Smile, yell or wave – everyone has a theory about the best strategy for getting a drink in a busy bar.
But scientists have conducted painstaking, or at least headache-inducing, research to work out the best method and discovered what nine out of 10 of us already know — that standing squarely to the bar and looking directly at the barman is the best way to get served.
The researchers from Bielefeld University in Germany analysed 105 attempts to order drinks at nightclubs in Germany and Scotland. They studied the patrons for 35 seconds and analysed their behaviour.
Ninety-five percent of people who got served within 35 seconds stood squarely to the bar.
Eye contact was important too –– in 86 percent of the orders, the customer made eye contact with the bartender.
It sounds obvious, but the researchers actually conducted the study to help program a robotic bartender that can identify body language and understand who wants to buy a drink.
What not to do is also fairly straightforward; only three percent of people in conversation or those looking at the menu were served in the 35-second time frame, and people who tried to squeeze in between other customers were usually not served.
Holding your wallet or money in hand might increase your chances, however, making hand or head gestures to the barman will not.
"Effectively, the customers identify themselves as ordering and non-ordering people through their behaviour," said lead author Dr Sebastian Loth.
"Two signals are necessary and together form the sufficient set of signals for identifying the intention to place an order. First, the customers position themselves directly at the bar and, secondly, look at the bar/bartender. If one of these signals was absent, the participants judged the customers as not bidding for attention."
"James" the bartender robot is being funded by a European Union grant.
"In order to respond appropriately to its customers the robot must be able to recognise human social behaviour," said Professor Jan De Ruiter, from Bielefeld University.
"Currently, we are working on the robot’s ability to recognise when a customer is bidding for its attention. Thus, we have studied the process of ordering a drink in real life."
How body language works
Allan Pease, body language expert and author of the Definitive Book Of Body Language, told MSN that this behaviour works because you are acknowledging the bartender exists.
"Bartenders tend to be a bit of a 'non person'. People sit at the bar and talk about their sex life in front of the bartender as though the bartender doesn't exist," he said.
Pease said bartenders will respond most positively to somebody who holds their eye contact for three seconds, raises their eyebrows and smiles showing their teeth.
"Smiling with your teeth visible shows you are non-threatening," he said.
"Raising your eyebrows is a primate signal that shows I recognise you and I see you. And holding eye contact for three seconds also shows I see you. Those things are hard-wired into the back of all primate's brains to say, 'They won't intimidate me and they recognise me'."
Pease said standing front-on also shows that you intend to have a one-on-one interaction.
"When you face somebody directly, it's called a closed group – you tell the other person it is definitely just you and me," he said.
"When you stand side on it invites other people to come and fill the gap."
The study was published in the journal Frontiers In Psychology.