Quality management in hospitality industry

Introduction

The present report is aimed at analysing the quality management concepts of Mantra Unlimited. The quality management in a service industry is highly significant because the customers have certain expectations from my service organisation such as that of a restaurant providing both tangible and intangible components. The organisation needs to consider the customer expectations and their perceptions about the quality of food products and the services delivered by the employees. The present report evaluates the quality management from the three stakeholder’s perspective and the models utilised by the hotel in ensuring the quality by means of communicating with the employees, the measurement of the service delivery and managing any quality issues. The gap in the service quality is in terms of communication and in the final part of the report the Gap model is analysed which provides a measurement technique for the hotel along with the 10 determinants of service quality which provides for a method to develop the communication skills of the employees.

Organisational background

The organisation chosen for the study of quality management in the hospitality industry is Mantra unlimited (http://www.mantradining.com/) which is a fine dining Indian contemporary restaurant with a loyal clientele having annual revenue of £680,000 with both indoor and outdoor catering. The restaurant is based in Hounslow and the author has been working with the restaurant for the past several months. The restaurant employs both part-time and full-time employees and managers of the restaurants are professional hospitality employees. Due to the nature of the clientele which is from the upper middle-class customers in the vicinity, it is necessary for the restaurant to adopt quality management exercises in the areas of customer service and food. From the perspective of the food provided by the restaurant, the chefs and cooks in the kitchen are adequately trained and have years of experience and is working for the same restaurant for the past several years. From the perspective of the employees working in the front end of the business who are in direct contact with the customer’s, there is a mixture of part-time and full-time employees.

Quality management from three stakeholder perspective

The three stakeholders of an organisation are the employees, customers and the management. From a quality management perspective, it is necessary to analyse the perspective of the three stakeholders and analyse the gaps in them in order to identify the various issues with regards to quality and make continuous innovations. One significant concept developed by a Parasuraman, Zeithamal and Berry (1986, 1990) quality in the Gap model which analyses the gap in the perceptions of various stakeholders of the organisation mainly relating to the service industry. Since a restaurant is providing both a tangible (food) and intangible (customer service) component to the customers of the hotel, it is necessary to evaluate the quality management issues from different perspectives (Min and Min, 2011). Hence when any exploration of the quality management principles of a restaurant is to be considered, all the perspectives of the different stakeholders needs to be analysed and that gaps in them identified so that corrective actions if any needs to be taken. Mantra Unlimited has a quality conscious management and has installed the several methods to adequately manage both the tangible and intangible components in a measurable manner. The restaurant has implemented a quality management philosophy and there is a manager who looks into all details of the customer service quality and the quality of the food provided to the customers.

Customers perspective of quality management

From the customer’s perspective, it is necessary for them to have a perception of quality with regards to the services provided by the restaurant and the quality in terms of the food items provided. According to Sweeney, Johnson and Armstrong, (1992) the perception of quality and the actual levels of quality could be different and there are certain customer expectations when they come to an upscale dining restaurants such as that of Mantra Unlimited. Since the restaurant is catering to the upper middle-class segment of the customers near to the vicinity, there is a level of customer loyalty and regularity. It is due to this retention of the customers based on loyalty that the restaurant is able to thrive in this small locality. In order to provide the customers with their expectations, it was necessary for the management to approach the quality management from the perspectives of service delivery provided by the front-end employees in terms of their ability to communicate with the customer and provide for the requirements in a timely manner. By analysing the various customer requirements, the restaurant developed a quality management model for the front-end employees about the various ways in which the employee should deal with the customers. Further on, when analysing from the customer’s perspective, since they are the regular customers it is necessary that they should be given priority in managing the reservations and also that should be a level of reliability and service provider by the restaurant.

