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According to Monette, D.R., Sullivan, T.J. &Dejong, C.R. (2013), providing human services is based on thoroughly comprehending human behavior and the societal setting. This understanding is derived from diverse sources, such as common sense, experience and traditions spawn from customs, habits and repetitions. Through understanding the setting, different rules and legislations are put in place by which service performance can be measured and evaluated for ultimate performance efficiency. Public service institutions such as restaurants and hotels must not only comply with such legislations to maintain their licenses and ability to operate but they must also engage I actively reporting their compliance with such legislations to maintain their credibility and integrity in the eyes of the customers. Journalism provides an avenue for fair and accurate information for such service institutions to establish trust, and be credible. Communicating risks about hygiene practices in the domestic kitchen environment should focus on convincing consumers that they can and should adopt healthy behaviors and activities.
research examines customers' perceptions of food hygiene across different types of establishments in London to measure its influence on their selection of dining destinations.A high food hygiene rating is generally perceived positively by customers, who consider the cultural representation and ethical factors that shape their perceptions.
Background of Study
Food hygiene is an indispensable aspect of the foodservice industry, ensuring the safety and well-being of consumers. According to Ablett (2023) maintaining high standards of food hygiene is not only a legal obligation but also a critical factor in establishing customer trust and loyalty. Gardner (2023) asserts that when it comes to food hygiene and safety, affiliated businesses in the UK have a responsibility to ensure that the food they produce, handle, and sell is safe to eat. Typically this will often involve several key obligations from safe food handling to accurate labeling, keeping records of the origin and distribution of the food products to ensure traceabilityand withdrawing unsafe food from the market consistently (Ablett, 2023). Businesses in the UK also engage in food hygiene ratings to provide valuable information to consumers about the food safety practices followed by the establishment. The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is one such initiative that rates businesses on a scale from 0 (urgent improvement necessary) to 5 (very good), providing customers with valuable information about an establishment's hygiene practices (Food Standards Agency, 2023). In the United Kingdom, the food hygiene and safety standards are regulated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) (Gov.UK, 2023). This body is also responsible for food safety and food hygiene in Wales and Northern Ireland where it works with local authorities to enforce food safety regulations. The FSA implements stringent guidelines, inspections, and enforcement mechanisms to guarantee that all food businesses, including restaurants, cafes, and food vendors, maintain adequate food hygiene practices (Food Standards Agency, 2023). Statistics from the FSA reveal that food borne illnesses remain a significant public health concern in the UK. The most recent numbers published by Holland and Mahmoudzadeh (2020) from the Food Standards Agency estimate that there were 2.4 million cases of food borne disease in the UK in 2018 and 0.9 million of these cases were from 13 known pathogens. This underscores the importance of robust food hygiene management in the foodservice industry to mitigate health risks and build public confidence. A study conducted by the FSA in 2019 reported that 75% of respondents considered the food hygiene rating when choosing where to eat (Foods Standard Agency, 2023), showcasing the direct link between food hygiene management and consumer decision-making.
Consumer Perception and Decision Making
Consumer perception and decision-making processes play a vital role in the success of food establishments especially in the contemporary food environment marked by increased awareness of health and safety. Consumers are more cautious about where they dine and their perception of cleanliness, safety, and overall hygiene of an eatery will directly influences their dining choices (Aksoydan, 2007; Hanson, 2021 and Wu et al., 2021). Bukachi et al., (2021) advances that consumer perceptions of food safety are driven by concerns about food production, processing, handling, storage and the health risks associated with consumption. Further, lack of traceability of source as well as the potential unhygienic environments in which they were sold and health risks around consuming too much or improperly cooked products include other key perceptions in regards to food safety and hygiene that influence ultimateconsumer choices on where to dine or buy food. Research conducted by the Food Standards Agency in 2020 demonstrated that 88% of consumers believed that food hygiene ratings were an important factor when deciding where to eat. Furthermore, 70% of respondents reported that they would be less likely to choose an establishment with a food hygiene rating of 2 or below, highlighting the direct correlation between food hygiene management and customer choice (Food Standards Agency, 2023).
The foodservice industry in London is a vibrant and competitive landscape, where establishments strive to attract and retain customers. However, despite stringent food hygiene regulations in the UK and the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) that provides consumers with information about an establishment's hygiene practices, there is limited research exploring how food hygiene management impacts customer perceptions and decision-making within London. The problem lies in a lack of comprehensive understanding of the specific factors within food hygiene management that shape consumer choices and perceptions, hindering the industry's ability to optimize its hygiene practices. This research addresses this knowledge gap by investigating the multifaceted relationship between food hygiene management and customer decision-making, offering actionable insights for both businesses and regulatory bodies.
