Experience of Soi Thai Food Kitchen Restarurant
The ubiquitous activity of consuming food is not limited to the essential need of ingesting food for the human life. Several sociologists and anthropologists in the vast domain of human sciences have argued regarding the food habits and its relation to culture and demographics. Restaurants especially in Malaysia are not limited to the mere production of food but also the economic, cultural, economic, social and ethnic aspect of different6 cuisines. It is a significant factor how participants of a restaurant has a potent impact over the ambience of the restaurant based on their demographic. This report attempts to shed light on the personal experience during the field study at a Thai restaurant in Malaysia. How the ethnicity and the cultural diversity of the participants in the restaurant have impacted the norms of the restaurant and its impact over a international guest of the restaurant is evaluated on the basis of the field study conducted on Thai food restaurant SOI55 Thai Food Kitchen.
Background regarding the researcher
It is important to understand the perspective of the researcher along with the problems faced in a particular cultural environment and for that demographic introduction of a researcher is required. As far as this report is concerned, the field study is conducted by me and the details of my background are mentioned below.
- Name: Amal Houssein Yousouf
- Year of study: 4th year
- University: International Islamic University Malaysia
- Department:Faculty of Human Sciences Department of Sociology and Anthropology
In the process of the field study I have visited the restaurant for seven days and spent 2 hours everyday in order to observe the nature, habits and the reaction of the participants of the restaurants in order to understand the correlation of the ambience and the norms of the restaurant sand its impact over the guests. During the interview session with the customers of the restaurant I tried to analyze their remark over the food and the style of the restaurant along with the decor and atmosphere of the restaurant. In order to understand the difference of my personal experience I also tried several Thai cuisines in the site of the study. The chief objective of my study was to identify the behaviour of the customers and the waiters of the restaurant and evaluate them in the light of their ethnicity and culture. According to (), food preparation and consumption have the ability to create community affiliation on many levels and in different ways.
Nature of the field report
The field report is based on the study conducted for seven days in a particular restaurant.
Overview of the restaurant
Thai Restaurant entitled as SOI 55 has been chosen as the appropriate site of the field report. This restaurant is located at Jalan SS15 in Subangjaya. The opening hours of the restaurant is 11.30 a.m. everyday and the decoration of the restaurant is formal. The interior of the decoration is captivating at the first place as it is well maintained and decorated accordingly with ample lightstands in the background of gray and black wallpaper. In order to provide the guests with pleasant experience classic music plays in the background. The nature of the music is soothing enough that is appreciated by the guests as it compliments the Oriental culture of harmony.
Foods and services
Services: As far as the services of this particular restaurant is concerned in order to maintain the customer satisfaction the restaurant focuses on making the customer experience pleasant. The restaurant is well furnished with complete air conditioning. Along with that, the atmosphere is airy with ample natural light because of the large windows and two road facing doors. Extra services of the restaurant includes free Wi-Fi in the restaurant premises as well. The lavatory is clean and clearly marked washrooms are available for both the genders.
Foods: The primary cuisine served here is Thai food and other oriental dishes. The restaurant offers variants of stir-fried chicken with different vegetables. There are different types of food of different prices. Both the quantity and the quality is up to the mark along with that they serve a wide range of beverages including several fruit juices. The customer experience regarding the food is good and the delicacies that they serve are particularly designed to meet the need of people with different tastes based on their ethnic identity.
The menu is consisted of several pages and they can be comprehended by the customers because of the simplicity. Most of the customers prefer to eat rice, tom-yum soup and spicy fish on the stove.
Customer demographics: As far as the customers of the restaurants are concerned in the seven days of the field study different segment of customers has been identified. In the weekends the crowd is different than the weekdays. Along with that the customer demographics also varies. Most of the customer profiles as observed from the field study are Asian. As the restaurant offers accommodation for big groups, customers from different backgrounds prefer the place for meetings both official and unofficial. Apart from the families, students and workers several people come to eat alone as well.
The customers can be classified based on their ethnic identity as well. Chinese customers dominate the restaurants most of the time. Apart from that Malay, Indian and other ethnicity are also identified during the course of the study.
Waiter demographics and presentation: Most of the waiters working in the restaurants are from Bangladesh but they are well acquainted with the Thai culture and their cultural diversity does not serve as challenge in serving the customers effectively. They follow their workplace culture and have a dress code. All the waiters of the restaurant are dressed in black attire and they greet the customers accordingly. The waiters are friendly and the customers also share a cordial relationship with them (Shariff et al, 2017).
