Organising Haute-Cuisine Service Processes: A Case Study

Article excerpt

One of the essential aims of service process organisation is to increase the added value for the customer, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and stimulating consumption. In a haute-cuisine context, customers typically have a higher degree of uncertainty as they often lack the experience of receiving and judging quality in a haute-cuisine setting. This article reports on the application of service process organisation in a haute-cuisine restaurant. The case study shows that there is a significant need to reduce back office activities so that interaction with the customer or customer-facing processes can be increased. This can increase the added value for the customer and can result in higher profits for the restaurants as the customer is either willing to pay higher prices or to consume more. Routines should be implemented that align with segmentation and customer data, while undergoing a retraditionalisation of the service through know-how and interaction. Only interaction with, and integration of, the customer adds significant value that can be further expanded by providing an atmosphere where customer and co-customer have the chance to interact.

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The discrepancy between innovative ability and profitability typically characterises function-oriented businesses in that the Tayloristic work model divides labour as a means of increasing efficiency. This work model inevitably faces the challenge of reacting quickly enough to macroeconomic changes. Michelin-starred restaurants, for example, often rely heavily on talented chefs who provide knowledge and intellectual capital (Johnson et al., 2005). In most cases their success 'depends entirely on the skills and culinary excellence of the restaurant's celebrity chef' (Johnson et al., 2005, p. 171). Luth and Spiller (2003) further note that the competitive advantage derives particularly from the national--and in some cases, international--reputation of the chef, whose name is both a mark of individuality as well as a sign of the overall quality of the restaurant and its culinary products. One-star restaurants, however, have considerable constraints since they face much higher competition along with a lower customer perception of exclusivity (see Figure 1), thus revenue has to be generated through up-selling (Luth & Spiller, 2004).

This implies the need to use up-selling techniques and implement value-adding service processes that will stimulate the guest's willingness to pay. Yet, guests have by nature a high degree of uncertainty in the fine dining segment, because the risk of consumption increases due to high prices. Second, word of mouth recommendations are only conditionally available as the trading arena of these restaurants is either supraregional or national. Moreover, the average guest's sensory ability is generally not sufficient to discern differences across a range of haute-cuisine restaurants, let alone restaurants from different levels (Luth & Spiller, 2004). Restaurant guides, such as Michelin's Guide Rouge, are thus indispensable consumer aids and are crucial marketing tools to reduce uncertainty (Snyder & Cotter, 1998). Listed restaurants thus become Buchananian club members with a licence to charge premium prices (Sandier & Tschirhart, 1997). Nevertheless, membership of this exclusive club can be a significant drawback for restaurants; one-star restaurants that lose their star, for example, are often forced to compete with the entire market (Snyder & Cotter, 1998). As a result, a research question can be formulated:

* Can service process organisation and standardisation be successfully applied to haute-cuisine restaurants to help to create a competitive advantage by increasing added-value for the customer?

The Process Organisation Concept

Process-oriented organisational design or process organisation is the continuous structuring and improvement of business processes under consideration of process targets and efficient flows (Vahs, 2005). …