To delight or not to delight? An investigation of loyalty formation in the restaurant industry

Jana L H Bowden, Tracey S. Dagger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research has questioned the value of customer satisfaction and has instead emphasized the need to move beyond merely satisfying customers to delighting them. Despite this, few studies have explored how satisfaction and delight jointly determine customer loyalty. Yet understanding how customer satisfaction and delight contributes to loyalty is central to the development of effective relationship marketing strategies. Similarly, understanding whether loyalty development differs between new or repeat patronage consumers is critical to customer retention. This research examines the antecedents and consequences of customer satisfaction and customer delight using a sample of 474 consumers drawn from four separate fine dining restaurants within Australia. This article also examines cohort effects to determine the extent to which service experience moderates the effect of these determinants on loyalty. A key finding of this study was that customer delight did not lead to loyalty. In addition, the salience of delight in the development of loyalty did not differ significantly based on the customer's level of service experience. The results indicated that satisfaction was the key driver of customers' intentions to repurchase and to positively recommend the service provider. The extent to which the customer's service expectations were met strongly influenced their level of satisfaction. Therefore, within the specific context of high-end restaurants, customer satisfaction appears to be sufficient with regard to the generation of customer loyalty. Whilst moving beyond satisfying customers to delighting them may add value to the customer experience, it did not translate into the development of enduring loyalty bonds for new or repeat purchase customers. The findings of this research have important strategic implications for the management of customer-provider relationships and for managers who are considering a service program designed around delighting the customer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-524
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Hospitality Marketing and Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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