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Marketing Sustainable Operation and Development

  • Zhang Xia

Field of Research

This research will be carried out in the field of marketing, economic, and theme restaurant.

Topic of Research

The topic of this proposed dissertation is titled:

The Marketing Sustainable Operation and development of Theme Restaurant in China

Brief Literature Review of the Topic

Along with the increasing requirements of customers on dining experiences, theme restaurants have become a trend in F & B service industry. Numerous entrepreneurs and investors are attracted by this new concept and want to adventure in this business. It seems that a theme restaurant business will have a bright future. However, with only a short term of popularity at the initial stage, most of them had to close down. Only a few of the theme restaurant manage to sustain in the market, developed their own customer groups and grow rapidly. Based on the previous studies, this thesis attempts to carve out a way of stable operation and sustainable development for theme restaurants from the perspectives of marketing strategic, customer value and corporate life cycle through comparison, illustration and analysis. (Ai, D, S, 1997)

With rapid economic growth and high standard of living, food and beverage industry has develop tremendously. Some of the consumers expect to the environment and ambient when they consume the products. Current consumers are interested not only in buying products but also to have feeling enjoyment and fulfilling experiences while dining out. Customers prefer to have a unique and distinctive experience under a certain atmosphere that is different from common restaurant. When experience economy encounter restaurant, theme restaurant is born. However, theme restaurant sustainable development not really optimistic in the marketing. F & B industry has been developing for so long but certain restaurant facing big challenge to capture the consumers and to sustain in the market. Compared with others, homogeneity is very serious in dining business. Theme restaurant makes customer active participator instead of passive recipient comes with the tide of fashion.

Theme restaurant can be simply defined as a dining place marked with one (usually) or more themes based on which all the structure, decoration, design, product, service etc. are created to produce a particular cultural atmosphere that can be recognized and felt by customers. There are three main idea from researchers of theme restaurants in China. First, the main ideal, this view consider theme as a carrier of operation which is mainly used to attract customers. However the food is still the main concern in the restaurant. Second, the core ideal, the function of theme is created by the need and want of the consumers. They affirm the primary status of theme based on which all the other elements in restaurant will be defined, such as dish, menu, space design, decoration, color, music, service, marketing strategy and so on. Third is the experience that the customers will feel while dining in the restaurant which the ambiance is different from other restaurant. Emphasizes the unique and memorable emotional experience and psychological experience customers can get from different theme environments, service and cooked food. Researchers turn their sights from suppliers to receivers, from restaurateurs to consumers. (Fu, Y, 2012)

Theme restaurants are established on niche market. Each theme restaurant is its own given theme, a specific culture, and a unique style, exclusiveness is more or less inevitable. In addition, the average expenditure is relatively high. As a consequence, the customer source of theme restaurant is much more limited than traditional ones. For example, enthusiasm and curiosity of music lovers are easily sparked by Hard Rock Cafe, but when facing a restaurant with football or sea world theme, they may show more calmness and rationality. What they can obtain is not only delicious food and considerate service, but also a taste of exclusiveness and privilege, a perception of emotional and psychology identification.

In 1970, Alvin Toffler came up with experience economy in his book Future Shock. From his view, after product economy and service economy, human being will enter an Experience Economy Era. Then Pine, J, B. and Gilmore, J, H confirmed this prediction and further developed Alvin’s idea by publishing their work Experience Economy in 1999. They described an experience occurs when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. Commodities are fungible, goods tangible, services intangible, and experiences memorable. In answer to consumers’ desire for experience, more and more businesses engage on considering how to design experiences and promote them. The famous Disney Park should be one of the most typical and successful cases of experience economy. Experience is identified as the fourth economic offering that is distinct from service as service is from goods.

