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Service marketing substantially differs from goods marketing because the former entails involvement of the consumer in the production process. In other words, the processes utilised in service marketing are less mysterious to the consumer since he can view or contribute to them.
The reverse is true for goods marketing because it only starts after the production process has been completed. This means that interaction is a key element in service marketing. Furthermore, the consumption process also makes service marketing distinct from conventional goods marketing because this process takes place in the presence of the producer or service provider. Consequently, the producer has immense opportunities for value addition either during the production phase or the consumption phase.
In this regard, Gummesson (1979) argued that it is essential for service producers to move away from focusing on the aspect of exchange and instead dwell on interacting with their clientele. In goods marketing, a lot of emphasis is given to the exchange process; here plenty of innovations have been designed in order to hasten or improve this exchange of goods and money. However, such a perspective is inapplicable within the service marketing industry.
Furthermore, effective service marketing can only occur once companies make the shift from viewing marketing as a distinct enterprise function to an integral part of all organisational processes. Therefore, integration is an essential aspect of service marketing. All in all, service marketing can be effectively done once the concerned organisation manages those interactions and production processes well.
Fisk et al (1993) adds that when marketing services, the affected parties must recall that four main characteristics need to be put in mind when doing so: perishability, inseparability, heterogeneity as well as intangibility. These are all concepts that should be altered so as to make the service a worthwhile experience. Because of the exclusivity of services, then certain marketing concepts need to be used as the foundation for marketing.
The moment of truth theory suggested By Normann (1983) implies that service marketers usually do it part time rather than full time. Concerned parties must be highly motivated to interact with the consumer and should not view this aspect as nothing more than procedure. Furthermore, the service marketer must be trained or have knowledge in carrying out these interactions. He must also be equipped with the skills needed to do so.
Service quality perceptions are a critical aspect of the service marketing process. In other words, the quality of services provided and the experiences that consumers get of that quality is truly what matters in these provisions. A marketer must fully understand what is constituted in these processes.
One of the models that can be useful in this area of the SERVQUAL model that was established by Parasuraman et al (1988). This model identified five major areas that can be utilised to assess the quality of services offered by a certain individual. The first consists of tangibles; although services do not normally focus on goods, they do require certain resources in order to make those provisions effective.
In the restaurant business for example, firms do need food and housing premises as essential components in this industry and they do offer unique avenues for value addition. For instance, the issue of decor as well as the quality of food presented are crucial parts of tangibles. Secondly, one can look at employee behaviour. Perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of service marketing is employee interactions with consumers.
Most buyers will only interact with this category of people and their perceptions of what an organisation stands for will be defined by this category of people so utmost attention should be given to them. Reliability is the third aspect used in assessment of service quality. This is normally understood as the degree to which a service provider will be able to provide the same consistent results over time. Fourth is responsiveness; this means the pace at which a provider meets the needs of the client.
It is a crucial aspect of service provision and hence marketing because clients often compare different enterprises based on this concept. Lastly, the latter model covers the issue of empathy which refers to the ability to put oneself in the client’s shoes and hence deal with any challenges that come along the way.
In this case, the research is mostly focusing on a fast food restaurant called Subway. The restaurant business in Sweden is quite competitive and for players to stay ahead then they need to leverage on high service quality as projected in marketing.
If they do this well then those efforts will immediately translate to increased customer satisfaction, greater sales and hence greater profitability. However, poor service marketing in the restaurant industry may actually result in poor perception that can then be used to persuade others against the use of a certain restaurant and this could destroy business for them.
Many fast food restaurants may focus on traditional marketing channels to attract new consumers but it is the use of service centred marketing approaches that increases customer loyalty and hence causes persons to keep coming back to the same restaurant over and over again.
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Customer retention have always been essential in ensuring continued profitable and it would be a plus if Subway operated under such a principle. Furthermore, studies show that reaching new consumers is always more resource intensive than retention of old ones so the former should be given utmost precedence.
Fast food restaurants would like to improve their positions in the Swedish market because this industry is quite competitive. However, these firms may not always be sure about the components of their service provisions that can lead to these strong positions.
Because consumer preferences keep changing, it is essential to assess what those customer expectations of quality are and whether fast food restaurants comply. In this regard, the research will be solving the problem of minimal information being available to service providers concerning quality because these expectations are never stagnant and what was acceptable in the past can no longer be so currently.
The other problem facing the fast food industry is the issue of specialisation. Because of the franchise nature of most of these businesses, it is often difficult for firms to establish a unique selling point that will cause them to stand out among the rest of their competitors within the industry. To this end, companies must know what makes other competitors stand out and hence be in a position to offer something unique to the fast food consumer.
