Presented by: Dr. So-Yeon Yoon, Helen Chun, Kate Min
The goal of the study is to understand how loud noise effects customer experience in a crowded food service environment. From a theoretical and practical perspective, ambient factors play a significant role in food service environments. For example, noise is one of the most common complaints of restaurant-goers (Zagat, 2015). However, little research has empirically studied how noise and crowding influence customer experience. This study evaluated how loud ambient noises impact customer dining experiences by conducting a field study with noise reduction intervention in a popular and crowded Vietnamese restaurant in Upstate New York. The selected restaurant serves 250-300 customers daily and receives 4.5/5.0 star ratings on tripAdvisor and Yelp. Given that prior research has acknowledged the negative customer experience in loud restaurants (Anderson, 2008; Clark, 2014), this study attempts to expand the literature with a better understanding of the effects of perceived noisiness and sound pressure levels in multiple aspects of customer dining experience including service quality, food quality, ambience, emotions and intentions to revisit and recommend. The field study was conducted in two phases, before and after the noise reduction intervention. For both phases, surveys were conducted during the dining hours, 5:30-9:30pm, on two Friday nights. High performance noise absolving panels (NRC= .85) were installed throughout the restaurant ceiling a week after the first survey. Two weeks later, the second survey was completed on a Friday. All customers who entered the restaurant during that day’s dinner hours were asked by a research assistant to participate in our study immediately before they received the meal check from the waiter. Each participants received a $3.00 discount off the meal check if they agreed to complete the survey. Sound pressure levels were recorded both Fridays. A total of 286 customer responses were analyzed, 144 of which were from the pre intervention phase, while 142 were from the post intervention phase. The average noise level dropped from 81 dB-A to 72 dB-A after the intervention. Questionnaire results indicated a statistically significant difference in customers perceived noise levels pre and post intervention. Hypotheses were formulated to test the relationships between noise, emotions, and perceived food and service quality, as well as how customer’s demographic factors were associated with behavioral intentions. Customer experience was measured using a self –report 7 point Likert scale. The analysis results show significantly higher ratings in food taste, interior design ratings, and repatronage intention during the post-intervention phase. In both phases, it was found that the self-rated noisiness of the restaurant and the ease of conversation significantly influenced the perceived taste of the food; noisiness was negatively associated with perceived food quality, and ease of conversation was positively associated with perceived food quality and positive emotions. Ease of conversation significantly influenced customers’ service quality perception and repatronage intention, whereas perceived noisiness did not reach a statistically significant level. Ease of conversation was found to be a more sensitive measure for subjective experience of ambient noise in this context. Repatronage intention was mediated by positive emotions associated with ease of conversation. In the presentation, effects of customer group characteristics as well as individual characteristics on dining experience will be discussed. Findings of this study provides the basis for subsequent major studies on the effects of ambient noise on customer experience and behavior in a variety of environments. This study propose practical design and managerial implications associated with the design intervention.
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