In an era where solo dining is becoming increasingly common, a recent study from Korea delves into how the atmosphere of a restaurant, or its “experienscape”, influences the emotions and dining satisfaction of solo diners. This new research also considers the roles of public self-consciousness and willingness to dine alone.
The surge in solo dining aligns with shifting global lifestyle trends, particularly the increase in single-person households. Restaurants, in response, are adapting to cater to this growing demographic. Yet, understanding the nuances of solo diners’ experiences remains a challenge for the hospitality industry.
The study, conducted with 403 Korean solo diners, utilised structural equation modelling to analyse the data. Key findings suggest that the dining atmosphere significantly influences solo diners’ positive emotions but not their negative ones. Interestingly, interactions with staff and other guests predominantly affected negative emotions, highlighting the complexity of the solo dining experience.
The findings were published in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.
The research underscores the significance of restaurant “experienscape” – an amalgam of sensory, functional, social, and hospitality elements – in shaping a solo diner’s emotional response. For instance, the sensory appeal of food impacts both positive and negative emotions, while the fairness of employee interactions mainly affects negative feelings.
One of the study’s striking revelations is the moderating effect of public self-consciousness (PSC) and solo dining willingness on these relationships. Individuals with high PSC, who are more aware of others’ perceptions, show different emotional responses to the dining atmosphere compared to those with lower PSC. Similarly, the willingness to dine alone alters how sensory aspects of food are perceived emotionally.
These findings have significant practical implications for restaurant managers and the hospitality industry at large. Creating a welcoming and comfortable environment for solo diners, who are now a significant market segment, is crucial. Training staff to provide fair and respectful service to all customers, regardless of their dining party size, can significantly enhance a solo diner’s experience and satisfaction.
The study’s results also pave the way for future research, particularly exploring the varying needs of solo diners from different cultural backgrounds. While this study focused on Korean solo diners, the insights gained are applicable globally, given the universal rise of solo dining.