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Measuring and Improving Quality in Restaurants

Outline

A certain full restaurant located in the city has been experiencing a devastating situation in the past six months. This has been in the form of a drop in restaurant patronage, which is predicted to be a result of an associated decline in the level of service quality offered to restaurant consumers. The management is in search of a plan through which to collect data regarding the restaurant’s current situation, which will later lead to improvement in its overall performance. After evaluating the efficiency of a number of instruments used in evaluating service quality in restaurants, SERVQUAL shows the capability of providing adequate data collection.

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Introduction

The level of service quality provided to customers in restaurants forms a very important subject of study to academic researchers as well as restaurant managers. Several approaches have been applied on this issue, with the largest number utilizing questionnaires in order to gauge consumer perceptions concerning service quality. Some of these approaches have limitations, for instance, when an approach is assumed to be applicable everywhere while items under study are accorded the same level of importance regarding service quality evaluation. These weaknesses are overcome by making use of consumer attributes as well as the importance they attach to these attributes regarding the quality of service they receive from restaurants.

It is important that knowledge on consumer assessment of service variables is acquired prior to conducting measurement on their preferences. The best criteria through which to measure and improve service quality in restaurants have not been reached. However, there are a number of instruments that have been devised and applied in service quality, including SERVQUAL, DINESERV, and LODGSERV instruments. All these instruments serve the purpose of evaluating the level of service quality, but each has its own methodology of conducting the assessment. (Chen, 2004 pp. 25-27)

Current Literature Relevant to Measuring and Improving Quality in Restaurants

An increasing number of researchers have currently engaged themselves in studies concerning the measurement of the quality of services provided in restaurants, which later result in the formulation of ways through which to upgrade the quality. Research on this area started to pick momentum twenty years ago and has greatly intensified within the course of the past ten years. This study is based on the notion that the provision of good service is derived from the identification of services and behavior preferred by customers.

A scale is known as SERVQUAL, which makes use of multiple items, has been developed, and it is applied in carrying out service quality assessment. This is a standard instrument used in collecting perceived information concerning service quality. It portrays the level and direction of existing variation between expectations as well as perceptions held by consumers. The application of SERVQUAL operates on the belief that consumer’s perception regarding service quality comes from their association of quality of service they expect to be offered with how they view services offered to them at a particular time.

Five different dimensions used in service quality evaluation have been identified by researchers and have contributed a lot to studies conducted in restaurants. They include measurement of tangibles where the quality of equipment used in restaurants is assessed and gauged accordingly. The manner in which restaurant personnel presents themselves physically, including their dress code and general grooming, is also a dimension constituted in the tangibles category. The second dimension is reliability, where service providers’ ability to deliver services in an accurate and responsible manner is gauged.

Empathy forms the third dimension, and it involves the measurement of direct attention that service providers according to their customers, that is, whether they are caring or not. The fourth dimension is responsiveness, where service providers are assessed on their willingness to assist customers and to offer them prompt services. Assurance is yet another dimension applied in service quality assessment where courtesy and level of employees’ knowledge is assessed, as well as their capacity to encourage customers to have confidence in their services. (Edvardsson, 1991 pp.18-20)

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The application of SERVEQUAL influenced the development of another instrument known as LODGSERV, which was aimed at improving the level of measurements derived through SERVQUAL. Applicability of the new instrument was directed to measurement of services provided in lodging facilities which form part of five-star hotels and also provided improved measurement in other areas. “Reliability dimension is rated as the essential assessment dimension, and it is followed by assurance according to the level of measurements provided by LODGSERV instrument.

Responsiveness dimension comes after assurance, followed by tangibles while empathy takes the last position in this particular ranking” (Edvardsson, 1991 pp.21-22). This ranking applies not only to customers’ rating of lodging services and facilities but also to other areas of services provided in restaurants. The efficiency of LODGSERV is increased by the situation where it provides instructions in a variety of languages allowing it to be applicable in several cultures. Application of both LODGSERV and SERVQUAL has led to the development of another instrument known as DINESERV, which serves a similar purpose of service quality evaluation in restaurants.