Research Aim and Objectives
This study aims to assess the impact of food hygiene management on customer perception and decision-making across diverse dining establishments in London Hospitality Sector. By assessing various types of dining establishments in London, this study seeks to identify the specific elements within food hygiene management that most significantly shape consumer perceptions. The ultimate goal is to provide valuable insights for the foodservice industry, enabling them to optimize their hygiene practices and enhance the overall dining experience while safeguarding public health.
The role of a chef within the culinary world is not solely limited to culinary expertise but extends to a profound understanding of legal and social responsibilities, culinary fundamentals, and personal hygiene skills, all of which are pivotal for ensuring food safety in professional kitchens, irrespective of their size or reputation. The motivation for this dissertation stems from my current role as a chef, which has allowed me to traverse a diverse spectrum of culinary establishments, where I observed a consistent pattern in practice during the peak hours that potentially compromise food safety. This dissertation intends to delve into the intricate nexus between food safety, kitchen culture, and the management's response to food hygiene and safety issues. By examining the challenges faced by chefs in upholding food hygiene standards during busy service hours and the management's approach towards these challenges, the study aims to highlight areas for improvement contributing to the enhancement of food safety practices in professional kitchens, ensuring that culinary establishments of all types prioritize not only culinary excellence but also the critical facet of public health and safety.
Significance of study
This study holds significant relevance as it addresses a fundamental and often-overlooked aspect of the culinary industry. Ensuring food safety is an ethical and legal obligation in any professional kitchen. By examining the challenges faced by chefs in maintaining food hygiene during peak hours and assessing the management's approach to these challenges, this research offers valuable insights to enhance food safety practices. These insights can benefit the industry, improve customer satisfaction, and contribute to overall public health.
The chapter provides an introduction to the research on the Impact of Food Hygiene Management on Customer Perception and Decision Making. It emphasizes the significance of understanding human behavior, societal settings, and regulations in the context of food service. then further highlights the importance of maintaining food safety and hygiene in public service institutions, such as restaurants and hotels. The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) and the role of the Food Standards Agency in regulating food hygiene standards in the UK are highlighted along with Consumer perceptions and decision-making processes in relation to food safety and hygiene, revealing the influence of food hygiene ratings on customer choices. The problem statement identifies the research gap, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing consumer choices when it comes to food safteyu and hygiene. The research's significance lies in its potential to improve food safety practices and enhance customer satisfaction in the culinary industry while at the same time safeguarding public health.
The literature review chapter embarks on a comprehensive exploration of the relationship between food hygiene management, consumer perception, and decision-making in the context of the UK's hospitality industry. This chapter delves into the theoretical underpinnings that shape consumers' behaviors and choices, providing a framework rooted in consumer behavior and decision-making. In addition, the chapter includes an analysis of empirical literature, assessing the concept of food hygiene management in the UK, its practical application, and the myriad benefits it offers along with the link between food hygiene, safety, and the way consumers perceive, evaluate, and ultimately decide upon their dining destinations.
As Kotler and Gary (2005) emphasize, a theoretical framework comprises a set of interconnected concepts aimed at providing guidance for research endeavours by defining what needs to be measured and the statistical relationships under scrutiny. In this section, we will explore the theories utilized to investigate the correlation between food hygiene, safety, and how consumers perceive, assess, and ultimately make choices regarding their dining venues. The literature review will rely on two prominent theoretical frameworks; the theory of planned behaviour and Information Processing theory. By incorporating these theories, our research aims to establish a robust conceptual foundation, enabling a deeper comprehension of the intricate dynamics that mould the landscape of the London hospitality industry.
Theory of Planned Behaviour
The Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) is a widely recognized theory in the field of psychology and consumer behaviour that offers valuable insights into understanding how attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioural control influence an individual's intentions and subsequent behaviours (Ajzen, 1991). Developed by Icek Ajzen, the theory of Planned Behaviour posits that an individual's intention to perform a specific behaviour is a strong predictor of whether that behaviour will be carried out and that individuals' intentions to perform a behaviours are influenced by their attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioural control (Asare, 2015). In the context of the study on the impact of food hygiene management on customer perception and decision-making, TPB provides a framework for understanding how customers form intentions to choose dining establishments based on food hygiene factors. Understanding these elements of TPB can help elucidate why customers may prioritize food hygiene when making dining choices. By examining how attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioural control interact, the study can offer insights into the cognitive and social processes influencing customers' intentions and actions when it comes to food hygiene management. This, in turn, contributes to a deeper comprehension of the impact of food hygiene on customer perception and decision-making in the hospitality sector.
