ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF RESTAURANT SERVICE QUALITY DIMENSIONS ON CUSTOMER SATISFACTION AND BEHAVIOURAL INTENTIONS
The present study aims at assessing the influence of the restaurant service quality (SQ) dimensions on customer satisfaction and behavioural intentions of the customers. This study emphasizes on the confirmatory approach, which is based on the outcomes of the exploratory study conducted by the authors. The reliability and validity of the restaurant service quality model were tested using the exploratory and confirmatory techniques of factor analysis. Further, the aforementioned causal relationships were estimated using the structural equation modelling (SEM) technique. The study is spread over New Delhi region, which includes its adjoining cities. Data is collected through mall intercept method by using questionnaires. Seven dimensions of restaurant service quality emerge which are found reliable and valid. These are further tested for their influence on customer satisfaction and behavioural intentions. It is expected that restaurant service quality factors directly and positively influence customer satisfaction, which in turn is likely to influence the behavioural intentions directly and positively. An important contribution of the present study is reflected in the relationship between service quality dimensions and its consequences. It is found that intangible service quality dimensions are having significant influence on customer satisfaction. Although, DINESERV and similar other models have been tested for their further impact in different restaurant service settings and cultural contexts, there exists a wide gap in the Indian context about the consequences of service quality. The results of the present study attempt to address this gap in the current state of knowledge and will be useful for the restaurant managers to focus on service quality factors, which are having a significant impact on customer satisfaction and behavioural intentions.
The restaurant business is no more just about the type and quality of food that is offered to the customers. It is about the variety of services and other aspects which are largely intangible in nature. The patrons visit a restaurant not just for food or cuisine but for ambience, prompt and personalized services, and hedonic pleasures. The choice of going to a restaurant or to eat at home is a part of consumer’s affective behaviour in which the role of cognitive aspects is reduced. Customers don’t drive satisfaction from the food quality alone but are largely influenced by the service quality factors which are mostly intangible in nature. Restaurants competing for their survival shall aim at delivering higher service quality levels. The competition is high in urban metro regions of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, where the upscale and chain restaurants are in huge numbers located in popular malls and market places and so are the service quality expectations of the customers. Sustained competitive advantage is dependent on continuous delivery of high levels of service quality (Yüksel & Yüksel, 2002; Sulek & Hensley, 2004). Service quality is one of the most researched topics in the marketing literature. Its importance lies in its consequential effects viz., customer satisfaction and behavioural intentions (Bujisic et al., 2014; Ha & Jang, 2012; Ryu et al., 2012). Customer satisfaction is also a key factor that influences the loyalty intentions of a customer. The gap between customer’s expectation and service performance causes discontent in the consumer’s mind. A dissatisfied customer is likely to do more damage than a satisfied customer; hence customer satisfaction holds paramount importance. Therefore, the restaurant service providers (as any other service firm) should aim to minimize the gap between expected service and perceived service for achieving customer satisfaction (Grönroos, 1984). Since, customer satisfaction is predicted by service quality factors, an in-depth inquiry is essential to understand which service quality factors are relevant for the restaurant business and among those which have a significant influence on customer satisfaction.
India is the only emerging economy which has registered growth via services which was evident in 2013. The growth is due to customers liking for foreign cuisines which are flourishing across the urban areas. It is also due to the increase in customers’ likelihood to eat out rather than eating home cooked food. This is due to the emerging lifestyle behaviours which compel the individuals to eat out. This is due to migrant youth working in urban metros and increasing proportion of working class women. International restaurant chains have shifted their offerings to the local menu which also includes vegetarian dishes. Value for money offering for college going and early career youth has also contributed to this growth. Although eating out is an occasional phenomenon, people in major metro cities eat out more frequently because of higher disposable incomes and lesser time available for cooking at home (Euromonitor, 2014). At restaurants customers have also blended enjoyment, experience and service quality as part of their lifestyle and status needs (Anand, 2011). In a nutshell, restaurants largely contribute to the lifestyle needs of urban Indians dwelling in metros and also their need for socialization in a pleasing ambient setting.
