Dining out plays a significant role in the lives of many people worldwide, whether it be going to a fast-food restaurant, a high-class restaurant, or a casual diner. However, growing up in a rural town in North Carolina, it always seemed like people were dining out for more than just the food. One restaurant in my town that everyone seems to go to is The Village. I decided to dive deeper into the world of Southern restaurants and answer the question: why are people motivated to eat at The Village, and how do these motivations reflect the role this restaurant plays in the community?
People are constantly dining out at restaurants across the globe. Many people dine out at least once a week, some daily, and others even multiple times a day. There are many different reasons why people eat out besides the food aspect. One reason why people may dine out is for convenience. Epter discusses that when many people feel as though they do not have the time or skills required to cook a meal for themselves, they dine out at a restaurant that can do so. Another reason why people may eat out is for the entertainment and socialization that it provides them (2009, p. 115-116). Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, people are still dining out for these various reasons.
Dining out at restaurants may also strengthen communities. Dunbar discusses how as people go to these restaurants and socialize, they grow closer with other members of the community. People who eat out with others tend to feel more immersed in their communities. These people also tend to have a larger social network that can provide social and emotional support (2017, p. 206-207).
Observational Data and Analysis
I decided to observe The Village Restaurant in Denton, North Carolina and see if the customers eating here had the same motivations for dining out. With The Village being in a small, rural town, I also wanted to observe how this Southern restaurant shaped its surrounding community. In order to do this, I ate at The Village on two separate occasions during two different times of the day. I observed the different customers eating here, their conversations, and the interactions between waitresses and customers.
During my first observation, I took in the surroundings of The Village. There were different patriotic paintings on the wall, drawings from The Andy Griffith Show, and a television playing the news. It was the lunch rush-hour when I went, so it was somewhat busy. There were many different conversations going on at different booths and tables amongst the various customers. Although it was busy, the waitresses were not being short with customers or rushing anyone. I listened to a conversation that a group of customers were having about COVID-19, and although they were discussing the virus, they did not seem overly concerned about contracting it. This shows how important dining at restaurants is for members of this community, because even during a global pandemic, they are still willing to go to this restaurant.
For my second observation, I went to The Village a couple hours before lunch. It was less crowded, and the majority of the people there seemed to be older men. They looked like they were either there on an early lunch break or to socialize. The restaurant felt relaxed and friendly, as many customers were greeted by their first names. I listened to a waitress and a customer talk about an upcoming funeral for someone in the community. Coming during this earlier hour of the day felt much more relaxed and personal.
Both times that I went to The Village, I was greeted by the waitresses by my first name. I ordered different meals for each observation, and both times the food was delicious. During my visits I felt welcomed by the waitresses, and I felt comfortable dining there. I saw some of the same customers dining during my observations, which means there must be something drawing these customers back to The Village on a regular basis.
As expected, people are dining at The Village for a multitude of reasons. One reason why people choose to eat at The Village is for its food. Their menu is quite large, providing an array of delicious meals to choose from each visit. Another reason why people choose to eat here is for its convenience. The Village is a place where people can get food quickly during their lunch breaks, or when they simply do not feel like cooking for themselves. People also dine at The Village for its social aspects. Many people are able to chat with friends here while enjoying a good meal. If I had the chance, I would have liked to ask some of the customers themselves why they chose to eat at The Village.
The socialization aspect of The Village also helps to strengthen the surrounding community. When people come to eat at The Village and socialize, they are growing closer with other members of the community. This creates a community where it feels like everyone knows each other, and it also feels like the members of this town support one another. I would like to know how people who are not from this town feel when they dine here. The Village is also a place where people can go to find out more information about what is occurring within the town. By dining out at The Village for these various reasons, customers are able to create a close-knit community that is supportive of its members.
Dunbar, R. I. M. (2017). Breaking bread: the functions of social eating. Adaptive Human
Behavior and Physiology, 3, 198–211. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40750-017-0061-4
Epter, A. (2009). Eating out in modern American society: why do people make the choice to
eat outside the home? Graduate College Dissertations and Theses, The University of Vermont, 1–146. https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/graddis/77
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