This research will therefore attempt to demystify some of the sources of specialisation in the industry hence putting various companies at a unique position to take advantage of the loopholes that exist. Alternatively, this information could cause certain businesses to realise that they have been left behind in the innovation timeline and they need to improve by incorporating those emerging trends in the fast food industry.
Fast food restaurants are often assessed through a series of lenses by the people that matter the most to them i.e. the consumers. It is however difficult to know how a particular restaurant is performing in comparison to others in the industry.
This research will attempt to solve the latter problem by looking at a specific restaurant i.e. Subway and through the method of observation; it will give a report on the performance of this Franchise relative to that of other fast food franchises in the country. This could possibly encourage the firm to improve its performance or cause other competitors to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of the latter enterprise.
There will be several limitations to this kind of study because it will utilise participant observation. First of all, because the report will give a finding on just one restaurant experience with Subway, t might not be fair to generalise those findings to the entire franchise. Because franchises are owned by different businessmen and women then chances are that each one will be run in a different way. This report may simply be applicable to the specific outlet being looked at and nothing more.
Most observations are highly dependent on the attitude and opinion of the researcher. In this case, the ideas held by the group concerning Subway are likely to affect the findings because one is likely to look at those things that seem to be related to their previous perceptions. In this regard, there may be more of opinions and attitudes in the report rather than objective facts that can be relied on by the owners of the franchise.
It should be noted that there are various Subway restaurants around the country and the world so selection of the ultimate sample space would be a great way of ensuring that the findings are correct. However, because this report is simply based on one experience, one can do it anywhere. It also implies that if one selects a very busy Subway restaurant compared to a less congested one then there would be immense differences in the findings.
The method of observations is often applied in scenarios where the topic under consideration is a sensitive matter. To this end, if one wants to look at the issue of race or income brackets then this kind of study would have been appropriate.
However, when the topic is not sensitive, then soliciting responses from other parties other than the researcher would yield better results. In this case, service quality in a restaurant is under consideration and this may not necessarily be classified as a sensitive issue. However, because the report needs to simply be about an experience then the latter method will be applied.
Observations can limit a study because not every relevant aspect can be seen clearly. For example the sources of food served to clients at Subway would be an important parameter but they cannot be observed by the client. Furthermore, one cannot observe some attitudinal issues. For example, employee attitudes cannot be observed; they can only be inferred from certain behaviour so those intangible aspects of research may not necessarily be handled well in this kind of study.
Time is always an essential component of observation research. A good study must establish reliability by continually observing the issue under analysis so as to ascertain that the same thing goes on all the time. If only one observation is made then chances are that one may have recorded an extraordinary event rather than an ordinary one. Just because a waiter makes the mistake of handling a client badly on one day does not imply that the same individual will do that all the time or that other employees in the premises also do the same.
This study is more of a descriptive research. Although certain parameters have been curved out earlier on in the paper, it is still difficult to ascertain what aspect of behaviour from either the employees or the consumers will have contributed to some of the issues that need to be analysed.
It is difficult to replicate this kind of study in the future because all the groups under study are unique in their own way and they all make for interesting reports after the study. This is an unconventional method of research and it may not always yield all the issues that are being looked for by the concerned parties.
Any good research should be easily duplicable but because this report simply involves a onetime experience at Subway then chances are that there could be difficulties in ascertaining whether these respective issues are related to the overall experiences at Subway.
Ethically speaking, there could be a problem with the issue of unobstructive research. Because the researcher will appear as a regular customer, the concerned franchise might raise some objections about this invasion of their privacy. Whenever a certain group is being involved in a research it is always a good idea to get consent from them.
However, informed consent causes the subjects to alter their behaviour since they are aware of an external observation. This eventually leads to inaccurate findings of the said restaurant. It is for this reason that such an unconventional method of collecting information was used i.e. unobstructive observational research.
The empirical study will utilise observation as a method of collecting data from Subway restaurant. This kind of study is not structural in nature. Consequently, no hypothesis was formulated prior to conduction of the research. Instead, the subjects in the Subway restaurant shall be observed and recording made.
Thereafter, these observations will be placed in context by making assertions about them after. The main issue to remember is that certain levels of disguise can be tolerated in participant observation. In this case, the researcher will be appearing as a customer but he is really doing something more. In the fast food restaurant setting, the repercussions for carrying out such a study would not be as enormous as lying to members of a cult that one actually professed to their faith and their beliefs.
Report: After visiting a Subway restaurant, there were several things that could we managed to observe as a group. First of all, we looked at the external appearance of the restaurant chain and found that there were plenty of things to be appreciated. We liked the look of the restaurant both inside and outside.
