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Eating Out: social differentiation, consumption and pleasure

Cover of Warde and Martens' 'Eating Out'

Cover of Warde and Martens’ ‘Eating Out’

Alan Warde and Lydia Martens (2000)

Eating out is now one of the most popular of all recreational activities. Until the 1980s it was not something that most ordinary people did, except when they had no alternative while travelling or because they worked too far away from home to return for lunch.

Eating Out was the report of the first extended empirical sociological research project on the topic from the point of view of the experiences of diners.  Using a survey in three English cities and some face-to-face interviews the research explored what and where people ate, when, with whom as part of a process of understanding the social significance of this new and expanding practice.

A wealth of information was accumulated on people’s behaviours, attitudes and expectations, and these were examined as expressions of taste and social status. The study described social inequalities in access to eating out, its role in marking social distinction, the interactions between customers and staff, the bases for the considerable enthusiasm that almost everyone expressed about the activity, and the social and economic implications of the practice.

The analysis was framed in terms of theories of consumption and the ways in which tastes mark people’s positions in the social hierarchy. Among its more interesting features was the comparison of the experience of eating in restaurants and eating as a guest in someone else’s house. The study was funded by the ESRC as part of its programme ‘The Nation’s Diet’. There are plans to replicate the study in the near future under the auspices of the Sustainable Consumption Institute.

More information on this book from Cambridge University Press website.




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