, unless you do one of those browser VPN workaround things [Ed. note: we're not condoning such chicanery]. But the investigation goes to show that while you can't judge a book by its cover, a menu presents an entirely different circumstance.


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Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. He usually just eats at the bar. So that makes him at least moderately attractive, right? Follow him @ryanrcraggs.