Conceptually, service quality has been strongly referred in the literature as it has consequential effects on customer satisfaction and behavioural intentions. Behavioural intentions include Loyalty and Wordof-Mouth (WOM) intentions. The most popular model in this regard was SERVQUAL (Parasuraman et al., 1988) which has been criticised for its limitations. Various studies have found limited applicability of the SERVQUAL model (Cronin Jr. and Taylor, 1992; Dabholkar et al., 1996; Gaur and Agrawal, 2006) for the purpose of this study, therefore scales about cultural context or specific service industry shall be developed. DINESERV (Stevens et al., 1995) is one such scale that has been developed specifically for the restaurant industry.
There are several studies that have focussed specifically on restaurant service quality and have developed scales using SERVQUAL model as a base (Bojanic and Rosen, 1994; Fu and Parks, 2011; John and Tyas, 1996; Lee and Hing, 1995). However, newer have used scales based on DINESERV model (Ha and Jang, 2012; Kim, Joung, Yuan, Wu and Chen, 2009; Ladhari et al., 2008; Markovic et al., 2010). These studies have come up with different dimensions of service quality about restaurants. In addition, the studies focusing specifically on restaurant service quality in the Indian context are limited. Culture is highly contextual in nature. Food and dining habits are an integral part of it. Therefore, in-depth inquiry is mandatory for restaurant service quality in India. Hence, the present study poses the following research questions
RQ1: Does restaurant service quality factors influence customer satisfaction?
RQ2: What is the relationship between customer satisfaction, loyalty and word-of-mouth (WOM) intentions? The process and analysis of the present research are described in the following sections. The next section discusses the review of literature. The review of literature is followed by the description of research methods including data collection and scale development. The research methods lead the way for the analysis, which also includes description of the sample and scale items. The analysis also includes discussion of the results. The analysis is followed by managerial implications, conclusions and limitations.
Review of Literature
Service Quality (SQ)
The concept of SQ has been widely debated and researched since over three decades. SQ is a all about how the customers make a judgement about the superiority of the service (Zeithaml, 1988). Grönroos (1984) discussed two broad types of SQ viz., technical and functional quality. The former is all about what the consumer receives in the service delivery process; the latter is about how the service is delivered to the customer. The functional quality evaluation by the customer is more subjective and hence attracts greater research interests. The functional quality encompasses the affective part of SQ. In other words, it is more about the intangible part of SQ. For restaurant industry, SQ is related to the intangible benefits viz., behavior of the service staff, etc (Stevens et al., 1995).
SQ in Restaurants
SERVQUAL model was restricted to only a few industries and hence could not be generalized to all the service types. DINESERV (Stevens et al., 1995) was developed for the restaurant industry to overcome such limitations. However, many different models emerged out of DINESERV owing to the contextual differences and also based on the type of restaurant.
Various service quality factors influence restaurant consumer satisfaction, which further influence behavioral intentions. However, some studies show a direct relationship between SQ factors and behavioral intentions. The conceptualizations of overall SQ vary across studies; however, its importance is useful in the process of comparison with excellent services (Han and Ryu, 2006). The importance of SQ lies in its relationship with customer satisfaction because this is essential in shaping the Behavioral intentions (BI). The relationship between customer satisfaction and SQ has been under debate for quite some time based on the direction of the relationship.
Some of the earlier research works claimed that customer satisfaction influences service quality while shaping the BI (Bitner, 1990; Bolton and Drew, 1991; Oliver, 1980). Later, most research works proposed that overall SQ influences customer satisfaction in shaping the BI (Cronin and Taylor, 1992; Taylor and Baker, 1994). In addition, even Parasuraman et al. (1994), who had earlier conceptualized the SERVQUAL model, presented a revised model of the relationship between SQ and customer satisfaction. This revised model posited that satisfaction is a function of SQ under a specific transaction. Research works pertaining to restaurant service quality consider service quality as an antecedent to customer satisfaction (Han and Ryu, 2006). Though, indirectly, SQ is also a determinant of customer loyalty. SQ first influences the customer satisfaction that further influences loyalty (Orel and Kara, 2014).
