Academic Research

PRIN2022 PSR - Regione Liguria

COLTA – Collectives at the table

COLTA aims to investigate the phenomenon of collective catering through an innovative interdisciplinary methodology that encompasses semiotic, anthropological, aesthetic-philosophical, ecological, and service design perspectives

Preliminary information


OTHER UNISG RESEARCHERS INVOLVED: Franco Fassio, Maddalena Borsato

PARTNERSHIP: Palermo University (Italy), Politecnico di Milano (Italy)

DURATION OF THE PROJECT: 24 months (October 2023 – October 2025)

FUNDING INSTRUMENT: Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca – Progetto di Rilevante Interesse Nazionale Descrizione (PRIN) 2022 – 2022TM7WEJ





The fundamental premise is that collective catering proposes a certain way of being at the table, but also an idea of community and collective, consisting of a complex set of relationships that link subjects, objects, values, spaces, recipes, temporal rhythms and forms of conviviality. Within the world of collective catering, issues related to sustainable development, politics, communication, health and

hygiene, education, nutrition, technology and taste are intertwined, and the project intends to report on them. We will address questions such as who the actors making up this collective are, when can we talk about collective catering, and how far a collective can be constituted on the basis of food and its staging. In this sense, studying the collective catering meal table will constitute an original way of investigating much broader social dynamics.

An essential phase of the project involves a survey of the past, both distant – with a historical-anthropological investigation of the religion-based rituals that revolve around sharing the table – and recent – focused on the birth and development of the phenomenon of collective catering, linked to industrial society and related lifestyle changes.

There will follow a study of the present, much influenced by the recent COVID 19 pandemic. Indeed, while the latter has generated a crisis in the sector, it has also created significant opportunities for change. The challenge today is to break free from the classic stereotypes associated with the world of collective catering (anonymous places that offer mass, homologating, poor quality food) to propose new values and new offers suitable for different needs and characterized by attention to local territories and environmentally sustainable development models. The research will be conducted following a twofold methodology, including:

  1. Field Research (discourses of collective catering) consisting of interviews with industry representatives, case studies involving companies, and ethnographic surveys of concrete user practices;
  2. Desk Research (discourses on collective catering) involving the analysis of communication campaigns, programmatic documents, films, blogs, and other texts which, in dealing with collective catering, build an aesthetic-social-ecological discourse around the phenomenon.

The ultimate goal is to look to the future, defining trends and development scenarios, as well as useful guidelines to direct, with renewed awareness, the current debate on collective catering in which administrators, chefs and sector associations are involved. COLTA is a project strongly characterized by ethical and political values and focused on a topic the study of which appears crucial at this historical juncture.


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