The allure of variety: eating out in three English cities, 2015

Alan Warde, Jennifer Whillans (Collaborator), Jessica Paddock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines social differentiation of tastes for meals out of the home in contemporary Britain. It reports results from a study of eating out based on a survey and interviews in London, Preston and Bristol in 2015. It focuses on the breadth of exposure to variety of restaurant cuisine styles in order to address debates about distinction, cultural omnivorousness and cosmopolitanism. The paper uses regression analysis of survey results to reveal social differentiation, with special reference to the effects of gender, age, ethnicity and class on culinary taste. The data reveal the social and symbolic significance of variety of experience in visits to commercial venues for meals and degrees of familiarity with diverse cuisines. The data show a consistent relationship between higher socio-economic position, frequency of eating out, and the experiencing of a wide variety of cuisines. Culinary preferences cluster into three bundles: popular, uncommon and exclusive. Significant social characteristics of their bearers include age, class trajectory, education and ethnic identification. Tendencies associated with cultural omnivorousness can be observed among the professional and managerial middle class. While it is important not to conflate internal goods deriving from enthusiastic engagement in this particular cultural field with achievement of social advantage, culinary tastes are a mark of social distinction. Diverse culinary experience of variety is a prerequisite for full membership of the professional and managerial class.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1016/j.poetic.2018.09.001
Pages (from-to)17
Number of pages31
Early online date15 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • class trajectory; cuisine style; culinary capital; cultural variety; cultural omnivorousness; eating out; restaurant meals; social divisions.

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Consumption Institute


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