Dinner with a side of sex appeal

By Ashley O.

Is it coincidence that many trendy restaurants hire only attractive waitresses? You walk into a restaurant and are seated by the hostess and told that “Lisa” will be your waitress. Are you impressed that she is slim and attractive; has a great ass and is busty; and provides great service? Take a look around and you will realize that young ladies that have these qualifications staff the restaurant. Does the team screen applicants using a selective process? Is the dress code the waitress’ choice? Let’s look at some practices of hiring and attire. A former restaurant manager of Moxie’s Classic Grill in Toronto says the first question was about their appearance: Does she have a nice ass and a decent rack? To be sure no “uglies” got an interview, front of house staff were directed to screen applicants coming through the door and mark their resumes with a “110” if they were unattractive. This is code for “do not call.” Earls Kitchen and Bar in Edmonton, well-known for its beauties serving customers, say hiring by looks isn’t something they endorse. Canada’s Human Rights Law says employers cannot discriminate when hiring based on age, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation or physical disability. However, it only has jurisdiction over federally regulated organizations (Times Colonist, 2007). A case could be made for job seekers who are refused employment for being ugly. Spokespeople for both Moxie’s and Earls deny hiring for looks (Brownlee, 2011).

How sexy should servers dress? At Earls the servers wear a black mini-skirt, white tank top and one inch heels. Again, a spokesperson denies having a dress code. The Shark Club endorses a uniform that includes a black skirt no less than six inches above the knee, a cross-back tank top and knee-high black leather boots. At Smith’s Pub the uniform is simply black attire. While some female servers believe that “some skin brings in more tips” one waitress believes that she makes more tips by “dressing classy and giving good service” (Times Colonist, 2007).

When I was at a restaurant in Halifax I realized that the all the servers were females and the attire they were wearing was tight black V-neck shirts and tight black pants. Noticing this, I realized a lot of restaurants hire pretty females as servers and hostesses. Friends, couples and families frequently use their leisure time to visit a restaurant where they can enjoy a meal without concern for meal preparation. Some restaurants even claim to be family restaurants and the image of the “ideal” waitress is presented to the families. Much like what we discussed in class about media and how females are portrayed, we see similar portrayal in restaurants. The restaurant industry is sexually objectifying women by presenting their servers dressed provocatively to obtain business and tips. I think the restaurant industry has gone too far in their hiring techniques and hiring should be done solely on the professional qualifications of the individual as opposed to appearance. What are restaurants really selling – sex appeal or your dinner? While I chose to explore the restaurant servers, I am well aware that other leisure service industries require their employees to dress in a manner designed to attract consumers.


Times Colonist – Victoria. (2007, August 7). Peterscu on Fashion: How sexy should servers dress? Retrieved from: http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=1bc4974a-515e-4326-8b40-2e02b19f8a84&sponsor

Brownlee, K. (2011, March 22). ‘Uglies need not apply. Retrieved from: http://www.torontosun.com/life/2011/03/17/17656191.html


3 responses

  1. Great blog Ashley, a very controversial topic that many can relate to including myself who has worked in the serving industry for a while. My first waitress job was in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where I learned quickly that sex appeal sells. Although there is something to say for the service one gives, a pretty face may get good tips, but the personality only adds to the dollars in tips. It may not be noticeable when sitting in an interview or dropping off a resume that you are being sized up for you physical appearance. It is difficult to wrap your head around societies need to base first appearances on looks especially when you go to a restaurant not knowing that you are doing it. When I moved back to Fredericton, it took me a while to find a place that I was comfortable to work in. In order to work around my school schedule I wanted a bar that was open late hours on the weekend. Dolan’s Pub is the only bar in Fredericton that allows servers to wear what they are comfortable in and do not sell using sex appeal.
    Thank you,
    Kaitlyn Willis

  2. Clever title and excellent post, Ashely.

    I think this is common in almost every city at almost all restaurants or bars. I know I could EASILY count a handful of establishments from the island that have this “unofficial dress code” and waitress type without even trying.

    It is interesting though isn’t it? How there seems to be that pattern of pretty waitresses at these restaurants; thinking that it will bring in more business based on their server’s looks. When I tip a waitress, it’s based on how well they serve/attend to the customers, not on how short her skirt was..

    It just shows how caught up society is in sexual appeal. Whether it’s magazine ads for make-up or a commercial for dog food, the person highlighted is almost always above average on the attractive scale. Sex sells; whether it’s for the right reasons or not.

    Great job!

    – Meagan F.

  3. As I read this post I was immediately reminded of my time spent in Grande Prairie, AB. I was hired to serve at Shark Club (A sports bar/night club/restaurant). Shark Club is the more casual version of Moxie’s (same chain), however, the dress code is even more inappropriate. We were required to always wear 3 inch (minimum) heels, a low v-neck golf tank top, and a tight black skirt that fell above the knee. Our hair had to be down, and neat, and our make-up had to be “soft and feminine”. I really struggled there to work within the ridiculous constraints of our appearance, but it was also really hard not to stay when I was making $400 on a Friday night in tips alone… It definitely caused a lot of mixed emotions for me. Looking back I met some great women and really enjoyed working there, although I am sure my experience would have been greatly improved if I wasn’t forced to constantly be fixing my toddler skirt and fussing over my hair and make-up. It is kind of an unfortunate situation to be put in when you require a source of income and an easy way to get a larger income requires you to overtly objectify yourself. I definitely didn’t put as much thought into then as I do now reflecting with the added knowledge from this course.
    Really great post!
    – Victoria

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