Are You Dating for Love or Just the Free Food?

Scientists identify "foodie calls" as a specific type of romantic deception.

Posted Jun 28, 2019

 Photo by Bruce Mars from Pexels, C00 License
Source: Photo by Bruce Mars from Pexels, C00 License

Dinner out on Saturday night sounds pretty good. Whether you're game for farm-to-table dining, the new sushi hot spot, bbq done right and served at a picnic table, or a five-course meal complete with white linens... dinner costs money. So if someone flirts with you and asks you to dinner, and you say yes, are you interested in getting to know them? Maybe see if there's a spark? Or are you just saying yes for the free meal?

Introducing the "Foodie Call"

You might be familiar with the term "foodie call"when someone accepts a free meal with zero intention of pursuing any form of a romantic relationship (short or long-term) with the buyer of said meal. While anyone of any gender or sexual orientation can go on a date just for some good eats, and some people do so quite transparently ("I'll go, but only for the food"), a set of researchers out of California (Collisson, Howell, & Harig, 2019) focused their research on heterosexual women who are engaging in this type of romantic deception. Specifically, they accept a free meal under the guise of romantic interest.

In other words, these women are there for the food, but their companion doesn't know it.

Researchers queried approximately 1,100 mostly white, heterosexual women about their foodie call behavior in an online survey (Study 1 had about 700 women; Study 2,350). Along with general questions about whether they've done it, how frequently, and how acceptable they viewed the behavior, the researchers also measured aspects of their personality and the extent to which they tend to adhere to gender roles.

How Common Are Foodie Calls?

Foodie calls are common, but not the norm. Study 1 suggested about a quarter of women (Study 2 suggested 33 percent) reporting they've gone out with a guy just for the free meal, with only 25 percent (21 percent in study 2) of that subgroup reporting that they do this frequently or very frequently (Collisson et al., 2019). People who make foodie calls see them as more acceptable than other people; that said, most people do not think they're acceptable behavior.

Not everyone deceives unwitting suitors by going out with them only for the free food. Women who endorse more traditional gender roles are more favorably inclined towards foodie calls. Further, women who are higher in the "Dark Triad," which is a personality descriptor that jointly reflects narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy, tend to be the ones who are misrepresenting their interest so that they can have a dinner out (Collisson et al., 2019).

What's Next for Foodie Calls?

If you've done it, how willing are you to admit you've engaged in foodie call? The research discussed above relied on self-report (albeit, online and anonymous), and perhaps more people engage in this activity than the current study estimates. Other questions still remain: How often are people deceived by foodie calls? Are foodie calls just one subtype of ways in which people use romantically interested others to get free stuff, like movie tickets, boat trips, or good seats at concerts? Do people take others out to dinner, even if they know it's a foodie call, and if so, why? Do foodie calls ever turn into love?

Facebook image: Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock


Collisson, B., Howell, J. L., & Harig, T. (2019). Foodie calls: When women date men for a free meal (rather Than a relationship). Social Psychological and Personality Science, Advanced online publication.