Last updated: 03:35 PM ET, Fri January 29 2016

Study: Hotel Guests Prefer Heavier Female Employees

Hotel & Resort | Patrick Clarke | January 29, 2016

Study: Hotel Guests Prefer Heavier Female Employees

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

When it comes to female hotel employees, heavier is better in the minds of most.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Penn State and George Mason University, female hotel employees who weigh more than average are perceived to be warmer and more competent than their average weight counterparts.

What's more, the study found that those perceptions led survey respondents to evaluate the hotel more positively. 

"Though other research has shown that higher weight women receive more negative workplace experiences in terms of hiring and promotions than average weight women, we actually found a benefit from customers' perspectives," assistant professor of hospitality management at Penn State Larry Martinez told "This makes sense, based on common beliefs about higher weight individuals, which include a mixture of both positive and negative stereotypes."

"Specifically, higher weight individuals are generally thought to be friendly and jolly, but less conscientious and competent."

In conducting the study, researchers provided participants with photos of various front desk employees accompanied by written scenarios regarding how the employee handled the basic situation of a customer checking into a hotel. Afterward, they answered questions about the employee and the hotel experience. 

The study included photos of both male and female employees at average and higher weights.

Interestingly, researchers found that the weight of the male front desk employees had no impact on the participants' perceptions of the hotel, which Martinez said "highlights the greater emphasis on weight and appearance for women compared to men in society in general," per

So, what does the study mean for the industry? 

"These findings are particularly important in the context of an industry that places a high emphasis on the aesthetics and appearance of its workforce," added Martinez. "Our findings suggest that the hospitality industry should instead focus on hiring and training workers in such a way as to increase how warm and friendly they are viewed by guests."

In addition to Martinez, Penn State doctoral student Nicholas Smith and Isaac Sabat at George Mason contributed to the study, which surveyed 169 people.


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