Dining in Museums

by Megan McIntyre

White Chocolate Bread Pudding at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA. Photo by Joanne G. on Yelp.

I love going to museums - who doesn’t? One thing about many museum trips that I have come to love is the food and dining experience. The bread pudding at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the view during brunch at the Wichita Art Museum, a fabulous prickly pear margarita at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Food and a museum visit? What an odd combo many people might be thinking, but with more museums offering multiple dining options or upgrading the selection at their café chances are if you pause for a meal during your museum visit it is going to be a good one. I have come to look forward to the confections in museum restaurants almost as much as the collections I am there to see. My love of food, museums, and having a great meal during a museum visit led me to look into the topic further and choose it as the subject for my museum studies masters thesis from Harvard University Extension School this year.

Museums have long had tea rooms, cafeterias, and cafes as part of the services and comforts they offer visitors to help make a trip to the museum more enjoyable, convenient, and allow them to stay longer. In the last twenty years these services have blossomed and come into their own. Some museums now have restaurants that are as much of an attraction as what is on the museum walls. For as many museum restaurants as there are, there is shockingly little written about the topic. As museum dining choices and experiences have grown, little has been studied about how the experiences visitors have while dining at the museum affects their overall experience or impression of the museum. Food helps makes memories for many, and the restaurant and gift shop are often the only places visitors have any significant interaction with staff. My thesis aims to look at how museum dining establishments can best service the museum and the overall museum experience visitors have. Restaurants can make money, they can be a convenience, but can they enrich your museum experience or help you understand the museum and its mission better?

With so many types of museum dining experiences out there I have created a short survey to help me learn more about how visitors view their museum dining experience. The survey takes less than five minutes and focuses on a recent museum dining experience you have had. Your feedback will help my research have a richer scope and hopefully allow me to make some meaningful conclusions about dining in the museum and its effects on the overall museum experience. Feel free to share this survey link with your friends and colleagues, the survey is active now and runs through January 15, 2010. I will be making a follow up post to share my findings in March.

Thanks for your help; I hope I have given you something interesting to think about next time you pause for a sandwich at your favorite museum. Cheers! Megan McIntyre

Museum Dining Survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LG6WVDD




I'd check with MOMA, as Danny Meyer took over their restaurants recently. He has a whole chapter in his book Setting the Table. And Wolfgang Puck is doing the MCA Chicago. They must do customer surveys. Also, Manask and Associates puts out a really good newsletter that should help. I do talk about food service in my comfort step. I'd be happy to email you that chapter if you don't have my book Creating Great Visitor Experiences.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Just want to see if you are a robot.