Promotion and services to attract the customer: In the course of the field work several promotional activities have been noticed. One of the prime offers that the restaurant has is 15% discount after a certain amount of billing. Apart from that another arrangement for promoting the sea food was also noticed during the course of the study.
The restaurant for the promotion of their food also aid for several posters that can be found outside the restaurant and flyer on the tables as well.
Situation analysis: As per the analysis of the current situation of the restaurant, it is evident that there is no threat from any other Thai restaurants in the locality. However, there is a new restaurant that has recently opened nearby. But the offers and services of this particular restaurant tends to be more unique and thus it has successfully captivated the attention of the customers.
Several critics have emphasized on the importance of ethnicity in the participant observation. It is important to understand the gap between the observer and the participants. The observer in most cases feel alien to the atmosphere and it has been noted in the process of the interview as well. Several articles in association with food and ethnicity have reflected upon the problem of the observant at a different cultural ambience (Sucher, Kittler & Nelms, 2016). Along with that the food habits and the taste of the cuisine reflects several aspects of a culture that attracts like minded people.
Sirijit Sunanta in the article Globalization of Thai Cuisine significantly identified the cultural aspect of hybridization of Thai food in the metropolitan cities. According to the author, creative adaptation in terms of reflecting the ethnicity prior to the nuances of hospitability might assume an endless array of fusing cultural versions, it can be flagrantly noted that eclectic blend of cultural values is unable to exhibit any symptom of pure culture (Citeseerx.ist.psu.edu, 2018). The article also emphasizes on the uniqueness of the contemporary Thai food as a combination of several culinary traditions. This restaurant also reflects the phenomenon and hence accepted by customers of different ethnic identities. The article reflects on the nature of a Thai Restaurant and its culinary preferences for customer needs of Vancouver and it can be compared to this particular restaurant in Malaysia as well.
Duruz & Khoo, (2014) in his article emphasized on the fact that the ambience of the restaurant reflects a culture and has the capability to attract people of that culture. Relating to the scenario, it can be stated that the major number of Indo-Asian customers of the restaurant reflect the same. The hybridism and the mosaic model have emphasized on the globalization of food that concerns with cultural hybridism. The concept of national cuisine here can be argued with the globalization of food (Anderson, 2014).
Analysis of the obtained data
The participants of the interview was the customers who visited the restaurant during the course of the field work and the waiters of the restaurants. Seven customers have been interviewed with the same questionnaire during the course of the fieldwork. The answers that they provided reflects a lot regarding their demographics and their preferences. The customers can be classified into few groups.
- University students: The most important factor is that it has been noted in the course of the study that university students prefer to come in this restaurant in big groups as they have enough accommodation and because of lively ambience. The Chinese and Indo-Asian students prefer the place for the food.
- Couples: Along with the students during the seven days of study several couples also came to spend quality time. One of the most recorded reason for them to select this restaurant over other restaurants is the location. Couples also look for organized and maintained restaurants and the women prefer places with cleanliness. Along with that it also offers outside dining. Several couples emphasized upon the restaurant being open and customer friendly.
- Big groups: As the restaurant has the ability to accommodate big groups several people like to enjoy dining here. Along with they also have a good time as the restaurant offers gigs and music. As they also offer discount on a certain amount of billing it is easier for big groups as they can enjoy quality food and good time in lower cost.
- Loners: In the course of the study it has also been noticed that workers also prefer this place for dining alone. This is because of the culture of the restaurant and the cordial behaviour of the waiters. It is important to note that most of the workers prefer to dine alone in this restaurant in order to decrease their stress. The soothing music helps in the process (Kim, Youn, & Rao, 2017).
There are several important factors that have been noticed in the course of the study. One of the major important factor is that how similarity in culture helps in establishing a connection between different people. For instance the Chinese Indian couple was interacting with the Bangladeshi waiters in their language. It indicates that in spite of the cultural difference they understand each other as they come often in the restaurant.
The study is based upon a conducted field work on the mentioned restaurant. The study was conducted on the basis of participant observation.
The research design that has been chosen to be appropriate for the work is descriptive research design as it has provided ample opportunity to analyse the observation.
Research approach and philosophy
The approach of this research is deductive in order to reach a conclusive solution based on the interpretivisim research philosophy in order to accordingly evaluate the observations.
Tools and techniques
The primary tools that have been used in the process of the field work are pen and paper in order to note down the relevant data based on the observation technique. Along with that in order to capture relevant images to explain the decor of the restaurant and the participants camera has been used. In order to analyze the data as an important analytical tool laptop has been used.