The factors developed in the DINESERV model are same as that of SERVQUAL however with different scale items. Different research works have discussed the influence of restaurant SQ factors evolving from the DINESERV model (or its modified version) on customer satisfaction and behavioral intentions (Ha and Jang, 2012; Ladhari et al., 2008; Markovic et al., 2010).
The role of physical environment in shaping consumer behavior is relevant in the context of restaurants (Booms & Bitner, 1982). Bitner (1992) conceptualized the term servicescape that refers to the man- made physical surroundings. Han and Ryu (2009) discussed that consumers somehow notice the physical surroundings in restaurants. The authors further say that even though the food quality is of acceptable level pleasing settings including, decor, music, layout, etc. largely determines customer satisfaction and its consequences. It is also important to note that the physical environment can be broadly categorized into décor and artifacts, spatial layout, ambient conditions (Han and Ryu, 2009). Décor and artifacts refer to color schemes, ceiling and wall settings, tableware, linen, furniture. Spatial layout is all about how the layout of the restaurant is designed based on the type of service (Nguyen & Leblanc, 2002) such that the patrons derive positive cues from them. The customers would always appreciate ample space and comfortable seating arrangement such they refrain from feeling crowded.
Ambient conditions (or environment/settings) include the elusive aspects of the physical environment. These include lightening, music, scent, temperature, noise levels, etc. Ambient environment variables viz., music has shown positive linkages with the behavioural intentions (North & Hargreaves, 1998). Ryu & Jang (2008) refer the ambient environment as the physical environment has a direct influence on behavioural intentions. Jang and Namkung (2009) identified the direct influence of ambient environment on behavioural intentions using an extended version of the Mehrabian-Russell (MR) model. The ability of ambient factors in influencing customer satisfaction supports its inclusion in the SQ model.
Tripathi and Dave (2014) have come up with a new dimension of restaurant service quality which focuses on culture the scale items for which were derived using interviews with consumers. This dimension is arguable on the premise that many studies have either used culture as the moderating variable in the evaluation of the relationship between SQ and its consequences or it is an antecedent to SQ or has used scale items based on Hofstede’s dimensions.
However, a closer look at the scale-items referring to the cultural orientation (Tripathi and Dave, 2014) it is revealed that focus is on evaluating the extent to which a restaurant is oriented towards respecting its customers based on their cultures. Moreover, partly these variables are seen in previous studies under the domain of restaurant service quality. One such example is “Flexibility for dietary requests” (Harrington et al., 2011). Apart from this since Indian culture is a collectivist culture (Hofstede, 1980), people give priority to “Where from I”. More specifically, it is connected with religion and family. Sriwongrat (2008) discussed the importance of religious food options in making restaurant choices. People love to go out with their extended families for dining out on occasions and get-together parties. Satisfaction is derived from the service quality on a collective basis.
Therefore, it is strongly suggested that cultural orientation dimension should be an antecedent of customer satisfaction, and it shall be included in the SQ model. The dimension shall be understood as the cultural orientation of the restaurant services. It is all about how much the restaurant cares for (or is sensitive to) the cultural and religious beliefs of its patrons.
Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty and WOM Intentions
Customer satisfaction, loyalty and WOM intentions are at the centre of the restaurant business. Customer satisfaction is the main determinant of loyalty (Ladhari et al., 2008). Customer satisfaction is the consumer’s fulfilment response (Oliver, 1997). It is an opinion of the customer about the service aspects. It is about overall happiness with the service experience/ consumption (Andaleeb and Conway, 2006).
