Social Issues / Cultural Influences On Eating Out Habits In The Uk

Cultural Influences On Eating Out Habits In The Uk

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Autor:  anton  22 December 2010
Tags:  Cultural,  Influences,  Eating,  Habits
Words: 4257   |   Pages: 18
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Society today has become accustomed to dining out. It has become a large part of British culture according to a survey carried out by Mintel entitled �Evening Eating Habits in the UK’ (2005). Dining out at ethnically themed restaurants and takeaways has increased in recent years due to many different economic, social, and cultural forces. These forces vary from the presence of a more affluent society with higher expendable incomes to the increased ability to travel to exotic far away places around the world creating a consumer want for recreation in the UK of their holiday experiences which include dining out. The report also highlighted the fact that 75% of the eating out market is dominated by those eating out in the evening which equates to £20.7 billion a year. This market is one that can not be ignored by those within the hospitality industry and those businesses that already experiment with exotic foods will gain the opportunity to experiment further with their menus, using higher priced ingredients to increase profit margins. Although there are many possibilities available as the trend widens it is suggested by the author that a trend alone cannot allow for increased business. Higher profit margins for more expensive ingredients will mean that the consumer will start to expect more from the restaurant or takeaway in question. Such qualities as ambience, service, food standards, variety of menu, and recreation of an experience the consumer may have had whilst on holiday may also come into the equation.

Large brands such as YOsushi! are cashing in on the market trends by serving a variety of sushi dishes in a fun and friendly way. Japanese food such as sushi is often deemed as a much healthier option to over take in popularity other ethnically themed cuisine such as indian and chinese dishes (Martin, 2007). Sushi is based primarily around raw fish, rice, and vegetables (YOsushi! 2007) and therefore the author suggests that due to a more multicultural society in the UK this has lead to different ideals being set for healthier eating however it is noted by the author that although the ingredients used to make the western ideal of sushi are deemed as healthy the preparation and cooking methods may not result in an end product that is altogether free of those things seen as unhealthy due to the inauthenticity of production . Although large companies such as YOsushi! are succeeding in a very competitive business environment, how will such a shift in eating habits affect the smaller local businesses? According to Mintel (2002) one of the main reasons smaller businesses within the ethnically themed cuisine market are suffering lower profit margins is due to the lack of branded outlets, but the author suggests that this could be due to other issues such as the recent healthy eating trend which has caused many consumers to re-evaluate the content of the takeaway food that they consume therefore choosing healthier options instead.

This essay will attempt to identify the reasons why a consumer will choose to dine out over eating at home, and then their reasons for choosing one hospitality venue over another. This should help to understand the growing market for ethnically themed restaurants and takeaways. The contributing economical, social, and cultural factors of increased consumption of ethnic cuisine will be explored further making suggestions to the hospitality manager on how to understand their target market therefore aiding a more profitable business.