DINESERV is normally applied in three major areas of service provision within restaurants, including fine dining, evaluation of quick service as well as a theme or main purpose of the particular service provider. DINESERV portrays a high level of reliability and validity which is depicted in the consistency of information provided by the various measuring dimensions. Generally, services of high quality are preferred in the restaurant market, and in cases where it is accompanied by high performance, it leads to a profitable business. (Edvardsson, 1991 pp.23-26)

Recommendations for a Process Which the Restaurant Should Use to Gather Appropriate Data and Ideas for Improvement

Among the various instruments applicable in the measurement of service quality provided in restaurants, SERVQUAL provides appropriate assessment services, especially for a full restaurant like the one under the study. This instrument has been under use for quite some time, and it makes use of all the five evaluation dimensions through which it collects information on customers’ perceptions concerning service quality offered to them.

In SERVQUAL applications, perceived quality of services is considered as a global judgment that is related to service superiority. When being applied in restaurants, it deals with the gap existing between consumers’ expectations from service providers and their perceptions regarding services being provided to them. The fact that the SERVQUAL approach is supported by a wide range of empirical research makes it appropriate for this particular study on a full restaurant. It is available at considerable prices, and its application process is quite easy to follow in order to come up with valuable service quality information.

However, in spite of the high validity of customer satisfaction associated with information provided through the SERVQUAL instrument, it has a number of limitations attached to its performance in measuring time, scale, and dimensions. Measurements collected through the SERVQUAL instrument tend to vary across areas of application, but it still provides a fair indication of perceptions held by consumers concerning service quality. (Brymer, 2001 pp.45-47)

SERVEQUAL is normally comprised of two different sections where the first section is used to measure the level of consumers’ expected service while the second section evaluates the level of consumers’ perceived service. “A standard formula is used while applying SERVQUAL where Q represents SERVQUAL score; P represents perception score while E represents expectation score. The resultant expectation score is subtracted from the perception score in order to come up with a SERVQUAL score.

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This instrument’s scale consists of twenty-nine different operating statements in which its five dimensions’ evaluation is distributed” Other than the general gap encountered in restaurant service quality evaluation, another gap existing between adequate and perceived service is normally assessed using SERVQUAL. This second gap is referred to as the adequacy gap used in assessing restaurant service adequacy, and it is designated as MSA.

In this particular case, adequate service rates are deducted from the perceived service level, and similar deductions are applied in order to come up with service superiority measurement (MSS). Results from MSS as well as MSA scores lead to the categorization of restaurant services into three different categories, including competitive advantage category, competitive disadvantage category, or customer franchise category. Negative scores group a restaurant in the competitive disadvantage category signifying that its service quality is below consumers’ adequate as well as desired service ranking.

Competitive advantage rating is accorded to restaurants when results portray negative MSS scores but positive MSA scores. In this case, the quality of restaurant services goes above minimum levels according to customers’ expectations but below their desired level, which is not a big problem since customers are expected to get used to the restaurant’s services with time. Lastly, customer franchise ranking is accorded when both types of scores are positive, showing that desired, as well as expected levels, have been met, leading to the attraction of loyal customers. (Brymer, 2001 pp.48-52).

SERVQUAL’s Methodology

Application of this particular instrument in collecting data on the situation of the restaurant under the study will require SERVQUAL’s methodology. In this methodology, a random sampling approach will be used to select a study population. Members of the study population will be comprised of restaurant customers picked from those visiting the restaurant at the time this study will be taking place.

This study population will be divided into two groups where one will be questioned using questionnaires while the second group will answer questions through discussions of focus groups. “Discussion through focus groups is the situation where population under study is categorized into groups. A researcher holds meetings with each group, guiding them through a number of questions that they answer and discuss as a group.

On the other hand, questionnaires involve a set of questions that are recorded in a piece of paper and distributed to members of the study population who give their personal views without consulting and discussing with each other” (Schneider, 2003 pp 63-65). The structured questionnaires’ design will be based on SERVQUAL’s attributes which will be categorized in its five dimensions. Results from discussions through focus groups and questionnaires will be analyzed using statistical software known as SPSS.

