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The Adventure of Eating Out

Eating out can be a culinary adventure. I have an app on my phone that makes it so.

Guy Fieri has a popular TV show on the Food Network, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” My humble background makes me especially appreciative of the kind of food he celebrates. It’s local food prepared with special love. It gets its "gourmet" not from price or context, but by culinary care. I have the Triple D app on my phone. On driving trips my wife and I look for those hidden spots that have been showcased by Guy.

They are not always in the best neighborhoods, they are often off the beaten path, one often has to wait in long lines, its often farm to table, and the experience with the food is always amazing. One remembers the episode in "Portlandia," where the millennial diners got up from the restaurant table after examining the menu before ordering to go visit the farm. Authentic food matters. That is how we found ourselves in Narragansett, Rhode Island at the Crazy Burger Cafe experiencing the “Whassupy Burger.” We’ve driven twenty miles on windy back roads near Kerrville to find the best burger in Texas according to Texas Monthly. Eating out becomes a food adventure.

So it came as no surprise when Acosta and Technomics issued a report on eating habits of millennials, The Why? Behind the Dine, which found that experiential factors frequently drive dining decisions. Millennials on average spend seven percent more eating out than other Americans, about $144 per month or thirty-five percent of U.S. diners’ total monthly food budget. There are five characteristics that make experiences important to millennials. The experience should be unique (even exotic), consequently memorable, photogenic, sharable, and relational. An event must be Facebook or Snapchat posting worthy. New Copernicans value experiences over things. Sixty-three percent of millennial diners consider visiting a restaurant to be a form of entertainment.

Life is performance and eating out can be the opportunity for a sharable episode in the drama of their identity performance. Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman writes, “The self... is not an organic thing that has a specific location, whose fundamental fate is to be born, to mature, to die; it is a dramatic effect arising diffusely from the scene that is presented.” Restaurants are increasingly chosen stages for the unfolding drama of one’s presentation of self in everyday life. The opposite of abstraction that New Copernicans disdain is experience most meaningfully shared with friends. Hunger can be the onramp to culinary adventures that stage reflections on one’s deepest self.

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