It is important for any business to understand a consumers’ motivation to buy or use a service “A motive is an internal energy giving force that directs a persons activities towards satisfying a need or achieving a goal” Dibb et al (2001, pg. 121). Before a consumer enters any hospitality venue there may be many different factors that have affected their motivation to choose that particular restaurant or takeaway over another. It may be such basic factors as location, price, and the service they are provided with once inside the establishment, choosing on this basis is known as �patronage motives’. For an ethnically themed restaurant or takeaway to make the most of these motives they should be aware they are around them and attempt to emphasize said factors within their personalized marketing mix. It is suggested by the author that this can be achieved with simple marketing ploys such as 2 course lunch menus, or a drink and a main course at a set price.. By strategically placing the offers where the consumer will see them is more likely to attract them to try the service that is provided, and possibly provide return custom when the special offers are not available and they will choose from the full price menu instead. It is suggested by the author that this form of marketing can be applied anthropologically as the consumer will not only judge the food outlet based on the price but also on how that price fits in with the image of the food product and its connection to the time and culture it represents. A good example of strategic marketing for ethnic food is that of �China Town’ in London, many of the restaurants offer all you can eat buffets at low prices, and set menus that will attract many types of customers from those people wanting a quick lunch away from the office to tourists who have been attracted by the hearsay and theme of such a place (Anon, 2007). 60,000 Chinese people of diverse origins live in London there is a large network of Chinese schools and charity based community centres that offer support so that a sense of cultural identity can be passed down from one generation to the next. This sense of cultural identity may be passed down for several reasons, Auge (1995) suggests that there is some sense of fantasy where as the environment they live in was founded a long time ago expressing a group identity that they feel should at all times be defended from external and internal threats and not forgotten through the generations. Although �China Town’ is now seen by the local council as a tourist attraction (Anon, 2007), it was originally a safe haven for the many migrants coming to the UK in the 1960’s, many of the british soldiers that returned from war in the Far East having enjoyed Chinese cuisine founded a new loyal customer base for the cuisine in the UK and this is how that particular area of London became known as �China Town’ (BBC. 2007) Although China Town is now a tourist attraction it should be noted that it is also a meeting place for many Chinese people who feel a sense of community and cultural identity. Unfortunately since Westminster council started a multi million pound re-development of the area this has seen the closure of many of the smaller authentic chinese restaurants in favor of more chinese �themed’ restaurants that will appeal to the average tourist (Anon, 2007). It is suggested by the author that this could cause many negative issues for the cultural identity and sense of community that exists within China Town where as the authenticity and history behind such an area of London are forgotten in favor of providing the tourists with an unrealistic representation in hopes of higher profits and visitor statistics. However it is noted by the author that there has always been an element of staged authenticity in China Town because the original cultural background was replicated in the first place. Although �patronage’ motives play a key part in the consumer decision making process there are many other motives to consider such as the suggestion that food choices are actually part of a person’s identity for example a consumer who chooses to dine at restaurants that only use local produce is likely to be seen by other consumers as someone who is not only concerned with the food that they eat, but also where it has come from and whether it benefits their local communities economy and local identity. Local produce has over the past decade been linked to geographical, historical, political, legal, economical, social and cultural issues therefore allowing the consumer to view it as a multi faceted cultural entity. Those consumers who are concerned with choosing only local produce relates to the idea of territory, and the limitation of space while respecting the environment around them. (Auge, 1995) There are two key theorists in relation to consumer motivation Abraham Maslow and Frederick Herzberg. Maslow believed that a persons needs are based on a hierarchy arranged with the least important factors at the bottom and the most important at the top. This arrangement starts with physiological needs followed by safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and finally self actualization. Once part of the Triangle (see appendix I) is satisfied then the consumer will move onto a fulfillment of the next level for example a man enters a chinese restaurant and eats because he is hungry then the physiological need is fulfilled, he may then go on to have a drink with friends to fulfill his esteem needs. “When that important need is satisfied, it will stop becoming a motivator, and the person will try to satisfy the next most important need” Kotler et al (2003, pg. 354). Frederick Herzberg developed Maslow’s theory and separated a persons motivators in to potential satisfiers and dissatisfiers. In Terms of Maslow and Herzberg’s theories being applied in an anthropological sense the author suggests that this refers to culture, identity and symbolism of food consumption as part of the needs felt by the consumer, furthermore esteem needs, social needs and even self-actualisation are all part of what the consumer deems part of their individual or cultural identity. For this to work a person must have enough factors that are going to satisfy them into choosing one ethnically themed restaurant over another. For a hospitality operation to put this theory to use they would need to avoid as many potential dissatisfiers as possible and concentrate on what the major satisfiers of their target market are, this may just cause the difference between a consumer choosing one restaurant over another that is just around the corner. Therefore it is suggested by the author that given the large number of decisions a consumer has to make when choosing an ethnically themed restaurant or takeaway, and the impacts that a multicultural society has on the consumer as an individual it is necessary to explore how and why consumers might influence one another to make a purchase decision based on food consumption. Firstly religious aspects of an individual within a group will play a key part in determining what food type they can consume. A child born into a family with strong religious beliefs will often take these beliefs as part of their individual identity, A good example of this is that of the consumption of �halal’ meat products by many muslim families throughout the UK. According to the Halal Food Authority (2007) the worship of Zibah means that animals have to be alive and healthy at the time that they are to be slaughtered, as little pain as possible must be endured by the animal during slaughter therefore a single cut is made with a sharp knife to the jugular vein. The Islamic Shari’ah religion also forbids the consumption of pork, and Halal meat must be prepared only in a situation where no pork products have been. Although there are many ethnic takeaways and smaller businesses providing halal or �kosher’ food, there are not many big brand names within the industry. Nando’s restaurant, a Portuguese themed food outlet, provides halal chicken in what they have branded world famous peri peri sauce. Nando’s have eased themselves into the local communities in which they reside by using the slogan “we believe in trying to make life better for all” (Nando’s, 2007). Offering local sponsorships of sports teams and supporting local charities has included the brand in a sense of community and cultural identity, it is noted by the author that the sense of community and cultural identity is referred to in a general sense rather than that of a particular local community. To continue the idea that consumers can influence one another the concept of traditional family mealtimes should be explored. Family mealtimes in the past decade would have been a time for the family to sit down, relax and enjoy each others company with a home cooked meal. In society today mealtimes are changing to meet new priorities and work patterns, and flexible eating patterns are becoming more popular as people base when they eat around their lifestyle rather than a structured day to day meal time for the whole family to adhere too. (Wright et al, 2001) It is suggested by the author that due to this shift in family unity at mealtimes less influence is being had over family group identity and a more decisive individualistic consumer will emerge instead with their own food choice preferences. However it is suggested by the author that the idea of a more individualistic consumer is more relevant to British culture and many other cultures residing within the UK may still enjoy unified meal times together as a family. In many ways it is a move forward in terms of identity and consumption of the consumer, one that the hospitality needs to be aware of to maintain a successful business. Friends and social groups can also influence one another in the food choices that they make, for example a group of friends who regularly meet up at coffee houses such as �Starbucks’ will adopt a coffee culture the same as that represented on popular television shows such as �friends’. This happens because of the regular use and social identity that is created (Food Institute, 2005). It is noted by the author that social groups that contain consumers of different cultures and backgrounds, may influence one another to desire the need to experience each others cultural identity.

