A Preview of the Gastronomica/SOAS Distinguished Lecture “Changing Tastes: The Effects of Eating Out”

Since 2014, Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies has partnered with University of London’s SOAS Food Studies Centre to co-sponsor a Distinguished Lecture Series for leading scholars, students, journalists, practitioners and members of the public to engage in critical conversations about the nature of food, the interconnectivity of contemporary food systems, the role of food in daily life, and emerging trends in food studies.

In advance of the next event on March 21, Alan Warde, Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester and Professorial Fellow of Manchester’s Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI), offers readers a sneak peak of his upcoming lecture, “Changing Tastes: The Effects of Eating Out” 


There continues to be some suspicion of the catering trade, that its products may be bad for health, may waste the money of the poorer sections of the population, and may erode the bonds of the family. In this, it is part of wider concerns about the over-extension of markets and market logic into the realm of everyday life. Repairing to restaurants may entrench poor quality mass culture, reduce capacities for self-provisioning by eliminating cooking skills, and replace mutually enriching social interdependencies with impersonal and instrumental economic exchange.

In this talk I examine, in the light of a range of empirical evidence, what are the effects increases over recent decades in the habit of eating out. I explore how eating out has been affected by, but also how it mediates, the impact of major social, cultural, and economic changes. The focus is on the forces of globalization, commodification and aestheticization and their counter tendencies. I illustrate the talk with detailed evidence from a re-study of eating out in three English cities. In 1995 a survey and some interviews were conducted. These were repeated in 2015, allowing for systematic assessment of change over a 20 year period.

By examining how eating out in restaurants and the homes of family and friends has changed—how manners, menus, companionship, and mobility have evolved—I assess the impact of fundamental cultural and structural shifts on taste and the practice of eating. The talk will also address issues of method and of explanation of taste.


Alan Warde is Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, a Professorial Fellow of Manchester’s Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI). Research interests include the sociology of consumption, the sociology of culture, and the sociology of food and eating. Current projects are concerned with applying theories of practice to eating, analyzing change in eating behavior in Britain, and conducting a re-study of an earlier investigation of eating out in Britain.

The SOAS Food Studies Centre is an interdisciplinary centre dedicated to the study of the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of food, historically and in the contemporary moment, from production, to exchange, to preparation, to consumption. The Centre’s primary purposes are to promote research and teaching in the field of food studies at SOAS and to facilitate links between SOAS and other individuals and institutions with an academic interest in food studies.


The lecture will be held on March 21 from 6:00-8:00 PM at the​ Wolfson Lecture Theater, Paul Webley Wing (Senate House), SOAS, University of London. The event is free and open to the public. However, we encourage all guests to register to guarantee a place.