Publication Date

12-1999

Abstract

[Excerpt] Businesses that seek to develop an appropriate operations strategy for serving a multicultural customer market face challenges that are distinct from businesses that serve a relatively homogeneous local market. While the strategic implications of expanding services from a domestic market to international locations have been well documented, the issue of dealing with multinational customers at a single location has largely been neglected by researchers, as far as we can determine.

This paper attempts to fill the research gap by presenting a method for determining the extent to which restaurant managers should maintain standard menus and food items, as opposed to customizing their operations for different ethnic and cultural groups. To that end, we applied a customer-based approach to help managers at four international-airport food outlets to improve their food- service revenues from their three major passenger groups: English-, Japanese-, and Spanish-speaking customers. In this case, language preference was used as a proxy for cultural identity. We submit that although there are many differences among, say, English-speaking peoples, they are more similar to each other than they are to, say, Spanish speakers. Moreover, the language a person speaks is a substantial factor in trying to communicate in a particular location. One can guess that Japanese speakers in the United States, for example, might experience more language barriers than either English or Spanish speakers.

We present an approach for modeling the preferences of different cultural groups, evaluating the differences among the groups, and determining a strategy to maximize market share for each of the four food-service providers that we studied. Indeed, one food-service vendor implemented our study's recommendations and enjoyed a substantial revenue gain over the previous year's same-period sales. We believe that the method we propose has valuable implications for any service provider who must consider operating strategies for a multicultural or multinational site, although we focus on the distinct concept of a domestic foodservice business that serves a multicultural market.

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© Cornell University. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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