Employees perspective of quality management

The restaurant has two sections of employees on section deals with the front-end or deals that lead the customers of the store and the other section is the back end which makes the food in the kitchen. In order to enhance the quality concepts and philosophy of the employees, the management is providing training on a regular basis both at the technical as well as with the customer service perspective. The food and beverages manager is responsible for the management of the quality of the food products in terms of its reliability and consistency. Since the customers or reveller, it is necessary to provide them with a consistent level of quality of food. Moreover the consistency in the customer service is also significant factor. In order to ensure there is a level of consistency and the employees are conscious about the quality management issues, the food and beverages manager regularly checks the quality level of the food products. At the front-end of the restaurant, the customer service manager is responsible for the dealings with the customers from the part of the front-end employees. These employees although working on mostly part-time basis are provided with enough training on customer service. One significant area of training provided by the restaurant for the front-end employees is about the social and cultural behaviour and concepts of the customers of the restaurant. Since most of the employees are from the immigrant community, there is a gap in the perception about service quality because of the social and cultural differences. In order to ensure that the employees are aware of the social and cultural characteristics of the customers, the restaurant has conducted a diversity training exercise in the recent months. Communication with the customers is an important factor in the service delivery and the communication skills of the employees are regularly monitored, evaluated and the feedback is provided by the customer service manager of the restaurant.

Management perspective of quality management

From the perspective of the management, which includes the managers and the owners of the restaurant, it is only through enhanced levels of quality management that the restaurant will be able to continue on doing the business. Since the restaurant is catering to a very specific set of clientele in the vicinity, it is necessary to have consistency in the levels of services and the food provided. In order to ensure that the management is focused on quality, the restaurant’s philosophy is written down in a quality management philosophy manual. This manual is developed for the managers of the organisation and deals with the various aspects of quality such as the training to be provided to the ground level staff, the various checks, monitoring and reporting of quality issues. The management of the restaurant meals once in a month in order to discuss about the various issues and an important item in the agenda is the quality aspects with regards to customer service and food products. In order to effectively capture the customer perception with regards to quality, a guestbook is provided in which the customers can enter their feedback. Moreover the website of the company has a provision for giving the feedback about the food and the customer service provided by the restaurant. Any issues with related to quality management is brought up and discussed during the monthly meeting. The guestbook and the customer feedbacks are regularly analysed and any significant changes in the trend of the customer perception is evaluated by the management.

Quality management tools

From the perspective of managing quality, several initiatives have been developed by the industry as well as researchers in order to develop different types of quality management tools for different types of industries. According to Pun and Ho, (2001) quality management principles were generated in the manufacturing industry in order to ensure the quality of the products manufactured. Several quality management tools such as 7S, TQM etc. were introduced in the manufacturing industry. But as mentioned before the restaurant is providing a tangible product in terms of the food and the service to the customers which is intangible, but which also needs to be providing a level of quality to the customers. Mantra unlimited and has introduced a tool followed by many of the restaurants and especially Kentucky fried chicken in order to ensure the quality of the products as well as the services. The quality management tool has a dual approach where the customer perspectives are analysed with respect to general quality, service and cleanliness and at a different level there is an operational process of review which measures the overall quality of the restaurant in terms of the quality management model as laid down by the restaurant quality management manual.

Communicating standards

The first attribute of generating quality is in the areas of communicating the levels of quality required in the food products and the services to their customers. As mentioned before the restaurant has generated a manual of procedures and operations which details all the areas of the operations of the restaurant. The manual provides information about the various operational procedures to be followed in terms of making the food in the kitchen and providing it to the customers. During this process the many aspects to the considered by the employees and the restaurant is providing training to the employees on a regular basis in order to instil in them a philosophy of quality management. Hence it can be said that the main communication of the standards to be insured in terms of delivering the quality is through the training provided based on the quality philosophy adopted by the restaurant which is laid down in the manual. The quality management manual provides all the employees with the specific operational procedures to be followed in the areas relating to cooking offal products, cleaning, customer service, communication etc.

