What is the Hot Waitress Economic Index?

The hot waitress economic index is an informal measure of the state of the economy that is compiled by counting the number of attractive people working as waiters/waitresses.

According to the hot waitress index, the higher the number of good looking servers, the weaker the current state of the economy. It is assumed that attractive individuals generally do not have trouble finding high-paying jobs during good times in the economy. During poor times, however, these jobs will be more difficult to find and therefore more attractive people will be forced to work in lower paying jobs such as being waiters/waitresses. The hot waitress index was first articulated by Hugo Lindgren in a piece for New York Magazine.

Key Takeaways

  • The hot waitress economic index is an informal leading economic indicator of a financial recession.
  • It states that the higher the number of good looking servers, the weaker the current state of the economy.
  • The index was first coined by Hugo Lindgren in New York Magazine.

Understanding the Hot Waitress Economic Index

In his 2009 piece, written at the onset of the Great Recession, Lindgren wrote about finding more attractive people serving tables at a Lower East Side establishment in New York City. They were replacements of people who had been laid off. The manager surmised that good-looking waitresses would drive more sales for the establishment.

The hot waitress economic index hasn't been vetted by economists. Traditional economic theory contends that employment tends to be a lagging indicator for economic recovery. However, the hot waitress economic index could be a coincidence or even a leading indicator for economic recovery because attractive people may be the first group of individuals to find better paying jobs when a bad economy begins to turn around.

There is actually some research backing up the hot waitress index. Scientists have found that attractive people tend to be considered more capable and are more confident, and these two things combine to get them better jobs and higher wages. So when attractive people are waiting tables—traditionally a lower skill, lower pay job—it suggests there is a lack of better jobs out there. 

Hot Waitress Economic Index Versus Other Oddballs 

The hot waitress economic index can be a regional phenomenon. The number of hot waitresses in Houston, for example, may say more about Houston's local economy than the national economy. Don't worry, though. There are plenty of strange economic indicators that apply on the national level.

Complementing the hot waitress index are things like the toughness of marine advertisements, the men's underwear index and the leading lipstick indicator. So, in a difficult economy, you can also expect to see tougher marine recruitment ads on TV (because they meet recruitment goals quickly in down economies, so they don't need to worry about scaring people away), men's underwear sales will dip (you can ride that pair out a bit longer to avoid the cost), and lipstick sales will go up (as women turn to smaller, less expensive personal luxuries).