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In the recent times, competition existing between firms operating in the same field has drastically surged. This can be attributed to improved technological know how, reduced barriers to entry, raised revels of investment in the field of research and development, leading to raised innovation levels. As a result of this, businesses operating in different parts of the world have been forced to embrace new techniques of carrying out businesses failure to which, they may end up closing shops. Bitner (2004) argues that, businesses operating in the hospitality industry have been the ones, which have been hardly hit by these changes. It is estimated that 36% of firms operating in the hospitality industry, such as hotels, airlines, telecommunications among others have had their profits reduced by approximately 60% in the lat five years, while 23% have ended up closing shops at during that duration (Kurtz,  2010) . This is attributable to the hard economic times, especially from 2008, due to the global crises as well as changes in customer preferences as witnessed in the hotel industry.

Amstrong, & Connie (2007) indicates that, in the hospitality industry, such as hotels, firms have been forced to cut on their operation costs, a factor that has enormously comprised on the level of customer satisfaction.  Consequently, the number of customers visiting these firms has reduced, translating to minimal profit levels. To avert this crisis, most of the hotels operating in major parts of the world, such as in the United States of America, the United Kingdom among other developed and developing economies, have come up with extremely innovative ways to maintain and attract customers. This has placed these hotels to be best placed in capitalizing on improved operational out look,  as the general market conditions continue to improve. This paper will critically analyse on concept of service design as applied in restaurants, such as Ninja New York among others. The paper will also look at some of the issues that the management operating, such hotels may face in implementing these service designs.

Service Designs in Restaurants

As indicated above, the need of maintain and attracting new customers has become the core function of any businesses, especially those operating in the service industry (Costin, 1994). In this enormously competitive business world, what separates a player in the industry is mostly the service, which comes with the product or service offered. It is clear, that quality customer experience, as determined by the quality of service, offered determines the level of customer loyalty both in the short and long run. According to Bitner (2004), service design is all activities of organizing and planning people, communication, materials and infrastructure components of a given type of service. The main objective of service design is to improve interaction and quality between the customers and service providers. In order to come up with a service design, there is a need to develop a service design methodology (Kurtz, 2010).  The service design methodology helps the business owners to design as per the participants or customers needs. This way the service becomes competitive, relevant as well as user friendly to the customers.

Mizuno & Akao (1994) argues that, the backbone of service design is to understand the motivations, behaviours and the needs of customers. Most of the observations are synthesized in order to generate ideas and concepts, which are portrayed visually, such as service prototypes, sketches among others. Seth (2005) argues that, in the current time, million of dollars is spent in designing hotels every year, a factor that has drastically increased competition between hotels globally. In general, managers and hotel practitioners view the aspect of design as only those aspects hotel services dealing on areas, such as internet based or interior design services. However, as witnessed in the Ninja New York Restaurant, the aspect of service designs goes beyond the traditional definition and encompasses other services that enhance customers’ satisfaction. Moreover, hotel managers and other stakeholders have failed to use quality attributes in prioritizing hotel service designs, based on the customer feedback among other notable parameters. Therefore, there is a need for restaurants to define to consider all the aspects of service design. This way, it becomes easy for both the small and well-established restaurants to adopt the best method of determining the service design to be adopted.

As stipulated by Kurtz (2010), the service sector contributes to at least 70% of the world Gross Domestic Product and at least 65% of concentration of the global workforce (Costin, 1994). Based on this argument, it has become essential to ensure design quality as well as quality of conformity with the design being offered in this sector. It is notable, that the design quality is the concept, which implies the presentations of the service or product as directed to the general needs of clients. For example, the hotel industry can satisfy the needs and demands of their clients, such as tourists, if it is well included in its designs. Generally, restaurants do carry intensive market research in order to determine their customers as well as the demands that require special attention (Bitner, 2004). On the other hand, quality of conformity with the design represents the level, in which the service or product meet demand and expectation of the market. This quality represents the clients’ satisfaction. In order to achieve the expected quality in respect to the changing methods of marketing being employed by hotels across the globe, there is a need to carry out continuous market research, thus enhancing innovations (Costin, 1994).

This approach ensures the pursuing of constant improvements as per the demands of clients (Mizuno & Akao, 1994). In general, quality is the impact of increasing and growing diverse needs of customers along with highly surging competition, development of the modern technology and market globalization. Problems in the service quality management usually arise due to lack of parameters, used in determination of quality in restaurants (Kurtz, 2010). It is not the same case with product quality, because products posses’ measurable and specific indicators, such as durability, the number of defective products, all of which make it easy for stakeholders to determine the level of quality involved.