There are many reasons why a consumer may choose to eat out in the first place according to Cousins et al (2002, pg. 251) “If people have decided to eat out then it follows that there has been a conscious choice to do this in preference to some other course of action, in other words the food service operator has attracted a customer to buy their product as against some other product for example theatre, cinema, or simply staying at home”. Often the convenience of eating out over cooking at home will help make the decision for a consumer. Eating out means more time for relaxation, quality time with family or friends, or just a change from the norm of returning from work and cooking dinner. The increase in the number of consumers choosing to dine out follows changes that have happened over the last decade where as family identity and roles have changed, with most households having two incomes and often the women will be the primary earner whereas before the women would stay at home and perform the role of �housewife’. according to a recent survey (eating out and the consumer, 2007) only 8% of women see their main role as �family care’ compared to 15% just a decade ago, the survey also highlighted the fact that women are more concerned with healthy eating when dining out, with 76% of women agreeing compared to 41% of men. This could have an effect on the number of consumers choosing to dine at ethnically themed restaurants and takeaways as it is suggested by the author that as women are more concerned with healthy lifestyles for their families and will aim to choose an operation that can provide healthy nutrition, value for money, and good service as well as a sense of culture that is relevant to that particular family according to Mintel (2007) this will continue to be a growing factor in the choice of dining out establishments as more women seek full-time employment over the next five years. The change of roles in family lifestyles follows onto that of demographics. According to the Office for National statistics (2006) London consumers spend an average 60% more on dining out than consumers from other parts of the country such as in the North East of England. This can be seen in London with the success of ethnically themed restaurants and takeaways such as Belle Italia, Cafe Rouge, Pizza Express, and Franky and Benny’s (Tragus, 2007). Many of these franchisees can be seen throughout the country but the survey carried out by the Office for National statistics (2006) also showed that those companies who left high profit areas such as London to nationalise their brands got their �fingers burned’. The author suggests that this inability to mobilise a new brand into an area of the country may stem back to the area’s cultural identity based on the general perception of that culture, where as the consumer does not feel that the new brand is part of their personal identity and therefore is not part of the communities identity either. Identity can be associated with the repeat consumption of a particular restaurant or takeaway, for example a consumer who constantly eats at Chinese, Indian, and Greek takeaways may eventually adopt a fast food culture. The fact that so many people are choosing to dine out comes back to the notion that today’s society is more affluent, higher expendable incomes and more leisure time leading to a consumer that enjoys dining out on a regular basis. It is however noted that by the author that the trend for increased dining out may also relate to a new culture of �malaise’ whereas people are just too lazy to cook at home and therefore choose to dine out. According to Martin (2007, pg. 3) “people will pay more for what they think is important, but the question for the eating-out market is what is going to be classed as really discretionary and what virtually essential? There is no sign that people will start cooking at home again, they will however most likely want better value”. The author suggests that better value can mean numerous factors such as better quality and service rather than just providing a less expensive dining experience. Therefore those ethnically themed restaurants using high quality ingredients and experimenting with menu changes towards the more exotic may find an increased custom due to the perceived �value’ in the consumers ideals.