Like goods and services, experiences have their own distinct qualities and characteristics and present their own design challenges. Five key experiences design principles are summarized by Pine, J, B. and Gilmore, J, H:

  • Theme the like-to-deliver experience
  • Harmonize impression
  • Offer positive cues and eliminate negative cues
  • Mix in memorabilia
  • Engage all five senses

Experience is essentially a form of behavior where feeling plays an important part. The state of emotions always affects on how an individual deals with surrounding environment. Experiences are not static like products but variable. Experiences occur in a process where interactions take place under a certain setting both physical and virtue between the individuals. Boswijk, A, Thijssen, T, and Peele, E (2007) describe characteristics from the perspective of individual in A New Perspective on the Experience Economy. Every meaningful experience should satisfy all of these characteristics:

  • There is a heightened concentration and focus, involving all one‘s senses.
  • One‘s sense of time is altered.
  • One is touched emotionally.
  • The process is unique for the individual and has intrinsic value.
  • There is contact with the raw stuff the real thing.
  • One does something and undergoes something.
  • There is a sense of playfulness
  • One has a feeling of having control of the situation.
  • There is a balance between the challenge and one‘s own capacities.
  • There is a clear goal.

Objectives of the research

Theme restaurant concept meet the current consumer demand. When compared with other normal restaurant, theme restaurant has it own advantages and disadvantage. Theme restaurant is a result of catering reform, a symbol of economy developing into a certain advanced stage. In the development stage in the market, theme restaurant markets in most major western countries has enter the maturity stage. Theme restaurant had not appeared in domestic market until late 20th century. Apart from few amount, small scale, and limited types, kinds of stubborn defects and unceasing problems are also annoying. Due to many constraint in sustaining theme restaurant such as limited kind of food, not so attractive themes and increasing of overhead , business restaurant owner find it very difficult to manage. Many restaurant close down within a year, part of them survive, and only a few of them make a hit. What makes all the differences? (Tong, J, Q, 2008)

From economics rules we should understand every product has its life cycle in market. Ron Paul concludes that the life cycle of theme restaurant is even shorter than expected. Does it mean theme restaurant has high risk to be well operated? Of course not, every industry has its risk, just at different levels. Business enjoying low risk cannot be guaranteed safe and profitable all the time. Conversely, business facing high risk also can succeed only if equipped with scientific management and adaptive strategies. The truth is that it is impossible to allow life cycle of one theme restaurant extend infinitely. But it is achievable to make full use of resources, to optimize structure, rationalize operation, and keep vitality to the maximum.

Methodology of Research

Based on the topic, which is the marketing sustainable operation and development of theme restaurant. I will choose qualitative methodology for the research. Qualitative methodology explanatory paradigm which supports the view that there are many truths and multiple realities. This type of paradigm focuses the integral perspective of the person and environment which is more coincident with the nursing discipline (Weaver and Olson, 2006). Additionally, the explanatory paradigm is associated more with methodological approaches that provide an opportunity for the voice, concerns and practices of research participants to be heard (Cole, 2006; Weaver and Olson). Cole further argues that qualitative researchers are “more concerned about uncovering knowledge about how people feel and think in the circumstances in which they find themselves, than making judgments about whether those thoughts and feelings are valid”. Since, Theme restaurant sustainable operation development have different method, depends the specific theme and customer.

Literature Research Method

By collecting and reading pertinent literature, data and material to develop a comprehensive understanding about related theories and empirical studies including theme restaurant’s definition, characteristics, defects, history, status quot, future prospects and so on. To summarize its strengths and weaknesses, achievements and challenges. To clear the relationship between theme restaurant and experience economy, culture, and consumer psychology.

Case Analysis Method

By analyzing and interpreting typical successful cases and fail lessons in recent years to find out influencing factors on operating state of theme restaurants in domestic catering market. To extract efficacious and practical suggestions or cautions. To come up with strategies assisting restaurateurs achieve sustainable development and extending life cycle.

Interview Survey Method

Interview survey is the most important part of this research. Investigating several representative theme restaurants in China to get first-hand data. To provide supplementary information, exam reliability and feasibility of proposed recommendations.

I will design the interview questions, according to the theory. That are experiences design principles are summarized by Pine, J, B. and Gilmore, J, H, and Boswijk, A, Thijssen, T, and Peele, E, (2007) describe characteristics from the perspective of individual in A New Perspective on the Experience Economy. According to Creswell (2003; 2007) includes (a) the preparation for the interview, (b) the constructing effective research questions, and (c) the actual implementation of the interview.