Measuring delivery

The measurement of quality is an important aspect and since the major stakeholders of the restaurant are the customers, it is necessary to evaluate their perceptions in order to measure the quality of the food products and services delivered. As mentioned before the restaurant has a guestbook wherein the customers can provide the feedback about the food products and the services provided by the employees. There is also a section in the website where the customers can provide their feedback. The restaurant in turn measures the feedback and evaluates the through their monthly meeting in order to ensure that the quality principles are effectively delivered to the customers. The measurement of quality from the perspective of the customers, although is the main process, it is also necessary to evaluate the perceptions of the employees in order to analyse whether they are able to provide the required levels of quality. The Management conducts regular meetings with the employees with regards to their perceptions of the quality of the services provided by the restaurant to the customers. This perception of the customers and the employees are matched and any gaps in them are analysed and corrective actions are taken.

Managing service recovery

When any type of gaps in the service delivery or in the quality of the food products is brought to the notice of the management, it is discussed in detail with the employees as well as the monthly managerial review. Is the service provided by the restaurant is failing in terms of the operational procedures, the employees are provided training in order to ensure that such procedures are strictly followed. If there are gaps analysed in areas where there were no previous experience, the Management conducts a brainstorming and develops new operational procedures in order to enhance the service provided. The employees are communicated with the new operational procedures and training is provided to them in the particular area. Moreover certain core employees are provided the responsibility to maintain and manage the new operational procedures and report to the management about the enhancement of the procedures followed by the employees. This way the organisation is able to manage any kind of quality issues and recover the service delivery process.

Gaps in service quality

When analysing the area of gaps in the service quality of restaurant, the author’s experience is that the communication with the customers and understanding the requirements is the most important aspect of the monitored, measured and developed. Since all the employees working in the front-end are from a different social and cultural background, is finding it difficult to adequately communicate with the customers and ensure that the requirements are fulfilled. There is a level of difficulty in terms of understanding the language and the slang used by the customers. Moreover due to the social and cultural differences the front-end employees are unable to communicate the specific requirements of the customers to the back end where the food items are prepared. Due to this lack of communication or the breakdown of communication from the part of the customers and the employees, it is necessary for the management to develop communication skills of the employees. Moreover when considering the gap analysis model, the customer perceptions and the employee perceptions which related to quality about communication is seen to be different. When the customers are having a certain level of expectation from the employees in order to provide them with adequate level of service, the employees are not able to fulfil this requirement but are also not realising that gap in their communication skills. Since the social and cultural pattern of the customers and the employees are different, it is necessary for the restaurant to take action in terms of providing the training to the employees in communication skills with the customers.

The employees must be adequately trained so that they are able to confidently communicate with customers in a prudent manner without developing confusions. This kind of improved levels of communication will be able to provide better levels of customer satisfaction as the employees will be able to manage the customer’s requirements and communicating with the backend employees who are preparing the food products. The customers might require certain special items or would have specific requirements about the food products and these needs to be adequately communicated by the employees who are managing the customers to the employees were preparing the food products. Hence the training related to improvement of the communication skills is the most important aspect to be considered by the management of Mantra unlimited.


Quality management theories

Quality management theories have been developed and perfected in various different types of manufacturing and service based industries. With respect to a restaurant which is providing the tangible as full as the intangible or to the customers, the service quality model or the analysis of the gaps in the service quality provided by the restaurant to the customers developed by Parasuraman et. al., (1986, 1990) can be utilised. The Gap model proposed that the customers have certain expectations from the restaurant and evaluates the perceptions of the quality with respect to these expectations. Following is the pictorial representation of the Gap model where several gaps in the service quality can be measured and analysed from different perspectives. Significantly the managers of the organisation should understand the expectations of the customers and develop the services so that the gap between the expected levels from the customer and the organisation’s perception of the customer’s expectations can be minimised. But this is only one components of the Gap model and as can be seen from the below figure there are different areas of expectations and perceptions to be analysed.

