Retail’s Social Side: How Conventional and Unconventional Employee Appearance Influence Customers From Different Cultures?
With people dining out more than ever, selecting a restaurant from a high number of possibilities is now influenced by an increasing number of factors. The appearance of the employees in a restaurant is one of these influential factors, and is considered key in the retail environment. For example, the wearing of uniforms or a certain standard of dress. As there is little academic research in this area, this thesis investigates the influence of employee appearance (in this case, conventional vs. unconventional) on customers’ psychological comfort, behavioural intentions and anticipated enjoyment at a high-end restaurant. This thesis also aims to explore the potential moderating effect of culture in this scenario, with ethnicity serving as a proxy. As New Zealand is a multicultural society, this research will focus on three ethnicities, New Zealand European, Chinese and Middle Eastern. This research includes a factorial one 2 (employee appearance: conventional vs. unconventional) X 3 (cultures/ethnicities) between-subjects experimental design. The results showed that customers perceived conventional employee appearance as being comfortable across the cultural groups, while an unconventional appearance was perceived differently. Specifically, New Zealand Europeans and Chinese perceived it to be comfortable which is opposite to Middle Eastern who perceived it to be less comfortable. This thesis contributes to the literature by expanding the knowledge of the influence of unconventional versus conventional appearance of employees from the perspective of customer culture. It also contributes to the signalling theory and the stimulus-organism-response paradigm (S-O-R) by adding a cultural element and providing valuable insights via a conceptual framework of the influence employee appearance has on customer comfort, behavioural intentions and anticipated enjoyment in the retail sector, specifically here, in a high-end restaurant environment. In other words, how the conventional or unconventional appearance of employees may attract or deter customers of varied cultures.