Customer perceptions for expectations and acceptance of an authentic dining experience in Thai restaurants



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Texas Tech University


Multiculturalism is an intrinsic part of the historical formation and development of the United States. The U.S. is also a multiethnic and multilingual society, a trend that will increase in the future (US Census Bureau, 1990). One of the important components of ethnicity is expressed in the manner in which ethnic groups prepare and serve their food. Every group uses a distinct method of cooking and traditional ingredients in their dishes. Ethnic foods represent a dynamic and evolving category.

Over time foods that were considered ethnic, like pizza, have become a part of the mainstream in the American diet. Most recently, restaurateurs are beginning to mix and combine the influences and traditions from a variety of ethnic origins in a fusion of cuisines and flavors.

Today, Thai food is very popular. Many Thai restaurants open each year in the U.S. to meet the needs of the Thai population and others. Today in the U.S., Westerners are more accepting of international cuisines than before. Most Thai restaurant owners are Thais who may or may not have experience in the restaurant business. It is important for restaurateurs to know consumer demand before opening a restaurant due to the high rate of restaurant failures.

Sometimes the ambience of the restaurant will greatly effect customer preferences because they are not familiar with the new setting, so they may feel uncomfortable while dining. An example is eating with chopsticks at a Chinese restaurant or sitting on the floor to eat in a Japanese restaurant.

The purpose of this study is to investigate: 1) customers' authentic expectation for food, as well as the overall experience 2) the amount of authenticity customers can accept in a future Thai restaurant experience and 3) what customers want Thai restaurants to provide them with when they go for the dining experience.

A total of 250 questionnaires were distributed to guests in five Thai restaurants in the United States. A total of 247 completed questionnaires were returned (98.8%). The majority of the respondents were between the ages of 21- 30 years old (25.5%). Seventy-six percents of survey responses identified themselves as White Americans. Fifty-four percents of the subjects were married. The majority of survey respondents indicated that they had achieved at least a college degree and 35.6% of subjects had an annual income of more than $80,000.

A descriptive analysis indicated subjects who had higher incomes and were well educated scored higher having a practical and positive attitude on an authentic Thai restaurant. An additional portion of the survey indicated that the majority of customers did not have a higher expectation of employees and traditional Thai influences like decorations and atmosphere while the taste of the cuisine are indicated to be the most important component in their dining experience at a Thai restaurant.