Eating out in a restaurant was a very gratifying experience in 1995 and, by and large, it remains so, although on all dimensions satisfaction has diminished. This chapter investigates aspects of the performance of dining out in commercial settings, examining in turn the nature and changes in the purposes of dining out, typical companions, service, dishes and meals. In each instance we describe contemporary practice and, where possible, make comparison with 1995. Restaurant meals have become increasingly ordinary events, consistent with a process of familiarisation. Nevertheless, a substantial proportion of events remain special, involving dressing up, and eating several courses over an extended period of time, which do deliver great enjoyment, reflecting polarisation of provision within the market. Diversity of experience is increasing, apparent in the range of foods and cuisines consumed.
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