Information Processing Theory
Information Processing Theory is a cognitive framework that elucidates how individuals acquire, process, and employs information to make decisions, providing essential insights for the study on the influence of food hygiene management on customer perceptions and decisions within the hospitality sector. According to Cuncic (2023) the theory posits that individuals go through a series of cognitive stages when processing information, including attention, encoding, storage, and retrieval. In the context of food hygiene and customer decision-making, this theory manifests as customers seeking information, evaluating it, and making choices. Customers, when striving to select dining options, engage in the initial step of information gathering from a myriad of sources including hygiene ratings, online reviews, and personal experiences. The information regarding a restaurant's food hygiene practices holds critical significance during this stage. The subsequent phase involves information evaluation where customers assess the acquired data through the lens of their pre-existing knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes. Favourable information regarding an establishment's food hygiene practices typically receives a positive evaluation. The Information Processing Theory also acknowledges the presence of cognitive biases, which can colour the interpretation of information (Lawless, 2023). For instance, confirmation bias may lead customers to selectively focus on information that corroborates their existing beliefs about an establishment's hygiene, potentially ignoring contradictory evidence. In this study, Information Processing Theory provides a valuable framework for exploring how customers navigate the vast information landscape pertaining to food hygiene in dining establishments. It offers insights into the cognitive processes at play when customers encounter hygiene-related information, ultimately shaping their perceptions and decision-making. Understanding these cognitive processes is essential for both businesses and regulatory bodies to effectively communicate and enhance food hygiene management practices. This comprehensive view of information processing underpins the study's objective of unravelling the complexities of how customers process and interpret hygiene-related information and the consequential impact on their choices when dining out.
Food Hygiene Management
Food hygiene and food hygiene management are critical aspects of the food service industry, with far-reaching implications for public health, customer satisfaction, and the overall success of restaurants and other food establishments. Food hygiene refers to the practices and procedures followed during food preparation, handling, storage, and service to prevent contamination, food borne illnesses, and maintain food safety. According to Seaman and Eves (2006) food hygiene refers particularly to the practices that prevent microbial contamination of food at all points along the chain from farm to table. On the other hand, food safety encompasses all the important practices that businesses must follow to ensure food is fit for consumption including maintaining good food hygiene (Burton-Hughes, 2019).
Food Hygiene Management and the Hospitality Industry
Food hygiene management is a critical aspect of the hospitality industry. It entails a set of practices and procedures that ensure the safety and quality of the food served to customers. Food hygiene management in the hospitality industry involves several key practices and components, which include personal hygiene, proper food storage and preparation, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), staff training, supplier ingredient selection and regular inspection and audits. Staff must maintain high standards of personal hygiene to ensure effective food hygiene management. This might include regular handwashing, proper clothing, and the use of hairnets and gloves where necessary when handling food. Food handlers that operate in retail and food service areas have been found to be the dominant source of foodborne sickness (Young et al. 2018); Greig et al, 2007). Proper storage of food items is essential to prevent cross-contamination and spoilage. This includes maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity levels and using appropriate storage containers.
Ensuring that food is prepared in a clean and safe environment is vital. This involves cleaning and sanitizing work surfaces, utensils, and equipment regularly. Previous research has shown that failure to implement safe food handling practices in in the retail and food sector lead to food sickness in food customers (Robertson et al., 2013). The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points is a systematic approach that identifies, evaluates, and controls food safety hazards. Organizations in the hospitality industry should develop and implement HACCP plans to minimize risks. They can do this by following the seven basic principles for HACCP implementation according to the World Health Organization’s guidance (Kamboj et al., 2020). Training staff in food hygiene practices is crucial to ensure that everyone understands and complies with the established standards. Research has shown that poor training of food handling staff is one of the major causes of poor food hygiene in the hospitality industry (Poulston, 2008). Choosing reliable suppliers and inspecting the quality of ingredients is essential to maintain food safety standards. Hospitality establishments should undergo regular inspections and audits to assess and improve their food hygiene management systems.
