Foodservice Consumer Choice and Service Strategies

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2011 International Conference on Innovation, Management and Service IPEDR vol.14(2011) © (2011) IACSIT Press, Singapore

Identifying the Dimensions of Customer Preference in the Foodservice Industry Assoc. Prof. Dr. Firdaus Abdullah1, Abg Zainoren Abg Abdurahman², Prof. Dr. Jamil Hamali³ ¹²³Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia

Abstract. Foodservice industry management must place a high priority on understanding the growing markets. This fast growing industry has a huge influence on the global economy, however it is greatly affected by customers’ ever-changing preferences. It is essential for managers to gain and sustain strategic advantage in the highly competitive industry, however to become and remain competitive in this industry requires a local customer preference assessment. This paper presents the dimensions of customer preference in the food service industry, empirically tested for unidimensionality, reliability and validity using both exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. A 30-item questionnaire was designed and distributed to 1000 foodservice customers, yielding a response rate of 64.2%. Factorial analysis confirmed five dimensions of customer preference, and using multiple regression, their order of importance are Halal (Allowable in Islam), Price, Quality of Service, Branding and Tangibles.

Keywords: customer preference, foodservice industry, dimensions

1. Introduction
In the ever changing market environment, today’s foodservice operators must place a high priority on understanding the market in order to retain and sustain strategic advantage in the highly competitive foodservice industry [1]. This industry is considered to be the fastest growth industry in the global market (Gu and Kim, 2002), and it is described by players of the industry as being in the middle of a perfect storm (Haas, 2008). It is important to note that the foodservice industry is influenced by fast-changing customer preferences (See Kara et al., 1995; Blum, 1996; Sun and Morrison, 2006; Waldfogel, 2008). While preferences can be regarded as an individual’s attitude towards a set of objects, (Lichtenstein & Slovic, 2006), customer preference is about choices among valued options with acceptance indicating a willingness to tolerate the status quo (Fife-Schaw, 2007). Studies of customer preference for foodservice attributes are very limited (see Park, 2004; Choi et al., 2009). Likewise, changes in customer preference will make existing strategies no longer valid for the operators within the foodservice industry (Blum, 1996). Therefore, these operators must be prepared to identify and meet changing customer preferences resulting from changes in the demographic, technological, societal, legal, cultural or ethical characteristics of the industry. Previous research showed that the most important attributes determining whether a customer will return to a foodservice establishment was the quality of service, and the least considered factors were place and ambiance (Namkung, et al., 2007; Bojanic et al., 2007). On the contrary, Knutson, (2000) contended that price was one of the top-ranked influences with regard to foodservice establishment choices. Literature also showed that price was a concern when customers took their families and the least concern when consuming business meals (Koo et al., 1999). Pedraja and Yague (2001) found that customers searched for information about a foodservice outlet, especially where there were price differences among outlets.

2. Research Background
Customer Preference

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In the psychology literature, preferences can be regarded as an individual’s attitude towards a set of objects, typically reflected in an explicit decision-making process (Lichtenstein & Slovic, 2006). On the other hand, one could interpret the term “preference” to mean evaluative judgement in the sense of liking or disliking an object (e.g., Scherer, 2005), which is the most...
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