A satisfied customer will come back again to experience the services and would recommend the restaurant to others. Hence, the restaurant business gets a boost. Therefore, it is important to uncover what factors are the key influencers of customer satisfaction in restaurants.
The relationship between customer satisfaction and BI is widely discussed in the literature. The study by Jones et al. (2000) indicates that satisfaction from the core-service determines repurchase intentions of a higher level. Cronin Jr. and Taylor (1992) found similar relationships for a variety of services including restaurants. Patterson Repurchase intention is same as customer loyalty intentions as customers show loyalty by repurchasing the services. The other form of BI is WOM intentions. Schneider and Bowen (1999) found that the satisfied customer show positive WOM intentions. This relationship was also supported by Oliver (1997).
The relationship between SQ, Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty and WOM intentions has witnessed variations. Some studies examine the effect of SQ on behavioural intentions (Ha and Jang, 2012) while other studies consider customer satisfaction being influenced by SQ; customer satisfaction further influences behavioural intentions. Behavioural intentions are two-fold viz., repeat visit and WOM intentions (Han and Ryu, 2006). Repeat visit to the restaurant can be understood as exhibiting loyalty. WOM intention is about recommending the restaurant to others and sharing positive aspects about the restaurant.
Garbarino and Johnson (1999) stated that customer satisfaction is extensively discussed as a determinant of loyalty. More specifically satisfaction determines likelihood to repurchase and positive WOM. In various hospitality contexts, researchers have found support for the influence of customer satisfaction on loyalty (Kim et al., 2010; Liu and Jang, 2009; Loureiro and Kastenholz, 2011). Specifically, for the restaurants Chang (2013) found that the customer satisfaction influences loyalty.
According to Ozdemir and Hewett (2010), Behavioral Intentions (BI) is a higher order construct that includes positive word of mouth, willingness to recommend, and intentions to purchase in future. Ladhari et al. (2008) found that satisfaction in the context of dining significantly influences willingness to pay more which, in other words, is an indicator of loyalty.
From the perspective of service marketers, WOM is a common and important form of communication (Swanson and Davis, 2003). The primary source of information for the customers include a different kind of peers viz., colleagues, friends, relatives (Söderlund, 1998). These peer groups spread the WOM in their network. WOM provides judgment about the services (Fong & Burton, 2006). Mangold et al. (1999) pointed out that WOM reduces perceived risk levels and uncertainties associated with purchase decisions regarding services.
In short, being a source of information, WOM acts as an input (or influencer) in consumer decision making (Ng et al., 2011). WOM is a cost-effective method of promoting services. WOM is an informal way of communication made to prospective customers aimed at discussing different aspects of services viz., characteristics, features, usage and service providers (or sellers) (Westbrook, 1987). Theoretically, it is the involvement of the consumer in usage or a situation which can be linked with the restaurants. Therefore, WOM intentions reflect consumers’ involvement with the service. The consumers talk about service to receive attention from their peers or with an intention to help others by sharing their experience with the service (Westbrook, 1987). In addition, WOM provides more trustworthy information to the consumers than an advertisement. The information received from peers reflects more trust than anything other sources. WOM has significantly influenced consumer decision-making and perceptions in the post-purchase stage (Herr et al., 1991; Hennig-Thurau & Walsh, 2003). Customer satisfaction significantly influences recommending the restaurant services to others (Ladhari et al., 2008).
In the present study, the conceptual model presents the behavioural in tentions in two parts viz., loyalty and WOM intentions. Loyalty describes the consumer’s behaviour in involving one-self more and more with the restaurant. Loyalty specifically includes repeat visits to the restaurant, spending more time inside the restaurant premises and spending more on the restaurant services. WOM intentions describe the consumers’ behaviour in disseminating positive things about the restaurant to the peer group. WOM intentions also include recommending the services of restaurants to the peer group.
Based on the aforementioned review of literature the following hypotheses are developed-
HA : SQ factors influence customer satisfaction
HB : Customer Satisfaction influence Loyalty
HC : Customer Satisfaction influence WOM intentions
These relationships can be seen holistically in the structural model under Figure 1.