The importance of food hygiene in the hospitality sector has been a subject of extensive research and analysis. Maintaining high standards of food hygiene is of paramount importance for several reasons. One of the central reasons for the significance of food hygiene management in the hospitality industry is its direct impact on public health and safety. Foodborne illnesses can have severe consequences for human beings, including hospitalization and fatalities. These illnesses have been found to be one of the most prevalent problems in the modern world, with their cases increasing annually (Seaman & Eves, 2006). Many studies have shown that the main causes of food illnesses are rapid population growth and urbanization, improper food handling, inadequate sanitation, changes in food preparation methods and insufficient food safety measures (Motarjemi&Ka¨ferstein, 1999). Most countries across the globe have strict regulations and standards governing food safety and hygiene in the hospitality industry. Compliance with these regulations is not only a legal requirement for food service businesses but also essential to avoid fines, penalties, and potential closure of the establishment. Several studies, such as those by Kun et al. (2019), have examined the legal implications of non-compliance in the hospitality industry. Fines, penalties, and even the closure of establishments due to violations of food safety laws underscore the legal importance of food hygiene management. Proper food hygiene management is key in gaining high reputation and trust from customers. Maintaining excellent food hygiene standards is vital for building and sustaining a positive reputation. Customers expect safe and high-quality food when dining out, and they are more likely to patronize establishments with a good track record for hygiene. A positive reputation is a vital asset for hospitality businesses, and it is closely tied to food hygiene. Customers expect that the food they consume is not only delicious but also safe. Research conducted by Gilbert et al. (2004) emphasized the critical role of food safety in building and maintaining customer trust. A single incident of food poisoning or an outbreak of foodborne illness can severely damage an establishment's reputation, potentially leading to a loss of patrons and revenue.
Food Hygiene Management in London Hospitality Sector
In the United Kingdom, food safety is of great concern to the government has it aims to ensure all foods and drinks offered to the public are safe and healthy. The London hospitality sector operates under the purview of a well-defined regulatory framework aimed at ensuring food safety for all people. The major food safety and hygiene legislation in the United Kingdom include The Food Safety Act of 1990, which establishes the structure for regulations governing food and establishes violations related to safety, quality, and labelling; General Food Law Regulations 2019, which formulated fundamental principles and prerequisites within food legislation; and the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, which involves the repeal and re-enactment, with minor modifications, of the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 and specific elements of the General Food Regulations 2004 (Visit Britain, n.d). Another foundational law is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which ensures that all industries, including the hospitality sector generate an experience that every customer can enjoy and feel safe in, while protecting and appreciating employees. Notably, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) plays a central role in setting and enforcing food safety standards across London and the UK as a whole. A notable initiative from the Foods Standards Agency is the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS), which assesses and rates food establishments based on their hygiene practices based on a rating of 0 to 5 ("Food Standards Agency", 2022). The scheme allows customers to easily assess and choose where to eat or shop for food. Given London's cosmopolitan nature, food allergies pose unique challenges for the hospitality sector. The Food Information Regulations (2014) mandate clear labelling of allergenic ingredients in food products in order to ensure that customers with allergies are safe from food poisoning ("legislation.gov.uk", 2014). A small percentage of people in the UK are allergic to various food substances, and this has led to illnesses and even death (Visit Britain, n.d). Under the Food Safety Act 1990 and General Food Law Regulations 2019, food service providers are demanded to ensure they offer safe food to customers and list all ingredients used, especially the 14 most common allergens identified by these regulatory frameworks ("Food Standards Agency", 2023). The London hospitality sector faces specific challenges in maintaining food hygiene. These include a high density of food establishments, staff turnover, and diverse customer preferences. To address these challenges, innovative technologies such as digital record-keeping and real-time monitoring systems have been implemented.
Customer perception refers to the manner in which customers view and interpret a business, its products or services, and overall brand. Usually, customer perception is a subjective and often emotional response that people develop based on their interactions and experiences with a company. In the modern world, business organizations gather data and information on customer perception to understand their products and services, brand, where they can improve on the quality of their brand, gather insight on the view of customers for new products and services, and reduce claims (Ramaswamy &DeClerck, 2018). Customer perception plays a crucial role in the business and marketplace for several reasons. Customer perception directly influences a company's brand image. In a study conducted by Erdil (2015), there is a strong link between customer’s perception of a brand and the intent to purchase. A positive customer perception enhances a brand's reputation and forces customers to return and purchase from certain business brands, while a negative perception can damage a brand’s reputation. Customer perception strongly impacts customer loyalty to a business organization. When customers have a favourable perception of a business, they are more likely to remain loyal, make repeat purchases and recommend the company to others. Loyal customers contribute significantly to a company's long-term success. Customers make purchasing decisions based on their perception of a product or service. If they perceive a product as high-quality, reliable, and aligned with their needs and values, they are more likely to buy it. Conversely, a negative perception can deter potential customers. Businesses with a positive customer perception have a competitive advantage in the market. They can charge premium prices, attract more customers and outperform competitors. A strong customer perception differentiates a company in a crowded marketplace.
