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Revisiting ‘Eating Out’: Understanding 20 years of change in the practice in three English cities




In 2015 and 2016, we took what is a rare opportunity in the social sciences to re-visit the study ‘Eating Out’, which was first conducted in 1995 (Warde and Martens, 2000). This study explored from the point of view of diners the increasingly popular practice of eating main meals in commercial establishments. To explore changes and continuities in such a practice over time, we take instruction from the technique of what Burawoy (2003) calls the ‘focused revisit’. This involves revisiting sites studied at an earlier time, but is distinguishable from a re-analysis or the updating of previous studies. The purpose of a re-visit is to understand and explain variation in what is observed, without being enslaved by the rules that govern ‘replicable’ research. By applying principles of an ethnographic revisit to a mixed-method study of ‘eating out’, and ‘eating in’, we were able to re-engage with the topics and literatures arising (e.g. sustainable consumption, eating out as a practice), rather than solely updating the 1995 analysis with the same purposes in mind. This chapter explores the logic of revisiting ‘Eating Out’ and reflects upon the prospects and challenges afforded by this exciting opportunity. Taking instruction from Glucksmann’s (2000) approach, we ‘open up’ the research process and discuss the ‘in between’ stage, between data collection and presentation of findings, to share a number of concrete examples of the challenges of a sociological revisit.

Acceptance Date Nov 27, 2019
Publication Date Nov 27, 2019
Pages 11-30
Book Title What is Food?: Researching a topic with many meanings
ISBN 9781138387690