Quality Function Deployment and SERVQUAL Model

It is worth noting, that interests in the service quality have risen in the recent years. This has resulted to growing research on ways to ways of improving the concepts of total quality concepts as applied in service designs, especially in hotels. Zeithaml (2000) candidly indicates that QFD (Quality Function Deployment) is one of a tailor-made process to analyze the requirements of customers in depth and translating it to the desired designer language. QFD method originally stems from product development, though this is a suitable method to support wide range of services in the service industry. First discovered in 1960 by the Tokyo Institute of Technology and applied in service and product design in several automobile companies, such as Toyota Inc. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry Limited. Currently, QFD is a crucial quality tool in designing process in sectors, such as the hotel industry. According to Zeithaml (2000), QFD is a systematic process, which is used by cross functional teams, aimed at indentifying as well as resolving issues involving provision of  services, product processes and strategies, which enhances the satisfaction of the customers.

QFD is also defined as the method of defining design qualities, which adheres to the expectations of customers. The customer’s expectations are then translated into critical quality assurance points and design targets that are used throughout the production and service development phase. Generally, the QFD technique is used in indentifying the presence of the customer requirements and the correlated design characterizes, it relates design characteristics in the form of quality aspects and components to different needs of the customers. QFD also helps business owners in the service industry to indentify the minimum sets of design characteristics, which are able to cover entire requirements of the customers.   On the other hand, SERVQUAL (SERVices QUALity) model offers a crucial conceptual framework for service quality measurements and research in the service industry. This model is entirely based on definition of quality as a comparison of the expected and considered gaps existing in the process of providing services.

Sangeeta (2004) defines SERVQUAL as one of the multi-item scale, which is developed in assessing the customers` perceptions of the service quality in retail and service businesses. Generally, the scale decomposes the notions of service quality into several constructs. Some of them include tangibles, such as equipments, physical facilities, staff appearance and equipments, reliability, which is the ability to carry out services accurately and dependably and responsiveness, which is the willingness to assists as well as respond to the needs of the customers. Other factors include assurance, which is the ability of the employees to inspire trust and confidence to the customers among others. Generally, SERVQUAL represents the service quality as discrepancy existing between the expectations of the customers for service offering and perceptions of service that is received.   From the above, it is clear that Quality Function Deployment and SERVQUAL Model aims at creating services from customers’ perspectives, which is a crucial characteristic of service design (Yan 2005).

The Ninja New York Restaurant

In New York City, competition between hotels has become intensive. In order to attract and retain customers, restaurants operating in this city are offering dinning experiences, which are different from the traditional restaurants settings (Destination Guide, 2009). One of the most famous and innovative restaurant is the Ninja that is attributable to its enormously unusual services as well as first class desserts and meals. The restaurant has enabled one to walk from the streets of   Downtown Manhattan into one of the Japanese castle built in the 15th century with Ninja Bible as the main reference (Fiévé & Waley, 2003). The Ninja Bible is known as “Bansenshukai” and the 23rd volume of this Bible was accidentally discovered in 2003, where ninjas created secret dishes and recipes. The initial Ninja Restaurant was created in Japan, and because of its great success, it was introduced to the New York City (Mizuno & Akao, 1994). 

Designed by Takeneuay Iba, the Ninja restaurant is made up of two sections. One is the Ninja village that is made up of private rooms for individuals and Rock Garden Dinning, which serves as a lounge (Destination Guide, 2009). For customers walking to this restaurant, one must be alert as they can be a victim as the place is literally made up of crawling ninjas, who do not only serve food, but also play tricks and perform magic. They hide in the secret passageways and crevasses, drops from the ceilings with the purpose of making their customers a little frightened. According to Harvo Yazaki, the president of the Ninja Restaurant in New York, the athletic servers, take months of training in order to learn on ways to move like ninjas in an art known as “ninjustu” (Reed, 2000). As featured on Travel Channel “Extreme Restaurant”, the ninjas prove in most instances to be a favourite of many dinners in New York City. The dishes that are found at Ninja Restaurants are a little pricey, though it is worth, due to the many magic filled “Ninja Art Dishes” (Fiévé & Waley, 2003). As indicated by Michinobu Okamoto, a chef at this restaurant, the food is made primarily from scratch by hand by employing the freshest ingredients, most of which originate from Japan (Fiévé &  Waley, 2003). One of the main examples of the Ninja art dish is the salad, which is presented on the top of grapefruit having a sword through it.

As clearly seen from the YouTube, when the ninja pulls the sword from the grapefruit, an oozing smoke cloud is released, thus creating a spectacular appearance to the customers. The other Ninja Art Dish is the Bonsai plant, a dessert that is presented in the shape of a bonsai tree. Harvo Yazaki, who is the president of the Ninja Restaurant in New York, regularly holds contests for the unique ideas as presented by the ninjas and selects the one he feels will add to the overall sustainability of the Ninja Restaurant (Berry, 2010). The drinks offered at the Ninja Restaurant are the ordinary drinks, as most of them contain puree or muddled fruit for ultimate freshening experiences (Reed, 2000). For those customers who would like to stick to the Japanese vodkas, sakes and beers, these selections are also available. Generally, the Ninja Restaurant has revolutionized the dinning experiences, thus becoming popular among many customers not only in New York City, but also across the globe (Bitner, 2004).

