Dining Environment

Case study campus food asset: Open Kitchen at Orchard Commons

Case study location: UBC Vancouver campus, check hours online.

Potential case study topics: Design, Psychology, Nutrition

  1. Read the introduction section.
  2. Read through one of the themes below.
  3. Watch the Open Kitchen Dining Environment above and visit Open Kitchen or another campus dining location.
  4. After watching the video and visiting the kitchen, return to the pathway(s) and answer the questions.


It is commonly stated that you are what you eat, but what about where you eat?

How does the location in which you eat influence your dietary choices and food preferences? Does the design of dining locations and availability of food items impact healthy and sustainable food choices? Often, much attention is directed towards changing individual eating habits to develop healthier and more sustainable food systems; but what would happen if we shifted our attention to the environments in which we access food?

Scholars and practitioners who are involved in the characterization and analysis of food environments believe that context matters. Food choice is not simply an individual behaviour, but a practice influenced by the social and physical environment (Engler-Stringer et al., 2014). Unhealthy energy-dense, high-fat foods have overshadowed healthy food options in retail environments, challenging consumers’ ability to prioritize a healthy diet.

Since its inception, the UBC food system has evolved significantly. With increased student enrolment in the 1940s came the need to establish on-campus food outlets. The 1950’s saw the incorporation of dining hall in residences. The 1990s saw the signature of the Talloires Declaration, pledging to make sustainability the foundation for campus operations, research and teaching. Today, UBC Food Services includes coffee shops, fine dining outlets, residence dining halls and more. More importantly than the diversity of its food offering, it is UBC Food Services’ engagement towards the development of sustainable, healthy, and equitable campus food system that sets it apart.

This case study aims to explore the campus food retail environment as a nexus of food environments, behaviour change, affordability, and environmental issues.

The geographic centre of this case study is the UBC Vancouver Campus, specifically its Open Kitchen Dining Hall (Orchard Commons). Experiencing this food environment can be centre-of-mind when engaging with the materials below


The food environment, which is broadly conceptualized to include the space in which one obtains food, is increasingly recognized as a major health determinant (Lake & Townsend, 2006; Glanz et al. 2005). Scholars have examined the relationships between price point, satisfaction, loyalty relationships and restaurant/cafeteria layout (Han and Ryu, 2009; Heung and Gu, 2012). Scholars have also shown that individual behaviours are difficult to change, and interventions targeted at the individual to engage in healthy eating habits have shown limited effectiveness at a high cost (Stringer et al., 2014). In contrast, structural interventions on environments can be cost saving, but are more challenging to implement.

Serving thousands of students, institutional food outlets play a key educational role when it comes to food choices and behaviour. According to Glanz et al. (2005), food environments are multidimensional and can be articulated at four levels: (1) community food environment, (2) consumer nutrition environment, (3) organizational nutrition environment, and (4) information environment. Here, we invite you to explore the visible and “invisible” design (Horng et al., 2013) of the dining atmosphere of UBC Vancouver campus’s Open Kitchen.

When you first enter Open Kitchen, take a moment to notice how the design and layout impact your senses:

  • Where are you drawn to look? How does the design and layout of the space direct your visual attention? Is the lighting uniform or different across the space?
  • What do you hear? The sounds of cooking and food preparation? Music? The hum of diners’ conversations? The sound of silence?
  • What do you smell? Is there a particular food or dish that dominates your olfactory sense


  1. What food station did you gravitate towards when you first walked in? What characteristics most influence your decision?
  2. What design principles do you think were utilized in conceiving this kitchen and dining space?
  1. Does the UBC Food Service manifesto influence your choice to eat in a UBC Food Service outlet?


Engler-Stringer, R., Ha, L., Gerrard, A., & Muhajarin, N. (2014). The community and consumer food environment and children's diet: a systematic reviewBMC Public Health, 14(522).

Glanz, K., Sallis, J.F., Saelens B.E., Frank L.D. (2005). Healthy nutrition environments: concepts and measures. American Journal of Health Promotion, 19(5), 330-333.

Han, H., & Ryu, K. (2009). The roles of the physical environment, price perception, and customer satisfaction in determining customer loyalty in the restaurant industry. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 33(4), 487-510.

Heung, V., & Gu, T. (2012). Influence of restaurant atmospherics on patron satisfaction and behavioural intentions. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 31(4), 1167-1177.

Horng, J., Chou, S., Liu, C., & Tsai, C. (2013). Creativity, aesthetics and eco-friendliness: A physical dining environment design synthetic assessment model of innovative restaurants. Tourism Management, 36, 15-25.

Lake, A.A., Townshend, T. (2006). Obesogenic environments: exploring the built and food environments. The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, 126(6): 262-267.


UBC Wellbeing Initiative. (2017). UBC Action Framework for a Nutritionally Sound Campus.