For the first survey, a number of scale items were put together using various studies on restaurant service quality. The major reference was taken from Stevens et al. (1995) who had delivered DINESERV model. DINESERV is the most referred service quality model in the context of restaurants. Other scale-items have been referred from studies conducted on restaurant service quality. These include the works of Harrington et al. (2011), Hu (2005), Ryu (2005), and Weiss et al. (2005). In addition, a focus group discussion was conducted with the restaurant customers to bring up any further scale items about service quality. A discussion with the people associated with the restaurant business helped in ascertaining the choice of scale items and language used. These people included managers of restaurants and academicians in the field of hospitality. For the second survey scale items for loyalty were referred from the works of Kim et al. (2006), Liang and Zhang (2012) and Ryu (2005). Scale items for satisfaction were referred from the research works of Andaleeb and Conway (2006), Kim et al. (2006), and Meng and Elliott (2008). Scale items for word of mouth were referred from Kim et al. (2006), Kim, Ng and Kim (2009) and Ng et al. (2011). 7-point Likert scale was used to set the scale-items in the questionnaire. The wording of the scale-items were contextualized from the works of Tripathi and Dave (2014).
Sampling and Data Collection
Two levels of the survey were conducted using questionnaires through mall intercept method. The first survey was conducted using the scale items comprising of service quality. The second survey also included scale items on customer satisfaction, loyalty and word of mouth. Various malls and market were targeted in the cities of New Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida and urban localities of Ghaziabad adjoining Delhi. This method of data collection is called mall intercept method. It has been successfully used in the various research works in which time and money are constraints (O’Cass and Grace, 2008; Prasad and Aryasri, 2011).
549 questionnaires were received from the respondents who had just experienced restaurant service out of which 405 were found usable from the first survey. For the second survey, 744 questionnaires were received out of which 508 were useable for further analysis. The respondent profile is provided in Table 1.
Exploratory Factor Analysis
At first an exploratory factor analysis of service quality items was carried out. Data from the first survey was used to extract dimensions of service quality. The variables with cross loadings and communality scores below 0.50 were removed (Hair et al., 2006). The factor structure which was finally retained was also examined for meaningfulness and confirming conceptual base (Pett et al., 2003). It is important that the extracted factors must be theoretically and conceptually strong (Willams et al., 2012).
After 5 iteration of exploratory factor analysis 22 scale items were retained which comprised the seven factors of restaurant service quality. Total variance explained was 72%, the commonality scores of the retained items were at least 0.5. Factor loading for each item retained was minimum 0.5 (Comery and Lee, 1992). The factors extracted were test for their reliability using Cronbach’s α. All the values were found above 0.70 (see Table 2) suggesting an acceptable fit for the model (Nunnally, 1978). Hence, the scale items pertaining to each factor are consistent with each other.
Confirmatory Factor Analysis
Based on the EFA seven factors have emerged. These are tested for confirmation using the CFA. Data from second survey was used for this purpose. The analysis was carried out using AMOS.
The CFA show a good fit of the measurement model (χ2=417.88, df=188, χ2/df= 2.22, GFI= 0.91, NFI=0.91, IFI=0.95, TLI=0.94, CFI=0.95, RMSEA = 0.06, SRMR=0.04). In addition, all the scale items show significant loadings on their associated dimensions. The fit indices for the measurement model show a good fit which is in-line with the recommendations by Byrne (2001). Therefore, it is ascertained that the measurement model confirms that restaurant service quality is a seven factor structure.A second CFA was carried out by adding the consequences of restaurant service quality dimensions in the measurement model. These three dimensions include Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty and Word of Mouth intentions. The results show a good fit (χ2=895.00, df=389, χ2/df=2.30,
GFI= 0.90, NFI=0.90, IFI=0.94, TLI=0.93, CFI=0.94 and RMSEA = 0.05, SRMR=0.04).