Customer perception in the Hospitality Industry
Customer perception holds significance in the hospitality industry, where the quality of service, food and overall experience directly influences the success of food businesses. Customer perception in the hospitality industry is a complex and multifaceted concept that encompasses how customers perceive various aspects of their food experience, such as service quality, cleanliness, food safety and overall customer satisfaction. According to Xu et al. (2022), customer perceptions of hygiene is an extremely important factor in the dining setting. Customers that perceive certain restaurants to be hygienic tend to be actionably loyal to such brands (Almohaimmeed, 2017). Customer perception directly affects the financial performance of food businesses in the hospitality industry. According to Pizam&Tasci (2019), hygiene in food service environments is a key determinant factor for food tourists to return and stay loyal. Positive perceptions, such as exceptional service and a clean and hygienic environment, lead to higher customer satisfaction, repeat business, positive word-of-mouth and potentially premium pricing. Conversely, negative customer perceptions can result in customer attrition, negative reviews and damage to a business's reputation, ultimately leading to financial losses. In the hospitality industry, adherence to food safety regulations is not only a legal requirement but also a vital aspect of shaping the perception of customers. Customers expect establishments to meet or exceed food safety standards to ensure their health and well-being. Failing to comply with regulations can result in legal consequences, negative customer perceptions, and financial penalties.
Key drivers of customer’s perception in London hospitality sector
Apart from hygiene, there are other key drivers of customer perception in the hospitality industry in London. These include, but are not limited to service quality and pricing and value for money. The quality of service offered by businesses is a fundamental driver of customer perception and satisfaction in the hospitality sector. Research by Parasuraman et al. (1988) introduced the SERVQUAL model that identifies five dimensions of service quality, which are reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and tangibles. These dimensions encompass various elements, such as staff attentiveness, courtesy and professionalism. These dimensions directly influence how customers perceive the overall service experience. Food enterprises are increasingly increasing their investments in improving service quality to improve the perception of their guests and attain better customer satisfaction levels (Dominici& Palumbo, 2013). In the contemporary world, customers tend to evaluate whether the cost of products and services aligns with the perceived value they receive. This is also the case for the food industry. According to Law et al. (2008), price is one of the key determinants of how customer will think when engaging in purchasing decisions. Research by Kimes (1999) shows the importance of offering fair pricing and value for money to create a positive customer perception. According to the author, this can lead to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth to other customers.
Impact of food hygiene management on customer’s perception
Food hygiene management is a pivotal aspect of food service establishments. Food hygiene management directly impacts how customers perceive the quality, safety and overall experience. Research by Leach et al. (2001) underscores the importance of effective food safety practices in shaping customer perceptions. Various factors, such as cleanliness, proper food handling and adherence to food safety regulations contribute to a positive perception of food establishments. Positive customer perceptions of food hygiene and safety in a food business premise normally translate into higher levels of customer satisfaction. As a result, satisfied customers are more likely to return to an establishment and recommend it to. This positive cycle can lead to enhanced loyalty and repeated business. Trust is a cornerstone of customer perception, particularly in the context of food safety and hygiene. Customers tend to trust establishments that prioritize and maintain high standards of food hygiene. Trust builds a positive reputation amongst customers that can lead to customer retention and attraction of newer ones (Palazzo et al, 2021). Customer perception that is rooted in food hygiene management significantly influences decision making in the context of the hospitality and food service industry. Research by Chua et al. (2020) has shown that customer perception is a pivotal factor in the decision-making process, and it facilitates other considerations to purchase intentions, such as price, when it comes to choosing a dining establishment. This underlines the critical role of food hygiene management in the customer's decision-making journey. Positive customer perceptions regarding food hygiene often translate into positive word-of-mouth recommendations and online reviews. Customers that are satisfied are more likely to share their experiences and recommend a food establishment to their family, friends and colleagues.
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