Example of Set Of (Up To 10) Questions for a Focus Group

A focus group will be used to conduct discussions concerning the quality of services provided. A number of questions will be discussed in groups of five, where the distinct areas will be covered. (Dale, 2003 pp.63-65)

Among the questions that will be used in discussions of focus groups include;

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  1. What is the general appearance of the restaurant?
  2. What area of service provision do you feel should be given more attention?
  3. What equipment do you feel the restaurant is missing, and would you want it fixed?
  4. Are you comfortable with the management operations of this restaurant?
  5. How do you find the conference room’s capacity?
  6. How do you find the available prices of services provided?
  7. Have you noted some change in the quality of the restaurant’s services over the past six months?
  8. If there are changes, how are they, and in what areas have the changes been portrayed?
  9. What general term would you use to describe the restaurant’s service providers considering their professionalism?
  10. What services do you expect the restaurant to provide?

A Short Questionnaire

According to Dale (2003 pp 66-67), the structure of the SERVQUAL questionnaire will be comprised of twenty-two attributes which will be in the form of questions to consumers. The questionnaire will be partitioned into five different parts, equivalent to SERVQUAL’s five dimensions. The following questionnaire represents an example of what will be applied in the evaluation. Respondents are asked to tick the choice that fits their answer.

Section A. Tangibles dimension

  • Is the appearance of restaurant materials appealing? a) Yes b) No
  • Are the available natural attractions visually appealing? a) Yes b) No
  • Do the restaurant employees appear well-groomed? a) Yes b) No
  • Do the available restaurant facilities fit services provided to consumers? a) Yes b) No

Section B. Reliability dimension

  • Do service providers offer services on time? a) Yes b) No
  • Do service providers handle customers’ problems promptly? a) Yes b) No
  • If yes, how did you consider their handling of problems? a) Dependable b) Undependable
  • How precise is the information provided to restaurant customers by service providers? a) Accurate b) inaccurate
  • What is the state of records on services provided? a) Accurate b) inaccurate

Section C. Responsibility dimension

  • Do employees give exact information on when to provide certain services? a) Yes b) No
  • Do employees show willingness to offer help? a) Yes b) No
  • If yes, how busy are service providers when assistance is asked for? a) too busy b) busy c) Always ready to assist
  • If (c), how quick are they when providing services? a) Very fast b) Fast c) slow

Section D. Assurance dimension

  • How do service providers conduct themselves while providing services? a) Confidently b) without confidence
  • Do service providers instill a sense of security while carrying out transactions? a) Yes b) no
  • What trend do the courtesy provided by employees follow? a) Consistent b) inconsistent
  • Are service providers well equipped with training and knowledge concerning restaurant service provision? a) Yes b) No

Section E. Empathy dimension

  • Do service providers provide consumers with personal attention? a) Yes b) No
  • Do service providers treat consumers’ specific needs with understanding? a) Yes b) no
  • What is the condition of service providers’ operating hours? a) Convenient b) inconvenient
  • What is the condition and location of equipment used in the restaurant? A) Convenient b) Inconvenient
  • Are event arrangements in the restaurant in line with customers’ requirements? a) Yes b) no

Conclusion

It is clear that; there are a variety of instruments that can be applied in the assessment of the quality level of services provided in restaurants. These instruments have been studied by researchers over time which has resulted in their development in order to increase their efficiency. SERVQUAL is one of these instruments, and it has been in use in various distinct areas. Some other instruments like LODGSERVE and DINSERVE have been developed to complement some of SERVQUAL’s limitations, but they do not offer the same services provided by SERVQUAL.

This means that SERVEQUAL is still unique in its own way, which leads to a recommendation of its application in the evaluation of service quality in this particular restaurant under study. (Schneider, 2003 pp 66-67)

References

Brymer, R 2001, ‘Hospitality & Tourism: An Introduction to the Industry’, Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co, pp. 45-52.

Chen, J 2004, ‘Advances in Hospitality and Leisure’, Emerald Group Publishing, pp. 25-27.

Dale, B 2003, ‘Managing quality’, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 63-67.

Edvardsson, B 1991, ‘Service quality: multidisciplinary and multinational perspectives’, Lexington Books, pp.18-26.

Schneider, B 2003, ‘Service quality: research perspectives’, SAGE, pp.72-78.

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