The Social Organization of Authenticity in Mexican Restaurants

By Stephen Christ.

Published by Organizational Cultures: An International Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: April 20, 2015 $US5.00

Food, from its production to its consumption, is a powerful symbol of social and cultural meanings. As a direct expression of group identity and individual subjectivity, foods construct and mark the boundaries of culture, tradition, and authenticity. Restaurants function as sites for the public display of ethnic and cultural identities. Often in the case of ethnic restaurants in the United States, they symbolize the boundary between private cultural and ethnic customs, and public American practices. The dialectic relationship linking explicitly ethnic foods, and an American consumer base which desires a real, or genuine ethnic experience at a restaurant is complicated by the nature of the restaurant business. As businesses, ethnic restaurants must manage their unique displays of taste and style within the bounds of a local environment’s order of supply and demand.The central research question that guides this study aims to understand how owners, servers, and patrons of Mexican restaurants construct, preserve, and police the boundaries of authenticity in their everyday interactions at work. Data for this project is gathered using three methods: participant observation at Mexican restaurants, content analysis of restaurant menus, advertisements, and online reviews, and semi-structured interviews with owners, workers, and patrons of Mexican restaurants.

Keywords: Authenticity, Ethnicity, Restaurant

Organizational Cultures: An International Journal, Volume 15, Issue 2, June 2015, pp.11-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: April 20, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 260.943KB)).

Dr. Stephen Christ

Graduate Instructor/Univeristy Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA