The pilot study I conducted at Highpoint Shopping Centre allowed me to observe how food choices were made amongst different people. There are many factors that influence food choices. Therefore I conducted this observation to develop into food choices. Some factors involved gender differences, this effected the food choice and the process of eating, how the effect of age plays part in choosing food, along with which cultures foods were eaten most; Chinese, Turkish, or Italian. I also observed whether culture had an effect on food choices? What these people were wearing?
How long it took for them to decide on what they were going to eat? Does the time of the day and the days of the week have an effect on the selection and amount of food eaten? And how the food is eaten? Children and how their food selection is analysed? This topic interested me because eating is a process we go through every day in order to survive therefore it is interesting to see who eats what in this ongoing process. The variety of foods offered today in a multicultural environment can give people a wide choice to choose from, this I think makes it more interesting.
Methodology The pilot study was conducted at the food court in Highpoint Shopping Centre on the second level, where I spent a total of six hours, broken into three, two-hour sessions. The reason that I chose Highpoint Shopping Centre was because there is a large choice of different culture foods, including McDonald’s and KFC (those two not being a part of the culture foods), which play a major part in the selection for the children. During this observation I could say that I saw more than 200 people.
Interaction was not part of the observation at any time; therefore I had no effect on peoples choices. But because some people realised that they were being observed, that could have had a major effect on my discoveries. If people knew I was watching them, they could have felt intimidated and left the setting out of fear for their protection/safety. The facts that some food placed were very large in the food court and had more of a variation of foods was a major effect when choosing food. Table 1-setting of food court Tables rubbish area The Patterns
The major patterns of focus were gender and age, and how they have big effects on people when they are choosing food and when they are involved in eating. I observed patterns such as the time people spend on choosing and eating the food, proportions of food eaten. I also examined other patterns such as how people vary when eating in a group and when eating alone and the effects of being around the opposite gender when eating. The pattern I concentrated on the most was which cultures of food were eaten most and which age group and gender choose to eat which culture foods.
Children seemed mostly to eat the quick and easy meals, it was mainly McDonalds, or KFC. Although the majority were McDonalds, this does not seem hard to believe. It was always the happy meal, with a burger, chips and drink, not to forget mentioning the toy that came along with the meal. Which I found very interesting, because after a few bites of their cheeseburger, a couple of fries and a sip of coke, that was it for the meal. The toy became the centre of attention, so that to me was why the children were always eating McDonalds or KFC, they were not interested in different culture foods.
They stuck to what was familiar to them, only because the media chocks down what they want to see, and play with. Middle aged people walked around the food court and thought more about what they were going to eat, what was going to satisfy them more. They were the type to try something different to the same old stuff. The older age groups were more fussier of what they wanted, they took a while, some conclusions that I came up with may have been, prices, not familiar with some culture foods, diabetes could have been a problem, or even cholesterol.
You could tell their food choices were not as satisfying to them. Gender played a major part in this observation. The females ate lighter foods and fewer proportions than males. For example, at the kebab shop more of the males brought the large size kebab, were-as the females almost always brought the half size kebab. What I also found very interesting was that female seemed to eat slower and eat less when around males. They were more conscience of what they were eating, and how they were eating it.
But the males did not care how they ate their food, if it wasn’t dropping some portions of food on themselves it was eating with their mouths open. The younger males even yelled and played with each other while they were eating, making big fools of themselves. You would never see a female doing those kinds of things in a public area. I found that the overweighted looking females were conscience of what they were eating, they mostly ate from the health shops or just ate fewer portions, although there were many that did not care if it were fattening or not.
On the other hand many males that were overweight seemed like they did not care at all, they would have a huge plate in front of them and just eat away, it was never healthy, it was almost always greasy more fattening than ever! The tables were scattered everywhere, but what I noticed was that as soon as someone got their meal they would sit close by to where they got their food. This could be from the fact that maybe they are too lazy to find a good spot, or they are just hungry and want to eat. So therefore it was mainly crowded around McDonalds and KFC because they were always the busiest out of them all.
