Searching for the Extraordinary Meal Experience
Hanefors, Monica, Mossberg, Lena, Journal of Business and Management
To deliver or experience high quality food and outstanding service in a restaurant is important for both restaurateur and guest, but today this is not enough. While a restaurant's reality often includes fierce competition and poor economic conditions, many of its guests expect an extraordinary experience in the restaurant. It is not clear what makes up such an experience. With a multi-disciplinary approach, we studied strategically chosen meals and restaurants in order to identify significant factors. The findings suggest five interrelated dimensions along which an extraordinary meal experience can be characterized and distinguished from, for example, other meal experiences such as fast food and canteen meals-motivation, expectation, interaction, involvement, and satisfaction.
To many people nowadays, a restaurant is not only "a place where, for a fee, one may dine away from home" (Pillsbury, 1990, p. 225), but much more than that. High quality food and outstanding service are generally thought to be two important elements of someone's pleasurable dining out experience (e.g., Baker, 1986; Campbell-Smith, 1967; MacLaurin & MacLaurin, 2000). This is no longer enough, however, especially not for those who perceive their dining out meal to be an experience out of the ordinary. McAlexander and Scheuten suggested that such an extraordinary experience to the restaurant guest is "one that yields feelings of personal growth or triumph, involves emotional intensity, [and] is uniquely memorable..."(1998, p. 381).
Even so, many restaurant establishments go bankrupt-nothing they do seems to guarantee success. To increase attraction, many try to develop a position in the market based on something unique. Often this competitive advantage is hard to keep, but some enterprises have been extremely successful, such as the ones highly ranked in Guide Rouge because of their outstanding food quality, or those with excellent locations, either geographic or manmade, including The Peak restaurants in Hong Kong (see www.thepeak.com.hk/dining.htm), or the one in the Eiffel Tower in Paris (www.tour-eiffel.fr), neither of which is famous for its food. There are establishments built on a celebrity reputation, such as Robert De Niro's chain of several restaurants, Jennifer Lopez' Cuban style restaurant in California, or Michael Jordan's restaurants in Chicago and Washington. Some other victorious restaurants are famous because of their restaurateur, chef and/or design. "Japan goes crazy over its Iron chefs, the United States boils over with the likes of Bobby Flay, Ming Tsai, Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, while Britons worship wok-wizard Ken Horn and the mockney cockney 'Naked chef, aka James Oliver" (South China Morning Post, 2002, p. 1). Many Americans have heard about, or visited, the exclusive and probably most expensive US restaurant, Ginza Suchi-Ko, or are familiar with the names of chef and restaurateur Alain Ducasse (www.alain-ducasse.com), or restaurateur and designer Terence Conran (www.conran.com/eat).
Imitators can copy certain restaurants that try to differentiate themselves from others in a major way. For example, certain thematic restaurants like the nature-based Rainforest cafe (www.rainforestcafe.com), or those inspired by music and film-Hard Rock Cafe (www.hardrockcafe.com) and Planet Hollywood (www.planethollywood.com). Similarly replicable are restaurants with other themes, such as the Singapore-based Houses of Mao (e.g., www.poole-associates.com.house-of-maol.htm) with a political theme, and futuristic MARS 2112(www.mars2112.com) in New York. Or there are restaurants with no particular theme, such as the Canadian bistro Chives, located in a former bank, which just claimed that it offers "extraordinary casual dining" (ATV World, 2002a), or The Naked Oyster in London, Ontario, that has been described as "a little more unique-now we have a good concept, a great chef, and something unique" (ATV World, 2002c). …