It was particular interesting that one could choose to sit either on the outside or the inside of the restaurant. Alternatively, customers were at liberty to carry take away and this all contributed to the number of options available to the customer. The restaurant has an interesting green colour scheme that made the place quite interesting.
We were also impressed by the fact that the restaurant is open seven days a week so that clients can walk in at the time of their convenience. This restaurant chain was open when some private ones besides it were closed. That kind of flexibility means that one may choose to have their meal on or off work. It is possible to establish a routine with the organisation because of this aspect and one may not necessarily have to result to the use of certain unconventional cooking avenues at home so that one can make up for their inconvenience.
We also found that frying was not as prevalent as it was in other fast food restaurants. Theirs was a focus of the healthier alternatives. In fact, because the company was not doing a lot of this frying, it was possible to order for a meal and wait for it to be prepared as one was watching.
This was also crucial in ensuring that a meal was custom made to our requirements. We were all able to instruct the concerned attendants about what we expected for our sand witches. There were a couple of ingredients to choose from; some of use wanted lettuces, pickles and pepper in our meal while others wanted other additives like mayonnaise and tomato sauce. We were able to tell the restaurant attendant exactly what worked for us and this definitely contributed to our satisfaction.
In terms of the actual taste of the food; two of us were impressed by the food but one of us complained about it. He felt that the amount of meat that had been placed in it was really too small; in fact the sandwich was supposed to rich in ham but most of it was actually filling. He asserted that it was really difficult for him to even feel the overall effect of the sand witch given the fact that his estimations were unmet.
On the other hand, other two members of the group were quite happy with our meals. We thought that it was quite tasty. In fact, that was one of the fears that we had about Subway; we had assumed that since this organisation is not for its healthy treats then we should not focus too much on taste. Most healthy choices have often been categorised as tasteless so when one can secure a meal that is rich in nutrition but still appeals to the taste buds then this would be a great way of adding value.
We also found that their customer service was average. We entered the restaurant at a time when it was quite busy so most of the attendants could not give us too much attention. However, that was the very reason why we had gone into that restaurant in the first place; we wanted to fast service.
If the cashiers and the waiters took their time to talk to everyone then the service would be quite slow. One of us made the observation that the place was quite hygienic. However, we quickly noted that although gloves were often changed after completion of each order, it was not always true for each meal.
In our case, one of use wanted beef and another wanted chicken meat in his sandwich and another was vegetarian. Instead of changing gloves after completing the sand witches with meat, the concerned attendant simply continued to place all the ingredients from the meat into the vegetarian sand witch and this contributed towards his disgruntlement with the service.
None of us found any serious health or hygiene issue in the restaurant though. We therefore thought that the employees must be well trained on doing this. Most of the greens and fillings were properly covered in order to avoid contamination. Nothing on our plates appeared to have gone bad so we were definitely in for a real treat.
There were a series of items on the menu but the emphasis on healthy foods restricted the food choices. We soon realised that if one was not a fun of sand witches then Subway should not be the fast food restaurant of choice. We would have wanted many other thins from the restaurant chain but found that their continual emphasis on nutrition disallowed them from ever taking those risks.
In terms of the prices, we realised that they were all quite standard. Nonetheless, one of the group members who had been unhappy about the amount of meat in his sand witch affirmed that he could get a bigger sand witch dose at a cheaper price from a competing food establishment. This meant that most of the assertions made by the latter individual concerning the meal were actually related to his unhappiness with the price and the quality of the food.
We all knew that healthy options often must be accompanied by an additional sum but we were surprised to learn that such was not always the case with Subway which did not necessarily have extreme prices. We also found the experience worthwhile in terms of the cards because the franchise has a Subway card.
One of the group members had acquired this card and it had allowed him to get rewards for buying at Subway and he was telling us how we need to get it as well. We thought that the card was a very clever way of dealing with orders and payments at the chain and that many other franchises need to do the same.
The method of preparing the meal was also quite okay to use. We did not have a problem with the level of bread toasting that the firm had employed. Furthermore, we liked the degree of temperature that the food had reached and everything was as expected. In other words, the sauces and breads tasted as they should and so did all the fillings that were used in the sand witches. The only problem that we found was in the quantity of the ingredients.
One of the group members felt that the sandwich was much lighter than he had expected. He told the attendant about this aspect and received a very welcoming response. The employee patiently explained that this was the standard weight of the sand witch but there were other options that would allow for a greater weight. We felt that this was an effective way of responding to the objection because the employee could not just change their standard offerings upon request.
