Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Trubek, Amy


This study examines the relationship that people have with the modern day food environment. This study used a qualitative approach using interviews, videotapes, and questionnaires with seventeen participants. This varied approach was used to understand the decision-making process at dinnertime when deciding whether to cook at home or eat out at a restaurant. This was examined primarily through semi-structured interviews as well as the observation and videotaping of individuals preparing meals at dinnertime. The research resulted in three different categories of importance: why people choose to eat out, how people utilize restaurants, and the current roles restaurants have in modern American society. The results show the importance of restaurants in modern society beyond the nourishment that a meal can provide. Many of the themes that arose in this research have been seen in other research in this field, but a few new areas came up. For example, using a restaurant as a resource for new recipes to prepare at home was an area that emerged that had not been mentioned in the previous research. This shows that the relationship that American’s have with the food environment outside the home is continuously transforming. Understanding all of the reasons people eat outside the home is important, as there is a general decrease in cooking practices inside the home. Gaining knowledge in how people make food choices on a daily basis is a good first step in being able to address public health issues that relate to food. This study explores the current food environment in order to have a deeper understanding of why people make the choice to eat outside the home, the ways people utilize restaurants, and the roles of restaurants in society.