Eating is a gameplay element introduced in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City where the player can replenish their health by purchasing meals at a restaurant, originally an alternative to walking up to health pickups. The feature has been further adopted in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.
GTA Vice City
The concept of eating for health was first explored in GTA Vice City in the form of several restaurants scattered throughout Vice City, including two Well Stack Pizza outlets (the Downtown outlet is inactive) and eight food court outlets at the North Point Mall. When the player's health is less than 100 points, halos will appear at the counters of the aforementioned restaurants. The player can choose to walk up to any of the halos, prompting the player character to ask for food. In exchange for a variable sum of money, the player's health is restored to 100 points (regardless of whether or not the player's maximum health has been increase to 150 or 200 points). Because each restored health point costs $1, it is actually more expensive and less effective to eat for health than simply picking up health icons at hospitals or other locations.
GTA San Andreas
In GTA San Andreas, the concept of eating is elevated into a basic necessity, becoming the primary source of health in the game. Carl Johnson must purchase and consume food or drink once every three days, or he will risk starvation. When the player is hungry, their fat, if any, is reduced every 1 hour; if there is no fat left, the player will begin to lose small sums of muscle followed by health, when muscle is depleted, at the same rate and eventually die. Food can be purchased in GTA San Andreas at any fast food outlet (Cluckin' Bell, Burger Shot and Well Stacked Pizza), as well as street vendors and vending machines. Saving at a save point and acquiring health pickups will also eliminate hunger.
In addition to basic nourishment, fast food outlets offer the player meals which can increase the player's fat in small amounts. Repeated consumption of high-fat meals will eventually result in the player accumulating too much fat, appearing fat. Fats can be burnt off by exercising at gyms. Eating too much at once at a restaurant will result in CJ vomiting as well as losing a little amount of health.
Eating is also available as an activity with the player character's girlfriends, in which the player must drive any of their girlfriends to a selected range of restaurants and bars to eat or drink. The success of such dates depends on the choice of place to dine; each girlfriend has a preference towards certain premises.
In GTA IV, eating is downgraded as merely a means of restoring the player's health, as hunger is no longer factored into the game. Like in GTA San Andreas, the player can acquire health at fast food outlets (Cluckin' Bell and Burger Shot), as well as street vendors and vending machines.
Eating is also an activity that can be performed with a friend or girlfriend in the game. The player can initiate the activity by calling or receiving a call from a contact in on the in-game mobile phone. The player then must take their friend or girlfriend to a restaurant or club, such as Burger Shot, Mr. Fuk's Rice Box, or the Superstar Café. Different friends have different opinions on restaurants, however they will only mention it once they arrive at a restaurant. If the venue is visited regularly, their approval will drop slightly.
GTA Chinatown Wars
Eating in GTA Chinatown Wars is significantly modified in that the player can no longer enter restaurants for meals. Instead, street vendors serves as a primary source of food, while Burger Shot or Wigwam Burger scratch card prizes in the form of burgers or fries as well as burgers (fresh or moldy) from dumpster diving can be acquired by chance for partial or full health.
Eating in GTA V is now much more limited, as the player can no longer eat at street vendors (all of them are unoccupied) and the once accessible restaurants from GTA IV (Burger Shot, Cluckin' Bell) are no longer able to be accessed. In fact, when going out with a friend, there is no option to eat at restaurants. The player is able to purchase snacks at convenience stores, however, which compensates for the lack of eating fast foods in GTA V.