This research examines customer attitudes and satisfaction with compliance practices in the fast food industry, looking specifically at McDonald’s. Through qualitative and quantitative research methods, it was ascertained that as a majority, customers are satisfied and willing to comply with the requirements of the service routine. Customer attitudes were then determined and several motives for the compliance behaviour emerged.
McDonald’s has had such success since opening the first store in the 1940’s that today it is the leading global fast-food service provider. McDonald’s introduced a system of food service known as “Speedee Service System”, inspired by the assembly-line system of Henry Ford, which revolutionized the restaurant industry. It was the first restaurant to apply automation to both food production and service to customers, where getting food became a somewhat self-service concept. McDonald’s capitalizes on the nature of today’s fast-paced society by being organised so customers are fed as efficiently as possible; they offer a limited, simple menu that can be cooked and served in an assembly-line fashion (Ritzer, 1993:13-14). Ritzer (1993) also suggests that to increase efficiency McDonald’s must be concerned about controlling the customers they serve, which introduces the theory of compliance in a fast-food context. Customers of service organizations have important roles to play, and McDonald’s is an example of a specific customer-service provider relationship. Well-developed rules and established guidelines exist, which define the activities of customers in the service production (Mills and Morris, 1986). Specification and control of customer role behaviour is straightforward and can be achieved through formalisation. McDonald’s standardizes the behaviour of non-employees in order to achieve their objective of routinization, thus it becomes part of the labour process to induce customers to behave in ways that will not interfere with the smooth operation of work routines (Leidner, 1993: 2). McDonald’s fundamentally controls every aspect of the customer involvement, and through formalization customers have role clarity and are familiar with the service routine; which include queuing to order, placing an order at a counter, waiting for your food and taking it to your table. Customers are required to comply with these procedures to receive the food service. Leidner (1993) deduces that McDonald’s ensures these procedures are kept by a rigorous training program for all employees where they are thoroughly trained how to routinize and standardize all food production and service provision, for example the rigid scripts which are taught to employees. With this in mind, and reviewing the other literature, it is evident that control over customer behaviour exists in McDonald’s and hence compliance. Service at McDonald’s is a prime example of how roles in the service sector have changed. The need for employees decreases as customers are being made to work themselves, such as at petrol pumps and supermarket self-checkouts; customers are essentially becoming unpaid employees. For example after customers in McDonald’s have finished their meal they dutifully clear their rubbish. However as researchers we question whether customers are content with the control that is enforced by McDonald’s during the food service routine and why they are willing to comply. Customer satisfaction is often measured within the food industry, for example with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) in the U.S., however measures such as this (although service is included as a measure) aim to examine a general level of satisfaction with focus on food quality, variety and cost. Little research has been done into customer satisfaction with required compliance of the service routine itself and moreover their attitude towards it, therefore this is what this study aims to examine. Research in other industries has...
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