Food is inextricably tied to who we are as a particular group of people. Just think of the different “types” of restaurants out there: Chinese, Italian, Middle Eastern, South American, etc. Those are all based on the “nationality” of the cuisine offered. You might also select a restaurant because it serves vegetarian food, or steaks, or chicken. You might go to a breakfast joint at night, or a places that serves barbecued foods. You can also go to tea shops, coffee shops, and donut shops.
For most of the population of the United States, the food we prefer to consume says quite a great deal about us. It binds us within communities. Our dining situations are also telling – the Pennsylvania Dutch serve food in “family dining” situations, everyone seated around a common table and passing large bowls and plates from person to person. Some people listen to music, others to educational programs, and others prefer just conversation. Some people prefer a quiet and reflective mealtime.
Before the food industry’s massive output of prepared food in the later part of the 20th century, the evening meal was a major focus of family time. Housewives spent all day shopping for and preparing the food they served to their family each day. Prepared foods, and often complete meals, freed up an enormous amount of time for the harried housekeeper.
Households went from single earner to dual earner. Since there was no one home to prepare meals, restaurants became busier and busier as people opted to have others prepare, serve and clean up. As a child in the late ’60’s and ’70’s, I remember the few times I was treated to a meal in a restaurant. It was an occasion, usually celebrating some type of event. Now my wife and I go to restaurants 3 or 4 nights each week. She loves to cook, but she also enjoys being served a good meal.
Gathering for a meal can be an act of community. Generally, people choose the groups with whom they eat. Sometimes we go out to be alone with our significant other, and sometimes we’re crammed in the back banquet room with other members of our group or association.
The groups in which we eat can tell a lot about our personalities, as can the types of food we eat, and where we consume it. It can be extremely important to get this type of information from our current and prospective clients, because interpreting the data can tell us so much about where and how to find members of our target market.