Preparation for interview: McNamara (2009) applies eight main points to the preparation stage of interviewing which includes the following ingredients: (1) choose a setting with little distraction; (2) explain the objectives of the interview; (3) address terms of confidentiality; (4) explain the format of the interview; (5) indicate how long the interview usually takes; (6) tell them how to get in touch with you later if they want to; (7) ask them if they have any questions before you both get started with the interview; and (8) don’t count on your memory to recall their answers (Preparation for Interview section, para. Selecting participants: Creswell (2007) discusses the importance of selecting the appropriate candidates for interviews. In my research I will choose the theme restaurant owners to do interview. At same time, the owners of normal restaurant also important for my research.

The research questions designing for the interview process is one of the most crucial elements to interview design. I desiring to conduct such an investigation should be careful that each of the questions will allow the examiner to dig deep into the experiences or knowledge of the participants in order to gain more data from the interviews. There are several recommendations for creating effective research questions for interviews which includes the following elements: Wording should be open-ended, respondents should be able to choose their own terms when answering questions. Questions should be as neutral as possible, avoid wording that might influence answers, e.g., evocative, judgmental wording. Questions should be asked one at a time. Questions should be worded clearly, this includes knowing any terms particular to the program or the respondents’ culture. And be careful asking “why” questions. (McNamara, 2009)

As with other sections of interview design, some recommendations for the implementation stage of the interview process.It includes the following tips for interview implementation: occasionally verify the tape recorder is working. Ask one question at a time. Attempt to remain as neutral as possible, don’t show strong emotional reactions to their responses. Encourage responses with occasional nods of the head, “uh huh”s, etc.. Be careful about the appearance when note taking (that is, if you jump to take a note, it may appear as if you’re surprised or very pleased about an answer, which may influence answers to future questions). Provide transition between major topics, e.g., “we’ve been talking about (some topic) and now I’d like to move on to (another topic);” Don’t lose control of the interview (this can occur when respondents stray to another topic, take so long to answer a question that times begins to run out, or even begin asking questions to the interviewer) (Turner, D, W, 2010)

Work Schedule

Sample Checklist Month
  1. Refine topic with tutors
1, 2
  1. Create a work schedule
  1. Review the literature
3, 4, 5
  1. Select analytical method
  1. Draft proposal
  1. Pilot test methodology
  1. Schedule data collection, begin collection
10, 11, 12
  1. Data entering into SPSS
  1. Analyze and interpret the data
  1. Update literature review
  1. Write conclusions and implications
  1. Submit the research draft to tutors
  1. Schedule, prepare for and take oral exam


Ai, D, S(1997), The Enterprise Life Cycle [M]. China Social Sciences Press

Boswijk, A, Thijssen, T, and Peele, E, (2007), A New Prospective on Experience Economy, Pearson Education.

Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches, (2nd ed.), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Fu, Y. (2012),Theme Restaurants the Problems Existing in the Management and Development Strategy in China , Business Culture Journal, pp04.

Hsieh, T, F, (2009), Interactive Quality Control of Service Encounters in Theme Restaurants, Taiwan, The Journal of Global Business Issues – Volume 3 Issue 2

McNamara, C. (2009). General guidelines for conducting interviews. Retrieved January 11, 2010, from http://managementhelp.org/evaluatn/intrview.htm

Pine, J, B. and Gilmore, J, H. (1999), The Experience Economy, Harvard Business School Press, Boston

Shi, L, Y, Du, X, J & Yang, J, J, (2012), Innovative theme restaurant business analysis and development model to explore the advantages and disadvantages , Journal of Business in China (12)

Tong, J, Q, (2008). Themed Restaurant Management Situation and Development Trend of the China , Modernization Journal, pp22

Turner, D, W, (2010), Qualitative Interview Design: A Practical Guide for Novice Investigators, The Qualitative Report Volume 15 Number, Florida USA

Weaver, K., & Olson, J. K. (2006). Understanding paradigms used for nursing research. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 53(4), 459-469

Weiss, R, Feinstein, A, H, & Dalbor, M, (2004), Customer Satisfaction of Theme Restaurant Attributes and Their Influence on Return Intent, Journal of Foodservice Business Research, Vol. 7(1), The Haworth Press, Inc.

  • Zhang Xia

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