Data type and data collection method
The complete study is based on the observations that are based on the behaviour of the participants in the restaurants. The study is based on primary data collected from the site and it has been collected by conducting a field work.
The data has been obtained from the interview of the customers of the restaurants and the waiters as well. For gathering the primary data from the remarks of the customers questionnaire has been used in the process.
Data analysis technique
The obtained data has been used for the thematic analysis. Qualitative technique has been used for the thematic analysis of the obtained data.
The complete work has been conducted following the rules and regulation of research field work. The participants of the restaurants have been informed about the study and they were also informed about the interview. No interviewee has been forced in to the action of the interview and their consent was taken before capturing their images. Along with that the obtained data has been used for the sole purpose of the research and not for any commercial purposes. Along with that all data has been protected under the Data Protection Act of 1999.
My experience during the course of the field work in the restaurant is mixed. It is an important fact that the perspective of every individual is influenced by specific ideology which is associated with their ethnicity, culture, demographic identity and ethnic identity. As a Muslim during the course of the field work several hurdles have been felt. The restaurant was welcoming in nature along with the waiters of the restaurants. Along with cultural differences, other problems were also faced. The aspects that requires reflection are recorded below.
- Awkwardness: As an international student of Muslim religion in the process of conducting the interview I encountered several hurdles. One of the major challenge was that it was difficult for me adapt the new environment initially. On the first day of my field study I felt highly uncomfortable in the atmosphere. The restaurant was new and its music and atmosphere also were new. During my second and third visit I accustomed the environment as the waiters behaved cordially with me. I felt uneasy during the procedure of the interview as the customers who had several perspectives were not cooperating initially. They belong to a completely different culture than mine and during the interview their gaze made me uncomfortable and I felt unwanted and to be specific it made me feel like a trespasser into their domain. Subjected to the gaze of the diners I felt like a complete stranger. The major reason behind this gap can be cultural difference. As I belong to a different culture and ethnic background most of the customers could not connect with me easily. Another fact is the problem of language. I have felt that the interviewees faced initial problems in replying me as it was difficult for them to comprehend my questions.
On the contrary as the waiters are habituated to deal with different customers and also they are trained to effectively interact with people from different cultural background they had a complete different attitude towards me. After first few days they behaved extremely friendly with me and along with that they also clicked my picture when I requested. They cordially welcomed me and also behaved with warm cordiality.
- Norms of the restaurant: every institution has some specific norms that indicates at their culture, service, presentation, price, foods and so on. This particular restaurant being a Thai restaurant is welcoming to several cultures. The restaurant does not specifically reflect at the Thai or Malaysian culture but their food has the oriental flavour. They serve authentic Thai food which is their speciality. The decor and the music that is played there attracts people from several cultural background and the ambience is also culture friendly. The restaurant and their services do not particularly show any bias towards a particular group of customers although they majorly target the Chinese, Malay and Indian people. Some of the foods seemed costly to me but there are several options available for the customers. Therefore, different segments of customers enjoy their services. Customers have commented that they can enjoy affordable meals as well as expensive food. I had the same experience. I came alone for meal and the costly cuisine after a certain amount of billing comes with discounts and the customers also agreed with the fact that even though they ordered something extraordinary or expensive after discount it becomes affordable for them.
In the process of the study I have felt that the food is an integral factor that reflects culture and it has the credibility to make people of different regions and cultural background come together (Atkins & Bowler, 2016). The ambience of a particular restaurant plays a great role in bringing people together. Eating food therefore not limits itself to be a biophysical activity (Jang, 2017). People coming for a feast or dinner enjoy quality time and it also creates a path of connection among different cultures. The cultural variants are reflected in the food of the region and it helps people to understand the preferences of people belonging to different ethnic identity (Kim & Baker, 2017).
It can be concluded in the light of the apprehensions obtained from the remarks of the core customers that SOI 55 seems to reflect the nuances of rich Thai culture in every aspect of their offerings; from ambience and decorations to the manner of presenting of services. The major aspect of these hospitalities lie in the warm and cordial reciprocation towards every demand from the side of the waiters. Apart from that, this reflection of Thai culture does not contain any conservative attitude towards the customers from overseas and every customer has been found compatible with the specifications of their offering.
In terms of an individual, I have experienced a little awkwardness as I find customers acting little weird while answering to my enquiries. In summary, the cumulative experiences integrated with my individual opinion appear to be an eclectic blend of exposition of the cordiality of Thai hospitality coupled with the weird behaviour of the core customers.