Many people want variety within their lifestyle, there are so many venues within the hospitality industry that offer something that a consumer may never have tried before or only experienced on holiday in a far away exotic place, this relates directly to the increased consumption of ethnically themed foods and plays a key part in attracting new customers and maintaining a loyal customer base. As mentioned earlier YOsushi! is one of the worlds most famous conveyor belt restaurants, the food is all freshly made to order and is prepared in full view of the customers. It is interesting to note that the conveyor belt restaurants in Japan are nothing more than a basic food outlet where customers can get a quick bite to eat on their way to do something else as stated by owner of London sushi bar �Itsu’ Mr Metcalfe (2007) also stating that the conveyor belt is a great way to get food to customers whilst saving money on staffing costs. It is suggested by the author that this shows the cultural changes that have taken place in providing the same concept in two different countries so that they both remain profitable. Japan on one hand prefer the sushi conveyor belt restaurants to be quick no fuss food where as in the UK they are somewhat staged, bringing a little piece of what the British believe to be how Japan prepare, and eat their food almost ritualistically (Metcalfe, 2007). Since opening in 1996 YOsushi! has become extremely popular, their no fuss attitude to service and the customers freedom of choice within the venue has produced a global brand “Since the first year of business (1996) YOsushi! has received approximately 300 applications per year from potential franchisees from Australia to Zurich. We realized we were on to a winning formula and that we could replicate the outstanding YOsushi! success story around the world”. Vickers (2005). It is suggested by the author that the success of ethnic brands such as YOsushi! is the effective use of consumer motivation combined with the provision of a market trend that integrates both healthy yet exotic ethnic food types. Although brands such as YOsushi! have become globalised many of the dishes that are recreated from one country to another tend to have a very different end result to its original form. This will happen for several reasons starting from simple facts as seasonality of produce to the availability of certain ingredients. for example a curry had in India is likely to look, taste, and even smell different to that of a curry in the UK such as the �Balti’ which is believed to have been invented in Birmingham. (Anon, 2007). Birmingham is renowned for the production of curries with around 500 venues to choose from (Anon, 2005) and has provided a steady economy for the ethnic food industry, the word �Balti’ when translated actually means �bucket’ which in earlier days would have meant an earthen dish with handles on. The Balti will identify culturally with a specific set of migrants, even though it is not an �authentic’ Indian dish, and residents of Birmingham and the surrounding region, therefore the author suggests that the dish has been redefined from a traditional dish to one that combines not only the ethnic roots of the inventor but also the environment that is now lived in within western society. Although the cultural identity of foods such as the Balti appear to create an economical advantage for Birmingham it has been noted that many Balti-house owners and managers spend their time constantly undercutting each other in a price war (Ram et al, 2000) making it difficult for each individual business to survive. The cultural identity of Birmingham is very much tied to the popularity of dishes such as the curry the author suggests that this may be because of the stereotypical cultural image of the traditional British friday night out, but according to Stewart (1989) less well known is that of the fish and chip shops that are Greek-Cypriot owned and add up to over 25% of Birmingham’s fish and chip shops therefore showing that Birmingham is a good example of a multicultural environment within the UK, even though it is often not perceived to be a �global city’ its economy is evolving in many ways through the ethnic food industry that is related to its “multiculturalism, post colonialism and the transnationalism of many of its residents” (McEwan et al, 2005) , as suggested by Bryson et al (1996) it is a “workshop of the world” that through its migratory and post colonial past is by all means a multicultural city within the UK. It is noted by the author that although Birmingham is a good example of a multicultural city within the UK there are many other cities that also benefit from a multicultural society such as Manchester and Nottingham.

In conclusion there are many different factors that affect the way consumers are motivated to choose where to dine out, these have varied from patronage motives to those of cultural identity and a sense of community. Religion, Income, increased leisure time, and demographics have all played a key part in influencing consumers on their food choices, leading to a society that is more informed about what is available to them and what they want from their dining out experience. The changing roles of family life, eating patterns and the increased number of women working full time has also contributed to a society that want to enjoy their leisure time with friends and family rather than adhering to the role of women in the home that may have been present a decade ago. Ethnically themed restaurants and takeaways have enjoyed the trends that have increased the number of people dining out in the UK dramatically in the last decade, with consumers including their food choices as part of their cultural identity and also wanting to experience other cultures that are residing alongside one another within many cities in the UK. Ethnic cuisine is influencing the consumer more and more, with choices available from world wide destinations that remind the consumer of holiday experiences, alongside the perception of a �healthier’ food option within the rise of a much more multi-cultural society, the service of ethnically themed cuisine should continue to remain profitable to both large brands and smaller businesses within the industry as long as the hospitality managers understand their target markets motivation for buying and consumer demand remains constant.

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