Defining food authenticity: an efficient promotion for ethnic restaurants (EURAM 2016)
Defining food authenticity:
An efficient promotion for ethnic restaurants
Elena Chatzopoulou – Newcastle University (BUSINESS SCHOOL),
Prof. Matthew Gorton - Newcastle University (BUSINESS SCHOOL),
Dr. Sharron Kuznesof - Newcastle University (FOOD & AGRICULTURE)
Authenticity means for the consumers something trustworthy and original
one of the cornerstones of contemporary Marketing
reinforcing a brand’s identity and
a strategy for a product’s differentiation and positioning
However, limited understanding of the meaning from the producers’ side.
Taking into consideration the actual object and its tangible and
absolute characteristics. That product has to be examined by
an expert who shall judge its true and honest nature.
Constructivist authenticity (Indexical)
Authenticity has various versions which are not objectively but
rather symbolically constructed. Authenticity meaning can be
negotiated and interpreted by the members of the society.
Post modern authenticity (Existential)
Poorly explored in literature. Activity-based approach, relies on
the hedonistic fun and eclecticism of lived experiences. It is
about fun and pleasure through consumption. Consumers
unfamiliar with the culture tend to believe in this type.
Ethnic restaurants are the second most influential representative of a foreign
culture after the mass media.
Especially for consumers who are unfamiliar with the restaurant’s culture, the
restaurant shall act as an ambassador for the country and its culture.
Limited understanding of the authenticity meaning from the producers’ side.
How and to what extent restaurateurs perceive of and construct an
“authentic” eating experience for their customers?
Do they meet consumers’ expectations and perceptions?
Methodology (Qualitative research)
In-depth interviews, during which the projective technique of two ethnic restaurant menus was applied
n=19 Mediterranean restaurant owners,
Greek themed restaurants, located in the U.K. and Greece
Grounded theory (constructivist - Charmaz)
NVIVO 10: data storage, coding, categorization, memo-writing and data retrieval
Coding: open coding and comparative analysis of codes and node groups across participants
Some of the parameters taken into consideration are: the recipes, the ingredients, the
restaurant’s decoration, the ethnicity of the staff, etc.
Staff (Greek restaurant owners prefer Greek chefs)
“... The person who cooks and makes the recipes must certainly be Greek. Some ideas come
through his DNA… a foreigner will create it differently...” (Male, restaurant owner, Greece)
“… We can't have just Greek speaking staff in a restaurant you know... of this size...” (Male,
restaurant owner, U.K.)
Ingredients (for cultural aware restaurateurs ingredients are perceived as important
contributors to the authenticity of the Greek restaurant on the contrary with third
generation restaurateurs for whom freshness and flavour of ingredients superseded
the Greek origin)
“… Capers must always be from Andros island and not from Turkey. Can you understand?.. It
always has to be original… Greeks have to be honest…” (Male, restaurant owner, Greece)
“… Greek lamb?.. For example, some of the best lamb in the world is right here, comes from
Wales... so why would we buy things like that?” (Male, restaurant owner, U.K: 3rd generation
Authenticity vs. identity
By taking into consideration these parameters restaurateurs construct
authenticity meanings based on their identity. These authenticity meanings are
either indexical or existential for the restaurateurs:
culturally aware restaurateurs tend to judge food authenticity according to
restaurateurs less tied to the culture, with a market orientation, seem to
follow the existential authenticity
The authenticity modelFactorswhichrestaurateurstakeintoconsideration
toconstructauthenticitymeanings Indexical authenticity Existential authenticity
Description of the restaurant
Concept derives from a specific origin (Greek,
Something general (touristy,
Source of the recipes
From a specific origin (from memory, from
relatives, from traditional cookbooks)
Not from a specific origin (Internet,
Origin of the ingredients
Imported products from the origin
e.g. PDO products
Ingredients from a different origin, not
Type of customers Locals, loyal customers Tourists, non-regulars
Reason for dining in the restaurant
To taste authentic food, to feel closer to home, to
be reminded of holiday memories
For an elicit/different/new experience
or to share the experience afterwards
The owner's/manager's role
Targeting profits but also an ambassador of the
country and its culinary culture
Focus on profits
Other restaurants as "role models"
A restaurant from the origin, a traditional
Fusion cuisine, sometimes “fine dining”
*Not a clear identity: stuck in the middle
Restaurateurs vs. consumers
The factors of menu, decoration, atmospherics, the use of traditional recipes,
the food quality, the music, the costumes or even the ethnicity of the
employees, echo those reported in the existing literature about consumers’
influential factors when judging the authenticity of ethnic restaurants.
This paper has offered a conceptualisation of the term authenticity from a
Restaurateurs construct authenticity meanings filtered by their identity “lens”.
In the future, a comparison with consumers’ perceptions could be beneficial
and that is possible by conducting in-depth interviews with customers of ethnic
Moreover, a similar research about ethnic restaurants of different ethnicities
may result in a more globalised definition of food authenticity.
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