I am currently working my way through a series of essays in The Cultural Politics of Food and Eating. The one I am reading now is entitled Of Hamburgers and Social Space: Consuming McDonalds in Beijing, and I just wanted to share an interesting section that I came across regarding restaurants and the social context behind eating.
"... the context of food consumption (the participants and the social settings of eating) is as important as the text (the foods that are consumed). Restaurants thus should be regarded as a system of social codes; as institutionalized and commercialized venues, restaurants also provide a valuable window through which to explore the social meanings of food consumption." p.81.