 

Figure 1 – Gap model of analysing service quality

(Source – Adapted from Parasuraman et. al., (1986), page 62)

It is with respect to the consumer perceptions that the organisation is designing the service delivery and the communication with the customers as well as employees of the organisation. The designing of the standards to be followed in providing the service to the customers is based on the manager’s perception of customer expectations and if there is a gap in these, the organisation will not be able to perform to the expectations of the customers. It is to analyse the expectations and perceptions of the customer that the restaurant has enabled a guestbook and feedback system which is analysed by the management. Any gaps in the customer expectations and perceptions are thoroughly evaluated by the management and the design of the operations and procedures are evaluated and corrections are taken. But as can be seen from the figure the gap 2 response to the design gap which is characteristically about the design of the services to the expectations of the customer and gap 3 is about the delivery of the designed services to that of the design. In the case of the restaurant, with respect to customer expectations about serving them within a certain period of time, the management would have certain perceptions and when the management tries to implement their perceptions about the customer expectations, certain operational procedures are products which the employees are required to follow. In the first place if the Management perceives a higher timeframe for providing the service to the customers than that of the customer expectation, the knowledge gap develops. Further based on the customer perceptions they are designing certain operational characteristic and if the design is not fulfilling the perceptions of the management, there is a design gap followed by a gap developed in the delivery of the services to the customers which is coming from the part of the employees.

In terms of the above mentioned knowledge gap, design gap and delivery gap, the restaurant has taken adequate precautions to operationalise their procedures with respect to customer expectations. From authors experience it is thought that the restaurant is able to perceive the customer expectations to a good degree of reliability and is able to design and deliver the customer expectations. But the Five or the communication gap is related to the differences in the promised level of services and the actual service delivered. In the case of the restaurant, as mentioned before there is a rising due to the communication gap of the employees. In the present case the communication of the customers is not being completely delivered to the employees working in the back end of the restaurant and there is a degree of inconsistency in the communications to the customer and the actual service delivery.

In order to ensure that any organisation is able to provide adequate level of quality in terms of the services, Parasuraman et. al., (1990) developed at 10 determinants of service quality which affect the customer’s expectations and perceptions. And a further phase this was modified to 5 determinants which includes reliability, assurance, tangibility, empathy and responsiveness.

 

Figure 2 – 10 determinants of service quality

(Source – Adapted from Parasuraman et. al., (1990), page 81)

In order to smooth the process of communication between the customers and employees, the five determinants can be utilised. From the below figure it is seen that all the 10 determinants are impinging on the expectations and the perceptions of the customers. The communication from the restaurant by way of the employees is through the word-of-mouth communication. The customers have certain past experiences from the restaurant which needs to be ensured at all times. The personal needs of the customer also need to be considered when providing the service. Hence when the employee is communicating with the customers, they should ensure that the assurance and tangibility of the services provided is in relation to the expectations of reliability from the customer. In other words the employees need to be able to communicate with customers in a reliable manner and consistently with the past experiences of the customer. If the employee is not able to properly communicate at all times with the customer, it is necessary to provide them with training in customer service management.

Conclusions

The report was aimed at analysing the quality management principles and philosophy adopted by Mantra Unlimited restaurant where the author works. The restaurant has a clientele which is loyal and the management is able to deliver the expectations of the customer by ensuring that quality is maintained in both the tangible and intangible provisions. But one of the serious problems identified by the communication skills problem of the employees mainly because of the social and cultural differences. It is necessary that the management should take steps in order to provide the employees with training necessary about the social and cultural perspectives of the customers so that they are able to communicate with customers in a positive manner.

References

  1. Min, H. and Min, H., (2011) “Benchmarking the service quality of fast-food restaurant franchises in the USA: A longitudinal study”, Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 18 Iss: 2, pp.282 – 300
  2. Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. A. and Berry, L. L., (1986), “SERVQUAL: a multiple-item scale for measuring customer perceptions of service quality”, Marketing Science Institute, Issues 86-108, Marketing Science Institute.
  3. Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. A. and Berry, L. L., (1990), “Delivering quality service: balancing customer perceptions and expectations”, Simon and Schuster publications
  4. Pun, K. F. and Ho, K. Y., (2001) “Identification of service quality attributes for restaurant operations: a Hong Kong case”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 11 Iss: 4, pp.233 – 240
  5. Sweeney, J. C., Johnson, L. W. and Armstrong, R. W., (1992) “The Effect of Cues on Service Quality Expectations and Service Selection in a Restaurant Setting”, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 6 Iss: 4, pp.15 – 22

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