A study of the relative importance of various components of brand equity within high class restaurant and the impact they have on consumer intention and brand loyalty
To examine how various components of brand equity can influence consumer decision making process within high class restaurant.
To identify the main components of brand equity that influence a consumer decision to frequent a high-class restaurant.
To critically evaluate the relationship between strong brand equity and achieving a competitive advantage within high class restaurant.
To analyse how high-class restaurant brand awareness influences consumer perception of food and service quality.
The purpose of this study is to identify the importance of brand equity elements within high-class restaurant and their impact on the consumer decision making process. Because of the significance of the consumer decision making process within the hospitality industry it is crucial to figure out which elements of brand equity make the biggest impact on the consumer decision to frequent a high-class restaurant and help build brand loyalty. Strong brand equity is essential in building and maintaining a high-class restaurant brand within a competitive market (Han, Nguyen & Lee, 2015). Numerous brand equity elements can impact the consumer decision making process and their loyalty to the brand. By continuously visiting the same restaurant, consumers build loyalty for the brand. Jiang, Dev and Rao (2002) suggests that consumer's decisions are often based on various aspects such as service, price, previous experience or even the restaurant name. Existing studies show that food quality is one of the most important aspects of the whole dining experience (Raajpoot, 2002). However, Feldwick (2002) states that there is evidence suggesting that the brand awareness can impact a consumer's perception of food and service quality even before they dine in the restaurant. Stronger high-class restaurant brand awareness can impact the consumer decision making process while choosing the restaurant to dine with. Furthermore, as the high-class restaurant environment is very competitive, it is crucial to have strong brand equity to gain the competitive advantage within the industry to appeal to more consumers.
Brand equity contains various elements, such as: brand image, brand identity, brand awareness, brand loyalty, customer perception and brand association. Each of these elements have an impact on the consumer decision making process while interacting with the brand (Keller, 1993). Some authors have also identified that the brand is a selection of perceptions in the mind of the market (Feldwick, 2002). That suggests, that the brand equity is information gathered over time about the brand in the consumer mind. In past studies, Keller (1993), created the model of customer-based brand equity (CBBE) and defined it as “the differential effect of brand knowledge on consumer response to the marketing of the brand.” The main thesis of this model is that the significance of the brand is in what consumers have discovered about the brand over certain period of time. This model helps to understand consumer behaviour towards the brand. In the context of our research objectives, this theory can help analysing the effect of high brand awareness and how it influences consumer perception of food and service quality within high-class restaurant.
Feldwick (2002) suggests that the measure of consumer attachment to the specific brand can be called brand loyalty. Generally, brand loyalty is perceived as a behavioural form related to motivation of decision to purchase the same brand or revisit the same brand of restaurant repeatedly. However, some behavioural intentions being a result of brand equity does not mean that the brand loyalty is achieved. Brand equity analysis can identify the main components relating to consumer decision to frequent a high-class restaurant. In past studies, Romaniuk and Nenyzc-Thiel (2013) identified that the desirable result of CBBE is the brand loyalty. However, the main weakness of the study is the failure to address how the brand loyalty can be achieved. Other authors, such as Etkinci, Dawes, and Massey (2008) created and assessed a theoretical model of various aspects influencing consumer satisfaction within the restaurant industry. The research results showed that consumer satisfaction depends mostly on the service received and the overall atmosphere. These two factors have been found to be the biggest influence on consumer intention to return to the same brand restaurant. However, their study examines a very narrow amount of consumer brand loyalty and their intention to frequent the restaurant. In the context of this research, to find the main components of the brand equity that influence consumer decision to frequent a high-class restaurant, both, Etkinci et al.'s (2008) model of consumer satisfaction and Keller's (1993) CBBE model will support analysis.
