Magazine article Journal of Services Research

Consumer Behaviour in Restaurants: Assessing the Importance of Restaurant Attributes in Consumer Patronage and Willingness to Pay

Magazine article Journal of Services Research

Consumer Behaviour in Restaurants: Assessing the Importance of Restaurant Attributes in Consumer Patronage and Willingness to Pay

Article excerpt


Restaurants are one of the six major industries in the field of hospitality-tourism (Ottenbacher, Harrington & Parsa, 2009). According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA, 2009), restaurant sales in 2009, were estimated to exceed $566 billion. The restaurant industry is estimated to be 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the United States (U.S.) and provides jobs for more than 13 million people. Restaurants are highly visible with nearly 945,000 locations throughout the United States. Industry sales represented an increase of approximately 2.5 percent in 2009 over 2008 sales. Despite the sluggish economy, unlike most other industries, the foodservice industry overall continued to maintain sales increases (NRA, 2009).

In order to continue the trend of increasing sales in the restaurant industry, overall guest satisfaction and repeat business must be a priority for organizations. Increasing guest satisfaction can lead to increased guest loyalty, which ultimately leads to increased revenues and profitability (Perutkova & Parsa 2010). Because the restaurant industry consists of diverse segments with different types of guest service encounters, it is important for restaurants to determine the level of service expected from guests and deliver this level of service and quality effectively and consistently to achieve the desired level of guest satisfaction.

Current study investigates the important attributes in the two major segments of the restaurants industry, full-service restaurants and quick service restaurants, using a scenario approach. Earlier studies on this topic have used rank order method in soliciting consumer preferences when patronizing a restaurant and their willingness to pay (WTP). In the rank order method, consumers consider restaurant attributes in a sequential manner in order of their importance when making their restaurant decisions (Perutkova & Parsa 2010). Unfortunately the rank order method compromises on realism in the sense that consumers do not necessarily follow a rank order method in choosing a restaurant. In contrast, often consumers use a complex process evaluating all major restaurant attributes simultaneously in a dynamic manner. Thus to better reflect the true consumer decision making process, the current study substituted the traditional sequential process with a dynamic comparison of restaurant attributes: food quality, service, and ambience, and consumer's willingness to pay (WTP) and intention to patronize (ITP) while choosing a restaurant. Understanding the functional structure of this relationship can help restaurant managers and owners make informed decisions in terms of reallocation of their funds for maximum return on investment.


Customer Satisfaction in the Restaurant Industry

In reality, the success of restaurant managers/owners depends on the understanding of their customers' needs and expectations and meeting those needs better than their competition (Yang, Cheng, Sung & Withiam, 2009). While estimates may vary, a National Restaurant Association report (2009) indicated that 60% of all new restaurants fail within the first three years in business, and roughly half of those fail in the first year (Parsa, Self, King & Njite 2005). This number shows the importance of ensuring customer satisfaction by providing excellent service, listening to customers' needs and complaints, and caring about the customer. Thus, customer satisfaction (CS) has become one of the most widely studied variables not only in hospitality literature, but also in restaurant research due to the significant and direct impact on the financial performance of a restaurant.

Several researchers have tried to explore the relationship between customer satisfaction and restaurant performance, emphasizing the way that satisfaction affects customers' repeat purchase practices (Gupta, McLaughlin & Gomez, 2007; Sulek & Hensley, 2004; Soderlund & Ohman, 2005; Cheng, 2005). …

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