This could have been that the food was familiar to them, they knew how much it was going to cost, and what they were going to get out of it. Whereas if you went to another food shop you wouldn’t know what to expect. For example, when I went to buy a sandwich; a roll with chicken, lettuce, cheese, and tomato, it costed me $6. 30. If I knew that it was going to cost me that much, I would have rather gone to McDonalds, were I could have got a meal, including fries and a drink, for less than the price I got the sandwich for.
Culture played a major part in the decision – making to what food people were going to eat. I noticed that many Turkish or Arabic families stuck to eating kebabs. (I knew this because I speak Turkish and understand Arabic) The result of this is because on one of signs in the shop said “Halal Meat” this means that there is no pork in the food. So the Turkish and Arabic families have this feeling of ‘safeness’. They cannot trust other food retailers because eating pork is against their religion.
This only applies to the Muslims. I noticed a lot of Chinese people eating from their own foods. On the three occasions I was at this food court I also noticed that the women and men that were dressed more formally (in suits) chose to eat at the Italian restaurant, this could have been because it had more of a formal setting. During the hours of 12:00 – 2:00 the food court was very busy, this was mainly due to the fact that this is the lunch hours and everyone working in the centre is out for lunch.
You could tell whom they were, they would either have uniforms on or they wouldn’t take their nametags off. They seemed to be very picky at what they ate. They would walk around the food court several times until they figured out what they were going to eat. This could be because they are here everyday and their sick of what to choose, or their looking for a big meal, something that would keep them going for the rest of the day. After 2pm it became quite and you wouldn’t see many people buying a big meal.
The Explanation The pattern I examined was to find different answers to aspects involving different culture foods; which culture food was most popular etc. When observing the food eaten, we can see from Graph 1 that, the younger age group (18-25), out of all age groups, was always less when compared to the other age groups on the graph. The females in this age group preferred to eat Italian, the males chose Turkish. The majority of the younger aged (18 and less) ate fat foods such as McDonalds or KFC.
Chinese and Turkish food were the most common food eaten in the people aged from (25-35). In Graph 1 you can see that the females and males were the same when considering eating Chinese food and males were slightly more than females in eating Turkish food. I noticed that middle-aged people seemed to like trying different choices in food. The pattern I noticed with them was that Italian cuisine was most popular in the middle-aged group, followed by Chinese.
The most common food eaten among all ages as seen in Graph 1 was McDonalds and KFC (this may not seem hard to believe) this was due to the fact that their food stores were larger than the rest, everyone knew their food, including the price range. Discussion I realised that there are many factors, which can effect us when in a social setting. Sociology helped me to understand more open mindedly interesting social aspects, which effect us when engaging in certain activities.
It helped me think and develop explanations by recognising patterns which have big effects on people when engaging activities such as eating. In doing this research it made me think a lot of how I am when I’m choosing my food at the food court, I think that helped me a little in understanding what others choices were. If I were to do this research essay again, I would concentrate on listening to people when they are purchasing their food, walk around to the food stores and listen in, instead of sitting down all times (different area of the food court).
If people noticed that I was writing about them, or they knew I was watching them, this could have caused a major problem to my findings, so being very careful in finding explanations is very important in this research. Summary Gender, age, time, dressing style and culture were what occurred in different age groups and genders. The younger aged eat unhealthy food such as McDonalds and KFC, whereas middle aged people ate more healthy. Middle aged people ate more of a variety than the younger aged. Elderly people showed attendance in eating healthier food; this could have been because of health reasons.
Time had effects on the social aspects of food choice and the proportion of food eaten. At lunch hour’s people ate more than later on in the evening. Dress style had effects on food choices. Most dressed formally dined in the take away store. This was the Italian restaurant. These are just some of the findings in my observation. As you can see food choices are a major part in our lives. Observing helps us have a better understanding of how choices are made when involved in activities such as eating.