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This study attempts to measure customers' perceptions of service quality in a chain-operated steakhouse using a modified version of the DINESERV instrument (Stevens, Knuston, and Patton, 1995). All five dimensions of service quality, being tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy, will be used. The questionnaire survey will be conducted on a two-week period during lunch and dinnertime at all 14 steakhouse restaurants. All customers who come to restaurants for lunch and dinner during the two-week research period will be asked to complete the questionnaires. The Cronboch Coefficient Alpha will be used to test the construct reliability. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) will be used to determine the differences of customers' perceived service quality for five dimensions between two meals and different groups of loyalty. In addition, correlation analysis will be used to determine the relationship between customers' perceived service quality and customers' characteristics such as gender, marital status, age, and reasons for dining. The results of this study will asssist restaurant management to assess the service quality provided to its patrons. Results of this study will also help restaurant management establish a total quality management (TQM) program to improve overall service quality to its patrons.
Keywords: Service quality; SERVQUAL; DINESERV; chain-operated steakhouse
High quality goods and service are favored in the marketplace and high service quality performance does produce measurable benefits in profits, cost savings, and market share (Anderson, Fornell, & Lehmam, 1994). Research also indicated that service quality has been increasingly recognized as a critical factor in the success of any business (Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry, 1988). The topic of measuring service quality has been studied extensively in the past fifteen years. In 1988, Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry develpoed a multiple-attribute scale called SERVQUAL for measuring service quality. The SERVQUAL scale operationalises and measures service quality along five distict dimensions that can be viewed as indicators of the construct of perceived service quality. The SERVQUAL instrument has been verified and tested in assessing service quality in restaurant business (Bojanic & Rosen, 1994; Fu, 1999; Fu, Cho, & Parks, 2000) as well as in the tourism industry (Riemer & Reichel, 2000). Stevens, Knutsons, & Patton (1995) proposed an instrument called DINESERV to assess customers' perceptions of a restaurant's service quality. DINESERV was adapted and refined from SERVQUAL and LODGSERV (a measuring scale for service quality in lodging properties) containing 29 statements on a 7-point response scale. It was used to undertake periodical surveys and to determine changes in perceptions as the results of changes in normative expectations and of service quality delivered. The DINESERV instrument have been extensively used in measuring service quality in the restaurant buiness including the airport food service (Heung, Wong, & Qu, 2000), fine dining restaurants (Knutson, Steven, & Patton, 1995), casual dining restaurants (Knutson, Steven, & Patton, 1995; Kim, McCahon & Miller, 2000; Wu, Hoover, & Williams, 2000), mid-price Chinese restaurant (Wu, Goh, Lin, & Poynter, 1999), quick service restaurants (Knutson, Steven, & Patton, 1995; Huang, 2000), and assisted living facilities (Patnaude & Graves, 2000). Many researchers have concluded that DINESERV is a valid and reliable index for measuring servcie quality in restaurant business. The purpose of this study is to validate five dimensions of service quality contained in the DINESERV Instrument in a chain-operated steakhouse and explore the differences in perceived servcie quality for customers at different serving periods and for groups of different customer loyalty. using the modified DINESERV instrument. The results of this study would help the management identify the strength and weakness of service quality and implement an effective strategy to meet the customers' expectations.
Many researchers have conducted studies in measuring service quality in the past twenty years. In 1982, McCleary and Weaver indicated that good service is defined on the basis of identification of measurement behaviors that are important to customers. Zemke and Albrecht (1985) suggested that service plays an important role in defining a restaurant's competitive strategies and identified systems and strategies for managing service. In 1988, Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry developed a multiple-item scale for measuring service quality called SERVQUAL. SERVQUAL is a generic instrument for measuring perceived service quality that is viewed as the degree and direction of discrepancy between consumers' perceptions and expectations. Thus, service quality, as perceived by consumers, stems from a comparison of what they feel service providers should offer with their perceptions of the performance of service provided by service providers (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1988). The researchers also identified that there are five dimensions to service quality. The following is a list of the five dimensions and a brief description of each:
Tangibles: (physical facilities, equipment, and appearance of personnel).
