Exploring the Meal Experience: Customer Perceptions of Dark-Dining

Exploring the Meal Experience: Customer Perceptions of Dark-Dining

Stuart Lawton (BUHL LOHN GmbH, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0341-5.ch009
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This research considers the meal experience literature and explores consumer´s motivations in the dark-dining setting. The notions of discussion relate to experience economy and consumptionscape theories highlighting that sensory-cues in the meal experience constrain each other. The sense of touch, although scientifically explored, is yet being further explored in the dark-dining meal experience and reflects dominance in the dark-dining meal experience. Conclusively, despite the effects of the meal experience in a light restaurant, customers re-discover their senses in a dark restaurant. In conclusion, it remains questionable whether repeat business will occur due to post-experienced, preserved and prolonged perceptions.
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1.0 Introduction

The meal experience is a sensory complexity that is reminded by Solomon (2011) as a perception of sensation and a response from our sensory receptors. These are our five senses, sight, hear, smell, taste, and touch called stimuli. Food and beverage choice is an unconscious decision making process affected by colours, smells, lighting, plate sizes and multicultural avenues (Stroebele & De Castro, 2004; Macht 2008). Consequently, Robbins (2003) states that it is how the sensory impressions of the ME are organised. The senses become our “guide” and our mediator-variables however would require investigation into the scope of how such sensory activities affect the ME in dark-dining. Arguably, the senses would influence each other in different environmental situations. Schiffman (2001) argues it is those sensory-perceptions that cannot be de-constructed as sensory variables and proposed that perceptions are “Gestalts”. Nevertheless, individual parts should be discussed to understand the contributions as singular cues towards holistic comprehension. Bitner (1992) introduced the servicescape that proposed the holistic model and perception of colour, light, space, personnel, layout, and design that affected consumer perceptions in environments. One can be argumentative to state that the ME is extremely sensitive to the setting and situation. Notwithstanding, the operation itself is a fundamental part of the ME planning process. Within reason, visual sensory experiences create mental images that prompt cognitive processes (Lin, 2004). Bitner (1992) states, consumers are firstly affected by images and colours before consuming products/services. One would need to consider other operational components e.g. service, quality and ambience. As of this, product and service variability is complex due to the ever-evolving external environment. The restaurateur, although a professional, may seek challenging times as customer’s expectations change simultaneously and thus making the dining-experience an unpredictable one (Pantelidis & Maree, 2009; Stierand & Wood, 2010; Hemmington 2007; Timothy 2006). This piece of research is only an insight into how the ever-evolving ME can be manipulated under different meal settings.

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