Reliability and Validity
The reliability of the model for the restaurant service quality factors was high with Cronbach’s Alpha=0.91 suggesting the model as reliable. Adding the dimensions viz., Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty and Word of Mouth intentions Cronbach’s Alpha=0.93 suggesting the model as reliable. In addition, Reliability of the first measurement model was ascertained by composite reliability and AVE, which are preselected under Table 3a.
Composite reliability and AVE for the second measurement model are presented under Table 3b.
Table 3a: Composite Reliability and AVE for Measurement Model 1
Construct validity represents the level to which the observed variables can reflect the associated latent dimensions (Hair et al., 2006). Construct validity has three main components viz., face validity, convergent validity and discriminant validity which need to be established for ascertaining the construct validity of the model.
Face validity: Face validity is ascertained as the scale items are extracted from the existing literature and are appended based focussed group discussion and discussion with the restaurant owners and managers. It also includes contextualizing the wordings. It is applicable for both the measurement models.
Convergent validity: Factor loadings for each scale item along with average variance extracted (AVE) were examined for establishing convergent validity. All the factor loadings for both the sets were significant with p-value<0.001 and AVE for each construct for restaurant service quality and its consequences were all greater than 0.50 (Fornell and Larcker, 1981). Hence, convergent validity is established (see Tables 3a and 3b).
Discriminant validity: Assessment of discriminant validity can be established based on the comparison between AVE and the associated squared inter-construct correlation. If AVE is greater than its associated squared inter-construct correlation, then discriminant validity is established (Fornell and Larcker, 1981). For both the measurement models, discriminant validity is established as can be inferred from the Tables 4a and 4b. Based on the establishment of three sub-types of validly construct validity is ascertained.
The first step in this regard is to find an adequate model fit for the structural model. It was pre-established through literature that Service Quality influences Customer Satisfaction which in turn influences Behavioural Intentions. In this study behavioural intentions are considered as loyalty and word-of-mouth intentions. The structural model found exhibited a good model fit (χ2=944.70, df= 404, χ2/df= 2.34, GFI= 0.91, NFI=0.91, IFI=0.95, TLI=0.94, CFI=0.95 and RMSEA = 0.05, SRMR=0.04). Further, the hypothesis paths are analysed, and the results are presented in Table 5. The discussion and managerial implications based on the hypotheses results are provided in the next section.
Consequences of restaurant service quality dimensions
Based on the structural model the results revealed that ‘Ambient Environment’, ‘Empathy’ and ‘Reliability and Responsiveness’ had a significant influence on customer satisfaction. In addition, customer satisfaction had a significant influence on loyalty and WOM intentions. All the significant factors of SQ bear a positive value of their co-efficient in influencing the customer satisfaction. In the relationship between customer satisfaction and its consequences customer satisfaction also bear a positive value. This result signifies that the relationship between the SQ constructs (for the significant SQ factors only) and customer satisfaction is positively significant. In addition, the relationship between customer satisfaction and loyalty, and customer satisfaction and WOM intentions show a positively significant relationship.
Discussion and Managerial Implications
The path analysis clearly outlines the three main factors of restaurant SQ that significantly influence customer satisfaction. These three factors are ambient environment, empathy and reliability and responsiveness. It is also found that the customer satisfaction influences loyalty. Besides, customer satisfaction also influences WOM intentions. The study contributes towards the identification of restaurant service quality factors via a seven-factor model. It also contributes towards analysing their influence on customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is further examined for its relationship with its consequences. The restaurant patrons nowadays seek experience and pleasure when they dine-out and not just satisfying their basic need by eating food. Therefore, these factors have a significant influence on customer satisfaction and their subsequently their behavioural intentions.