Reliability: (ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately).
Responsiveness (willingness to help customers and provide prompt service).
Assurance (knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence).
Empathy (caring, individualized attention the firm provides its customers).
The SERVQUAL scale was employed to measure the service quality in an electric and gas utility company (Babakus and Boller, 1992) as well as restaurants (Bojanic and Rosen, 1994; Fu, 1999). In 1990, Knuston, Wullaert, Patton & Yokoyama drafted LODGSERV to improve on what a generic instrument might do in defining and measuring service quality, specifically for lodging properties. Among the five dimensions, reliability was found to be the most important of the five dimensions for lodging consumers followed, in ranking, by assurance, responsiveness, tangibles, and empathy (Knutson, Stevens, Wullaert, Patton and Yokoyama, 1990). Subsequently, Knutson, Yokoyama, Patton, and Thompson (1990) analyzed the statistical methodology itself, comparing the uses of confirmatory analysis versus factor analysis in index testing and refinement.
Then, in 1992, Knuston, Stevens, Patton, and Thompson studied consumer expectations for service quality in economy, mid-price, and luxury hotels. Across the three segments, they found that the five dimensions maintained their same ranking positions and that the higher the price category, the higher the consumer expectations of service quality. As a next step, Patton, Stevens and Knutson (1994) translated the instrument into other languages and pilot-tested LODGSERV in five other cultures. The instrument worked equally well, retaining its high validity level across each of the five pilot tests.
In 1995, Stevens, Knutson, and Patton drafted DINSERV after adapting the instrument SERVQUAL to the restaurant industry and using the lessons learned in developing and refining LODGSERV. The instrument was used to measure consumer expectations for service quality in three restaurant segments: quick service, casual/theme, and fine dining (Stevens, Knutson, and Patton, 1995). Like LODGSERV, DINESERV was found to have a high degree of reliability. The alpha for the total index is .95, while the reliability coefficients (alpha levels) for the five dimensions range from .89 to .92 (Stevens, Knutson, and Patton, 1995). Results show that DINESERV is a valid and reliable index by which consumer expectations for service quality in a restaurant experience can be measured.
In 1999, Wu, Goh, Lin and Chen conducted a study in measuring service quality in a mid-price multi-unit Chinese restaurant using the DINESERVE instrument. The authors evaluated the customer perceptions of service quality and identified the differences in customer perceived service quality between lunch and dinner and between new customers and regular customers (Wu, Goh, Lin, and Chen, 1999). Kim, McCahon, and Miller (1999) also conducted a study to validate five dimensions of the DINESERV instrument in Korean casual dining restaurants and explored the differences in perceived service quality by restaurant. It is also hypothesized that perceived service quality differs based upon characteristics of the patrons. The present study attempts to evaluate customers' perceptions of service quality in a chain-operated steakhouse using modified DINESERV instrument. Results can be compared to the results of previous studies.
DINESERV intrument will be modified and translated into Chinese and pilot- tested. It would contain 29 questions divided into five service quality dimensions. They are tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. Responses would be on a 7-point likert scale from 'strongly agree" (7) to "strongly disagree" (1). The questionnaire survey will be conducted on a two-week period during lunch and dinner time at 14 restaurants of a chain-operated steakhouse. All customers who come to restaurants for lunch and dinner during the two-week research period will be asked to complete the questionnaires. A restaurant coupon will be given to the customers who agree to participate in the survey to prompt the response rate. The Cronboch Coeffecient Alpha will be used to test the construct reliability. Analysis of variances (ANOVA) will be used to determine the difference of dimension scores in tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurances and empathy between different meals and different groups in loyalty. In addition, correlation analysis will be used to determine the relationship between customers' perceived service quality and their characteristics such as gender, marital status, age, and reasons for dining.