Evaluation of food choice behaviour within the Edinburgh events industry: Consuming foods for status?
(2014) Evaluation of food choice behaviour within the Edinburgh events industry: Consuming foods for status?, no. 83.
This study's key aim is to explore the consumption of food and drink within the events industry and elicit if there is in fact a relationship between choice and inferred social status. The study focusses on four key objectives, which were: • Explore if people choose goods of value for reasons of perceived status. • Consider why people consume high quality food and drink. • Investigate to what extent consumer choice influences menu design. • Explore to what extent goods are chosen to portray status within the events sector. The literature review identified two key theorists, Debord and Leibenstein who both had different theories as to why consumers chose the goods they do. The Snob factor as defined by Veblen, was a further key element appearing throughout the secondary literature, with consumers putting on a persona and consuming particular goods in public because of the luxury connotations. It also became apparent through the literature that consumers can be influenced through wording on menus. These findings were studied further within the research and explored through primary data collection. A qualitative approach was undertaken for this research, with five semi structured interviews being conducted. The interview participants were professionals within the events industry, ranging from creative chefs to executive directors. The primary research revealed that the era for tangible luxury goods has changed, and that experience has become a main driver of consumption. This was not so apparent in the literature reviewed, however, respondents felt that after the recession, consumers strived for unique experiences, rather than products. A general consensus showed that some individuals consumed goods of luxury for status, believing a higher price indicates a higher quality, matching the Veblen theory that Leibenstein expresses. Although, through the research, it was found that interview respondents again felt this had changed from previous years, where, consumption of luxury was very obvious. Expanding on this, it was discovered that consumers seek value in lavish goods today, not just by purchasing them for the sake of the luxury connotation but looking to justify why they should upgrade their choices. It was also found that menus are designed with the consumer as a focal point, providing wording to suit tastes and to match current trends, for instance exhibiting dishes with provenience. However, individuals may change personal preferences to fit in with others in society, even to the extent of consuming goods which they do not like because others do. Conversely, some believed individuals consume, not to fit in or to display prosperity, but, simply because the opportunity arose.