Reliability and responsiveness constitute restaurant’s ability to deliver services promptly. It encompasses the promises made by the restaurant. These promises are presented in the restaurant’s communication to the customers. Reliability and responsiveness also encompass getting served with the food that was exactly ordered by the customer. The differences in the temperature, ingredients, etc. shall be notified to the customer in advance. Any variation in the ingredients, the temperature, shall be precheck and informed to the customer while the order is taken. With so many foreign cuisines thriving in the national capital region and increased association with the foreigners, the local population has some awareness about the authentic cuisine however many still go with the localised adoptions. However, restaurants who wish to thrive must look at defining their offerings based on whether they are purely authentic, or they are adapted. The whole idea is that post consumption dissonance could happen if the customers don’t receive the order as per their expectations. Prompt and quick service is another aspect that builds reliability and responsiveness. If quick services and prompt responses are not provided customer satisfaction may decline.
Empathy is all about understanding the customer, being aware of the customer and being sensitive to needs of the customer. These kinds of behaviour should be exhibited by the restaurant personnel keeping in mind what the customer will experience in their restaurant. Empathy should be seen critically at the point where the order is delivered to the customer and responds accordingly. For delivering high empathy levels to the customers, the most important factor is the service team that is delivering the order to the customers. It will be their compassion towards delivering services, which might make the customers become emotionally attached to the restaurant. The service team shall aim at anticipating the individual requirements of the consumers. Empathy is a strongly affective part of the service quality due. A high level of empathy is reflected when the customer feels special, and all onus will be on the service team as restaurant service are high contact type. In addition, since the empathy is an affective dimension achieving it is always subjective and, therefore, it is not just about training and guiding the service team in delivering being sensitive to the customer needs. They shall also show flexibility to meet the customer’s special needs. To achieve this restaurant management shall allow the staff authority to override policies and procedures may hinder customer satisfaction. In short, high level of empathy cannot be compromised for little profit as customer satisfaction holds the key due to the affective nature of empathy. Showing high empathy levels are suggestive of customer satisfaction.
The ambient environment has numerous components. However, only three such components viz., lightening, temperature and colour settings were found significant for the present study based on the exploratory factor analysis. Restaurant owners and managers shall look forward to creating a positive environment for the customers. As mentioned earlier in the discussion customers don’t visit a restaurant to address their utilitarian needs only. They also desire for memorable experiences that bring pleasure to them. The ambient environment is the key to creating a memorable experience for the customers who visit a restaurant. An arrangement with a dim light on the table would be the key to addressing the hedonic needs of the customers. Appropriate lightening would create a calm atmosphere that would add to the memories and experiences of the patrons. Similarly, appropriate temperature settings would make the environment cosier and would make customers stay for longer duration and are likely to spend more. New Delhi region needs these settings as it is a landlocked place and experiences extreme temperatures. The colour schemes on the walls, tables, curtains, etc., are also critical for creating a suitable ambient environment. Certain colours create warmth than other colours which are softer. These shall be chosen to suit the theme of the restaurants, its offerings and the kind of patronage that is expected. Ambient environment connects with the customers affectively and hence would make the customers visit again to satisfy their emotional needs. This repeat visit is owing to high levels of customer satisfaction arising out of the ambient environment.
It is worth noting that the customers are indicating customer satisfaction being significantly dependent on intangible aspects and not on the tangible aspects. Intangibleness is a key characteristic of services. Customer satisfaction has resulted in strongly influencing the behavioural intentions. More specifically, customer satisfaction influences both loyalty and WOM intentions. Loyalty is described in the present study as the behaviour of the consumers to visit the restaurant again. In addition, they should spend more time and more money in the restaurant. The restaurant should look towards increasing the customer satisfaction as it leads to loyalty. As can be seen from the Table 5, an increase in one unit of satisfaction would lead to 0.793 units of loyalty which is large. Hence, working on the SQ factors would lead to delivering customer satisfaction levels, which in turn influences loyalty. Similarly, WOM intentions are also influenced by customer satisfaction. WOM intentions are associated with recommending the restaurants to peers. It is also associated with sharing positive things about the restaurant. Table 5 shows that one unit increase in customer satisfaction leads to 0.893 units increase in WOM intentions, which is high. Hence, positive perception of SQ factors, especially the elusive ones would positively influence customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction would result into increase in patronage based on the WOM intentions.