Service Design as applied in Ninja Restaurant and Other Restaurants Operating In New York City

It is clear that, restaurants operating in New York City, such as Ninja Restaurant have enormously invested in service design to retain and attract new customers, especially those living in the vicinity of the hotel (Amstrong, & Connie, 2007). Due to the quality services that is offered in the hotel, the general perception of this kind of hotels has drastically changed, thus making them to be more profitable, both in the short and long-run. According to Sangeeta (2004), the Ninja Restaurant among other types of hotels that have employed the same service design in New York City, have highly invested in planning and implementing Quality Function Deployment and SERVQUAL Model to achieve the expected customer experiences, in term of service design. According to Mizuno & Akao (1994), most of the hotels operating in New York City have had a higher average rating for expectations as compared to the average ratings for perceptions, in all aspects of the service design and quality. The following table briefly indicates the SERVQUAL gap as seen in most of hotels in New York City.

Dimensions

Expectations (SERVEXP scale)

Perception (SERVPERC scale)

SERVQUAL gap (Perception less Expectation)

Tangibles

6.36

5.70

-0.66

Reliability

6.44

6.00

-0.44

Responsiveness

6.38

5.99

-0.39

Assurance

6.38

6.00

-0.39

Empathy

6.02

5.70

-0.32

Total SERVQUAL gap

6.32

5.88

-0.44

(Berry 2010)

As investigated by Mizuno & Akao (1994), the quantitative application of the SERVQUAL model in measuring the impact of service design and quality of the dinning experience in restaurants operating in New York, indicates that most of guests have  higher expectations than their perceptions as compared to their overall perception. This is the main factor leading to the negative SERVQUAL gap. Based on this evidence, it is clear that an impeccable and reliable service should be well adhered to by the respective hotel managers, such as Harvo Yazaki (Roozenburg, 2005). By employing Quality Function Deployment and SERVQUAL Model, Ninja New York Restaurant has been able to revolutionize the dining experiences in New York, as food and beverages are served in an ancient atmosphere, which is different from what is done by other restaurants (Mizuno & Akao, 1994). Though the operational cost for the hotel has gone up, due to the additional services offered to the customers, the sales turnover continues to raise, thus higher profitability.

The Issues Facing the Operations of the Restaurants

With reference to the “touchpoints “, it is clear that, there are several challenges that face the management in implementing these new dinning experiences restaurants operating  in New York City. As indicated by Berry (2010), touchpoint is a type of interaction of the business with potential and existing customers.  This include literal interactions with the target customers, like speaking to them upon making reservations via phone, greeting every customer, when one walks through the doors of the restaurant among others. It is also notable, that touch points can include automated reservation, public relations, like advertisement and billboards. It is extremely crucial to interact or “touch” the customer, whenever an opportunity emerges (Seth, 2005). This is due to the fact that, the loyalty of these customers towards the businesses increases. 

Consequently, the business is able to benefit from the fact that 20% of the annual revenues of any given firm originate from 80% of the loyal customers (Sangeeta, 2004). However, there are many challenges faced by organizations, in an effort to perfect the “touchpoints”. The first major challenge is the raised operational costs arising from the additional services offered to the customers (Mizuno & Akao, 1994).  For most organizations, it is evident that the need to reduce the operational costs, especially during this time when spending rate of most customers has drastically reduced. Currently, the sustainability of an organization is based on its ability to reduce the operational cost to increase profitability (O’Neill, 2006). As witnessed in the Ninja New York Restaurant, the hotel has been forced to increase the prices of its products to cater the cost of extra services offered to the customers. This posse a negative impact to the hotel, as the number of guests, who would like to experience the new dinning experience will be reduced.

For instance, the costs of  Kunoichi package (a Japanese food)  ranges from $ 48 to $ 55 in Ninja, New York, while the same costs less than $ 40 in other hotels selling Japanese  foods and beverages in New York, among other notable cities. The other issue facing the operations entails the employment of SERQUAL model in service design (Berry, 2010). Pun (2010) in estimating the impact of service design, SERVQUAL is based on an affirmative patterns, rather than patterns of understanding, thus giving rise to pattern objectives. Conclusion

From the above information, it is clear that, companies operating in the service industry should strive to offer high quality services to their customers. As witnessed in Ninja New York Restaurant, the number of customers has surged as the hotel offers exceptional services to the customers, despite the higher costs of the products sold. There is a need for all businesses to invest in quality customer experience, especially during this hard economic time, to enhance their survival rates. To achieve this, all restaurants operating in New York City have to invest in research and development. This way, they will be able to increase their level of innovations, which in most cases translates to higher profits both in the short and long-run. 

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