Aims and objectives: To explore the experiences of food choice and meal service in residential aged care facilities and its impact on autonomy, self-determination and quality of life from the perspectives of both residents and staff. Background: Globally, residential aged care is a principal provider of care for older people who can no longer live independently at home. Within this setting, lack of food choice has been identified as a significant factor impacting on residents' self-determination, sense of autonomy and quality of life. Design: This study used an exploratory descriptive qualitative approach guided by self-determination theory. Method: A total of 14 participants (seven residents and seven staff members) from two Australian residential aged care facilities were recruited through purposive and snowball sampling with assistance from one independent contact nurse at each facility. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted, digitally recorded and transcribed. The COREQ checklist was used in this qualitative study. Results: Three main themes were identified from the interview data provided by residents and staff, which were as follows: (a) catering for the masses; (b) organisational barriers to providing choice; and (c) food impacts well-being. Conclusions: This study explored the experiences of food choice and service in residential aged care facilities, from the perspectives of both residents and staff. Results of interviews highlighted the importance of providing adequate food choice which has become an enduring issue that requires more attention and commitment to make a positive change for residents living in residential aged care facilities. Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses and other staff working in residential aged care facilities need to be aware of the importance of providing adequate food choice, including for residents who require modified diets. As advocates for residents, nursing staff must address the persistent lack of food choice. However, this will require a radical change in organisational culture and strong leadership.