He had to depend upon orders from his manager but since this could not be done immediately then he made do with what was available. It should be noted that we had also given out objections about the kind of issues that were not happy about the employee who had handled the veggie sandwich together sing the same gloves that were used to make the non vegetarian meal. She quickly apologised for that mistake and told us that the same would not happen again. However, the mistake had already been done.
As stated earlier in the theory review, services often entail co creations with the consumer. Clients in Subway can contribute towards a better service outcome by stating what they want and also by witnessing what is being done. Firms need to take advantage of this aspect by adding value to the creation process.
Subway has clearly realised the power of this component by listening to consumer’s input during meal making. One can customise one’s requirements by choosing among the various toppings and meats available in the restaurant prior to compilation of the sand witch.
One may also instruct an employee on the amount of that that the meal should be subjected or any other issue that can affect the outcome of the food. This implies that the company does take seriously this aspect of service marketing. They no longer focus on simply securing a transaction but often work on other aspects that are synonymous to services.
As stated earlier, the consumption process is also another crucial part of co-production. Companies need to look for ways of heightening the consumption of their service in the fast food restaurant business especially because they can witness this occurrence first hand and may therefore be in a position to judge whether the method is actually working for them or not. This is another opportunity for value additional in service marketing.
Subway has utilised this opportunity well by providing adequate space for consumption of their food in the restaurant. As stated earlier, we were happy with the overall decor and look of the restaurant. It enabled us to relax and enjoy ourselves as we settled down to eat our meal.
The fact that there was even an outdoor environment contributed to this perception because we could look at other things in the process. The company therefore marketed their products to us through this interaction with us upon making our purchase. That made up satisfied with its offerings and it is likely that we will go back to Subway some other time.
Integration of all organisational functions is always an important part of service marketing because marketing ceases to be just one of the many processes utilised to make profits. Subway seems to have recognised this aspect very well. They are currently marketing their service at the onset; during acquisition of the raw materials.
They have curved a niche for themselves in the healthy foods section and have shown that fast food restaurants need not be regarded as unhealthy eating options. Such an aspect automatically makes the company stand out from its competitors and markets it. Functions such as human resources seemed to have been integrated in the marketing process as well. The company appears to have done a good selection of employees during recruitment and has also trained them well when it comes to handling customer complaints.
We were content with the responses we got about the lighter than usual sand witch as well as the handling of the vegetable sand witch with the meat sandwich. Even though we could not get what we wanted exactly, the employees had done a good job given the constraints on time and resources. This testifies to the fact that the firm had actually integrated its human resource function with its marketing function.
It understood that customer retention is the key to their growth and therefore ensured that existent consumers were happy with their offerings. They were also aware that one unhappy client would spread the word around and spoil it for them. as explained in the moment of truth theory, employees need to have the right skills in order to be involved in service marketing. It appears as though Subway employees have received this kind of training since the ones that interacted with us did so professionally.
In the SERVQUAL model, service quality is assessed through five major parameters. These parameters are important because they will reflect positively upon the concerned consumers’ perceptions. This will market the commodities to them and cause them to come back.
It will also establish a reputation for the company as well. In terms of tangibles, Subway has worked well on its decor but needs to improve on the quantity of doo served. A diversification of the menu will also contribute to better service quality. Employee behaviour is quite on point as they have reasonable customer service given the time constraints.
We were not in a position to assess reliability because we did not go back there. On the other hand, empathy was prevalent as the employees dealt with our issues as they should have. Lastly, we found that the company’s pace was quite good so they were responsive enough. So their responsiveness was quite okay. This was especially seen after we stated our complaints concerning the use of the same gloves.
We liked the apology and felt that most of the weaknesses we found at the restaurant were forgivable. We did have a difference of opinion concerning the quantity of food but that matter was only raised by one of us. All in all, it can be said that service marketing at this franchise is implemented well.
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- Duck, S. & Montgomery, B. (1991). Studying interpersonal interaction. NY: Guilford
- Bernard, R. (1994). Researching methods in anthropology. California: AltaMira
- Gall, Borg (1996). Educational research. NY: Longman
- Smith, Andrew. (2006). Encyclopaedia of junk food. London: Greenwood publishing
- Schlosser, Eric (2005). Fast food nation. NY: Harper Collins
- Edvardsson, Bo., Enquist, Bo & Johnston, Robert. (2005). Co creating customer value through hyper reality in the pre-purchase service experience. Service research journal, 8(2), 149-161
- Hong, Qin. (2008). Determinants of customer perceived service quality in fast food restaurants. Quality Management journal 15(2), 152
- Tsai, Ming, Shih, Kuang & Chen, Jason. (2007). A comparison of the service quality of fast food chain franchises. Services and standards journal, 3(2), 222-238