The present study provides an empirical analysis of the SQ factors specific to the restaurants regarding their influence of CS and subsequently on BI (comprising of Loyalty and WOM intentions). Although there are various studies that have pondered on SQ in the restaurant settings the present study focuses on a major urban metro region of India, which is culturally diverse and has a wide range of restaurant offerings including cuisines from both India and abroad. The study also attempts to bring the ambient settings and cultural orientation under the SQ factors using extensive review of literature and focus groups.
Based on the results of the present study it is found that mostly the intangible aspects of SQ are the influencers of CS. The intangible aspect broadly indicates at how the service is delivered to the customer instead of what they receive. Hence, it is suggested that the restaurant shall focus more on the functional quality. The affective part of service quality is more important because the technical aspects of eating (or satisfying the hunger) can be easily fulfilled at home but not the service experience and feeling. The phenomenon of dining out of home is all about experience, enjoyment and socialization that are important aspects of contemporary lifestyle in the urban metro regions.
CS further influences behavioural intentions that comprise of loyalty and WOM intentions. The communication by the restaurants to the consumers is beyond their control especially due to the technological advancements. Hence, the restaurants have the responsibility of monitoring the WOM communications. The repeat visits must be rewarded without fail such that the customers feel special. An enquiry into how the change in perception of SQ factors is influencing the CS and BI of the customers is essential which are discussed in the present study.
In comparison to similar studies viz., Ryu et al (2012), Ryu and Han (2010) and Wall and Berry (2007), which have been widely cited, the present study has some similarities and some differences. It is found that customer satisfaction significantly influences behavioural intentions, which is similar to the results of Ryu and Han (2010). However, the present study envisages behavioural intentions in two parts viz., loyalty and WOM intentions that are influenced by customer satisfaction. The present study, however, uses structural equation modelling thereby overcoming the limitations of hierarchal multiple regression, which was used by Ryu and Han (2010). Ryu et al. (2012) examined a complex model using structural equation modelling that involved the influence of SQ on customer satisfaction via some other latent variable. However, these paths were partly insignificant. Customer satisfaction significantly influenced behavioural intentions. In both of the previous studies, the authors have given sound consideration to food quality and physical environment. In the present study, food quality in not considered as the study focuses mainly on the quality of service. In addition, the physical environment can be seen as part of the ambient environment and as part of privacy
and entertainment factors in the present study. Hence, the present study provides a fresh examination of the relationship between service quality and its consequences that are conceptualized in the urban metro region of the national capital territory of Delhi in India.
Limitations and Further Research
The present study provides a fresh perspective on SQ factors pertaining to restaurants. The new factors especially the cultural orientation needs further research for in similar settings for its place in the SQ model. The present study is limited only to the restaurant services. Other services should be researched for the purpose of fitting the cultural orientation dimension in SQ model that will support wide scale generalization. The study only brings up the perspective of restaurant patrons from Delhi region only. These results cannot be generalized for the whole country. Hence, further research, especially in southern India, can be useful. Similar research can also be conducted in smaller cities and towns across the country. In addition, the relationship between SQ factors and their consequences can also be analysed for differences based on the customer profiles. Although the distinction between various restaurant types is quite obvious, the definition in the minds of the customers in India is hybridized. In fact, sometimes customers go to posh quick service restaurant and discuss in their peer groups about their recent visit to a fine-dine restaurants. Similarly, understanding about the casual dining in comparison to fine dine or quick service restaurants is blurred. Therefore, comparative research on broader categories of restaurants shall be carried out in which the difference between two restaurant types is clear-cut.
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Gaurav Tripathi, BIMTECH, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Kartik Dave, School of Business, Public Policy & Social Entrepreneurship, Ambedkar University, Delhi, India. Email: email@example.com.