Understanding the Success Factors for Independent Restaurants in the Delhi / Gurgaon Region: An Analysis of the Gap between Management Perceptions and Customer Expectations

Article excerpt

The ensuing study aims to establish an academic framework within which to understand and analyse the functioning of the independent restaurant sector within the NCR. The key stress of the study is to identify perceptual GAPs between what operators perceive their customers to desire as part of the given service and product and what customers actually look for. The section on methodology outlines the process utilised in the compilation and analysis of the study. The study covers a sample base of 60 restaurants in Delhi and surrounding areas and, covers major geographical and economic segments that comprise the capital's independent dining market. The study has not taken in account restaurants within hotels due to the difference in nature of their management and decision making processes. The data analysis as detailed in the paper has turned up some predictable as well as surprising results. Out of a total of 32 service and product variables analysed, significant GAPs were observed in 10 variables, suggesting that the average operator have a good idea what his/ her customer wants. This highlights the importance of the human element and experience in running an establishment. There are however some important factors where operators do seem to be out of tune with their client base. The average operators tend to underestimate competition, does not engage the customer enough, does not understand the importance of setting and enforcing written standards and does not stress enough on courtesy. There are other variables that operators need to be better aware of. The paper also suggests key recommendations for operators to follow to enhance competitiveness and maintain a loyal customer base.

INTRODUCTION

Strong economic growth, increased disposable income and the impact of various factors have fuelled a strong demand for dining places in India's capital city. The restaurant business being a comparatively low entry barrier industry is also being perceived as an attractive option for those bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. A few decades ago, Delhi had little to offer by way of world cuisines and there was not much else in the offing beyond United coffee house, Moti Mahal and Wengers and others such, mostly in the vicinity of Connought place. The past 15 - 20 years has witnessed the growth of a heavily fragmented, increasingly diverse, competitive and almost chaotic restaurant business in Delhi. The choice for consumers is now immense and most major cuisine groups of the world are represented to some degree in the National Capital.

Unfortunately little has been done in terms of research towards understanding and analyzing Delhi's restaurant business. Gathering quantitative data is an uphill task for a researcher, as operators seem reluctant to divulge any information that may be too "penetrating". This has created a huge gap in information that professional bodies like HVS international and the FHRAI are trying to fill but the over all lack of reliable information on basic Industry statistics is disappointing and disconcerting. Therefore the study has been conducted as an empirical work in the Delhi-Gurgaon region with some of the following objectives:

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES:

* To study the opinions of operators in the independent restaurant sectors on a given set of impact variables dealing with various aspects of their service and product.

* To evaluate the factors that have a crucial impact on the success / failure of the restaurant.

* To understand the attitudes of a sample customer base and assess factors which have an impact on their dining experience at restaurants.

* To identify any perceptual GAPS between managers/proprietors and customers perceptions.

* To identify and analyze, the preferred choice of cuisines for a sample customer base.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

According to Jones and Merricks (1996), the nature of the restaurant industry is such that a primary component lies in staff - customer interaction. …