Expectations of the Service Experience Offered by Restaurants and Cafes in Hamilton, New Zealand
Mohsin, Asad, McIntosh, Alison, Cave, Jenny, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Growing competition in the hospitality sector and the need to remain customer focused impose the need to provide excellence in service and quality to retain and propagate customers. Restaurants and cafes in Hamilton (the fourth largest city in New Zealand) are no different in their experience of this competitive environment. This study attempts to assess the service experience expectations and perceptions of restaurant- and cafe-goers in Hamilton. It draws upon the responses of 340 respondents to examine their expectations and actual experiences of dining out in a restaurant or cafe. The findings, in revealing the actual experience of the restaurant-and cafe-goers, indicate mostly above average performance but also suggest differences in actual experience according to gender and age groups. The findings are expected to help the owners of restaurants and cafes to address those gaps and improve the satisfaction rate of their customers, thereby bringing about repeat business and improving profits.
In the contemporary hospitality business world, the true measure of success lies in an organisation's ability to satisfy customers continually through service delivery (Gabbie & O'Neil, 1996). In other words, the service experience provided to customers has an impact on organisational profits as it is directly related with customer satisfaction, customer retention and thereby developing customer loyalty (Baker & Crompton, 2000; Zeithaml & Bitner, 2000). Business gurus state it costs a lot more to attract new customers than to retain current customers (Oliver, 1999; Rosenberg & Czepiel, 1983). There is a strong likelihood that repeat customers will develop excellent loyalty towards the business. However, having repeat customers is linked to customer satisfaction and a feeling of delight through quality product and delivery of the service experience. This holds true for restaurants and cafes too. As such, the service experience provided by restaurants and cafes, as expected by regular restaurant goers, is a focus of the present article.
On an international level the hospitality industry is easily a multitrillion dollar one. In the last two decades, the industry has witnessed exponential growth and increased competition (Lee, Barker, & Kandampully, 2003; Zeithaml & Bitner, 2000). Superior quality of service is one factor within the control of the hospitality industry that can crucially add value to its product and lead to customer delight and loyalty (Lee et al., 2003). A desired objective of all service marketers should be to provide a 'zero-defect' service to win customer loyalty, but due to the unique, intangible characteristics of services this becomes difficult (Berry & Parasuraman, 1991). However, Soriano (2002) suggests that while there is no guarantee of a satisfied customer's repeat visit, it is almost certain that a dissatisfied customer will not return. Perhaps 'total satisfaction' is not sufficient for a customer to return, and only 'customer delight' will make it more likely. The notion of 'service' can mean different things to different customers and it is an experience, and therefore more difficult to define or measure. This has been widely noted, and addressed, in studies that have examined the nature of the tourist and leisure experience (see, e.g., McIntosh, 1998). Instruments based on the performance approach to ensure customer expectations are met include SERVPERF, which measures customer satisfaction. SERVQUAL, DINESERV and LODGESERV similarly measure customers' perceptions in relation to the services offered by the provider (discussed in Mohsin, 2003). However, while these instruments predominantly aim to measure service quality dimensions, including reliability, responsiveness and tangibles, among others, they do not consider the direct outcomes of customers' experiences or expectations of service quality, including, notably, customer satisfaction and reflections on the service experience received. …