Purpose – The purpose of this study is to analyze and describe the drivers in the physical environment that help to form customers' service experiences at restaurants, as described by customers in their own words.
Design/methodology/approach – A critical incident study was conducted through 122 interviews resulting in a total of 195 favourable and unfavourable customer service experiences in restaurants. Data were analysed inductively in accordance with the principles of constant comparison and the results were interpreted by regarding customers as creators of their own meaning.
Findings – The physical environment has both a functional and a social dimension and it is an important driver of customer service experiences in restaurants. Customers interact with these drivers individually and create their own meanings and value expressed as feelings, thoughts, imagination and behaviour.
Research limitations/implications – The results develop the tenets of service-dominant logic by offering some insight into customers' own logic in value creation and the design of the physical restaurant environment.
Practical implications – Customers actively construct their own individual meanings from the physical environment, throughout the whole service process, indicating that the customer service experience is not controlled solely by restaurant management. As some drivers are only experienced in their absence or when they are noticeably disturbing or pleasing, it is important for managers to understand these dimensions in order to treat them appropriately. Both favourable and unfavourable service experiences need to be considered.
Originality/value – The physical environment can be described as a dynamic driver which includes a social dimension and customers are regarded as active creators of their own experience.
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2012. Vol. 4, no 2, 104-119 p.
Online from: 2009.