SERVQUAL is the most popular instrument to ascertain service quality. However, some debate exists about its ability to characterize different service environments. Furthermore, there is not a consensus about the inclusion of customer expectations in the model. The research presented in this paper intends to discuss the applicability of SERVQUAL to restaurant services and to analyze the inclusion of customer expectations in such environment. The research was developed in a Portuguese resort and more than 300 customers, from two different restaurants, were invited to participate in the study.
It has been well recognized the crucial role played by service organizations in developed countries, being quality and corresponding customer satisfaction essential to increase the effectiveness, efficiency and competitiveness of these organizations (Leal and Pereira, 2003). Tourism industry has become not only a driver for economic progress of many countries, of which Portugal is a good example, but also a vehicle to approximate people and cultures. Various policies have been issued and several initiatives aimed at improving tourism quality have also been fostered and implemented by private and public organizations all over the world. Despite these facts, it has been acknowledged both by tourists and public authorities that the level of quality has to be enhanced rapidly in all tourism activities, catering included. Being SERVQUAL the most utilized model in service quality research and applications, it seems interesting to analyze how well the SERVQUAL structure can be applied to restaurant services. SERVQUAL was originated in 1988 and it was founded on the conceptual model developed by Parasuraman et al.(1985). The early work of these researchers was based on the comparison of service performance against a single expectation standard. According to this, perceived service quality can be expressed as follows: Perceived service quality = perceived service (P) – expected service (E)
Applicability of SERVQUAL in restaurants: an exploratory study in a Portuguese resort
Despite the recent multi-expectation approaches advocated by several authors (e.g. Johnston, 1995; Wirtz and Bateson, 1999; Walker and Baker, 2000), the work presented in this paper is based on the aforementioned single expectation standard. Thus, the original SERVQUAL instrument (Parasuraman et al., 1988) is used to assess customer’s expectations and perceptions. The instrument includes five dimensions of service quality (Zeithaml et al, 1990). To ascertain the quality of service provided by a restaurant, the following 22 items were considered within these dimensions: Tangibles (four items) 1. Restaurant has modern-looking equipment 2. The physical facilities are visually appealing 3. Employees are neat-appearing 4. Materials associated with the service are visually appealing Reliability (five items) 5. When the restaurant promises to do something by a certain time, it does so 6. When a customer has a problem, the restaurant shows a sincere interest in solving it 7. The restaurant performs the service right the first time 8. Services are provided at the time the restaurant promises to do 9. The records are error-free Responsiveness (four items) 10. Employees tell customers when services will be performed 11. Employees give prompt service to customers 12. Employees are willing to help customers 13. Employees are never too busy to respond to customer’s requests Assurance (four items) 14. The behaviour of employees instil confidence in customers 15. Customers feel safe in their transactions 16....