Brand awareness is identified as one of the brand benefits that provides extended value to the brand (Aaker, 1996; Keller, 2013). As mentioned before, previous studies define brand awareness as the perception of the particular brand in the consumer mind (Aaker, 1996). However, Keller (2013) suggests that brand awareness is a memory associated with the brand. Recognising the brand helps a consumer to connect the previous experience with the brand. In his study, Keller (2013) identified that creating a strong brand awareness can lead to the competitive advantage within the market, because it influences consumer decision to choose to purchase from the brand they are already familiar with. That raises a theory that high brand awareness not only provides competitive advantage within the hospitality industry, but also influences consumer perception of the brand depending on their past experiences. Within high-class restaurants the service and food quality are one of the most important aspects of a customer journey (Hwang and Ok, 2013). This study suggests that consumers visiting a restaurant with a high brand awareness exceed their expectations and it might affect their perception of the service and food quality. However, the study fails to consider the different aspects of how consumer past experiences with the brand might be influencing their perception. Past studies identified that high brand awareness had a positive impact on brand equity and loyalty (Pike and Bianchi, 2016). This suggests that high brand awareness has a positive influence on consumer perception, which means that a consumer is more likely to perceive the service and food quality positively. This is important, because brand equity and loyalty, as mentioned before, are one of the main components influencing the customer decision-making process.
Kotler and Keller (2006) suggest that to keep up high brand value it has to be supported by feelings and thoughts in the mind of the consumer. If these aspects are constantly a priority of a high-class restaurant brand, it can accomplish a competitive advantage within the hospitality industry. The brand image becomes a competitive advantage if the restaurant uses marketing communications by sending clear message to their consumers, which creates a collection of perceptions in the minds of potential or existing customers. However, Aaker (1992) identifies that brand association have a big influence on the consumer decision making process. If the brand is associated with negative values, the consumers are more likely to have a negative perception towards the brand. Keeping up good brand image is very important if a high-class restaurant wishes to build strong brand equity. According to Kim and Kim (2004), brand image is the past experiences associated with a brand in the mind of the consumer. In the context of this research, brand image is one of the main brand equity components influencing the consumer decision making process, because good brand image achieves positive consumer perception of the brand.
The methodology that will be applied by the study has been chosen in order to collect the information and draw the conclusions how various brand equity components influence the consumer decision-making process and brand loyalty within high-class restaurant.
The main purpose of this study is to analyse the main aspects of brand equity and their impact on consumer decision-making process and brand loyalty within high-class restaurant. For this reason, this study will use interpretivism research philosophy. According to Saunders et al. (2016) an interpretisvism research philosophy is undertaken when the study has inductive approach and researcher interpretations are the key contributions. Also, inductive approach helps building theory, as there is not much information available on how the brand equity influence on consumer decision-making process within high-class restaurant.
For the purpose of this research, and in order to achieve the objectives will be collected and will be used both primary and secondary data. The secondary data will support the foundation of background information, needed by researcher to build interview questions and understand more of the interview outcome. Primary data will be collected by carrying out the interviews with the customers of the high-class restaurants.
This research, perfectly wants to study every consumer who ever visited high-class restaurant. However, it is impossible to gather all the information and the research needs to settle for a sample. Black and Champion (1979) suggests that sample is a part of components taken from a demographic, which is recognised as a member of the demographic.
In order to achieve research objectives, the method of qualitative data collection will be used and personal interviews will be carried out, because it is the most effective technique of communication and it gives an actual insight in consumer values towards the high-class restaurant, and also supported with:
“The skill of guiding the discussion back to the topic outlined when discussions are unfruitful while it has the disadvantages of being very costly time consuming and can introduce bias through desires of the respondent to please the interviewer” (Aaker & Day, 1990).
For the purpose of this research semi-structured face to face interviews will be undertaken including two target groups: repeat visit customers and the first-time customers in high-class restaurant. The choice will be mostly based on researchers understanding about past experiences among interviewees, their values and reasons of visit, which make important decisions and might adapt questions to suit each target group.
Study limitations can be seen with using face to face interviews as it might influence the target group to be subjective about the topic. In a further discussion, this might arise a problem of data collected being subjective to someone's opinion and will not be as reliable.
The research findings will be analysed using CBBE model, which will be looking at how respondents related to consumer based brand equity and how that possible can influence their decision-making process and brand loyalty. Both target groups will have similarly based questions, however group 1 will be asked what influenced their decision to repeatedly choose the same high-class restaurant, while group 2 will be asked how the brand equity elements could influence them to come back to the same high-class restaurant.
This type of analysis will provide the research with reliable consumer opinions from their own experience and will help study to identify the main components of brand equity and their impact on their decision-making process and brand loyalty within high-class restaurant.
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