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Service recovery is essential to maintaining guest satisfaction in the event of a service failure. However, restaurateurs must approach service recovery in the appropriate context, because guests give differential consideration to different types of problems. Without doubt, a restaurant’s failure to serve food correctly is viewed as the most serious type of failure, and a food problem coupled with a service failure makes matters even worse. However, service failures by themselves are soon forgiven if the recovery is properly handled. Oddly, the least important type of failure, that of atmosphere (e.g., design, noise level), is most likely to cause a guest never to return, even if the restaurant makes a proper recovery. This study of more than eight hundred restaurant patrons found a positive and significant association between guests’ reported satisfaction with the outcome of their complaint and their repeat patronage intentions. The study’s findings highlight the importance of adequately resolving guests’ complaints with the goal of increasing the possibility that the guest will return to a restaurant after a service (or food) failure.


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