Hot Food, Good Event: Understanding the Role of Food in Cosplay Restaurant Patronised by Bangkok’s ACG Subculture
Fandom subculture has a large influence on the lifestyles of postmodern people and the hospitality industry. A cosplay restaurant is an amalgam between hospitality services and fantasy elements from fandom subculture. Some consider that food is not an important element of a cosplay restaurant; however, the presence of food in the cosplay restaurant environment suggests that it has an attraction value that is different from a typical restaurant. This study determined how and why food is important in cosplay restaurants. Consumption practices of fan-marketing follow guidelines of affective economics where the customer makes purchase decisions as a result of an emotional connection with the product which is not based on utility. Affective economics of fandom subculture suggests that cosplay restaurant customers have a different set of satisfaction elements compared to typical restaurants. Data were gathered from a sample of 190 participants, categorised into four types as serious and casual fans in maid and fanmade cafés. Five attributes which affected the quality of cosplay restaurants were divided into two groups. The food group included taste, appearance and fandom identity while the event group included activity and hospitality services. Participants’ perceptions and satisfaction were analysed to assess the differences within each of the four types and relationships between the five attributes. Results determined that among all grouping variables, including demographics, the only factor significantly affecting customer perception was fan level. Serious fans regarded all five attributes as having a higher degree of importance. Attributes all correlated with each other, while casual fans recorded a higher degree of correlation due to their limited ability to distinguish each separate factor. Customer perception regarding all attributes was high with not much difference between each; however, for customer expectation, the most important attribute was fandom food identity. Findings indicated a gap between perception and expectation which suggested that businesses did not fully understand the needs and wants of their customers. Food quality was considered less important for cosplay restaurants compared to event quality. Customers regarded fandom food identity as the most important attribute and this supported the idea of fandom subculture. The status of postmodern ethnicity suggested that fandom food is now becoming a new ethnic cuisine. Food served in cosplay restaurants is important but in a different way from typical restaurants. Results will assist cosplay restaurant managers to better understand and comprehend the expectations of their customers and the growing importance of fandom food. This research model can be further developed to investigate fandom food culture and identity in other regions.