The fast-food franchise industry has become one of the fastest growing and most successful segments of its retail sector. This study defines fast food as food that is prepared and served to the consumer in some form of a take-away package. According to the South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi*), South Africa's fast food industry is ranked second in the world, with a customer satisfaction score of 79 out of 100. South Africans have literally become fast-food junkies embracing large portions of affordable food that are readily accessible and available almost immediately, especially in major urban areas throughout South Africa, like those in Gauteng.
The aim of this study was to determine and describe consumers perception of the quality of the service offering of fast-food outlets (in general) and to determine how the additional service offerings of this growing industry determine consumers patronage of fast-food outlets. Objectives were formulated to draw conclusions about consumers satisfaction with the service quality of fast-food outlets based on the expectations-confirmation paradigm in terms of selected demographic characteristics namely gender, age, education level, population group and monthly household income. The quantitative, correlational study was cross-sectional and reflected on perceptions at the specific time of the study and in a specific urban context. Survey data was gathered electronically from 447 respondents implementing a structured, self-administered questionnaire in which the established scale of Oyewole (1999) was used to provide insightful conclusions about consumers perceptions of specific dimensions of the service delivery, namely Hygiene and efficiency; Courtesy; Health consciousness; Child friendliness; Ease of complaint; Comfort; Orderliness; Availability; and Expeditiousness.
Data analysis involved descriptive and inferential statistics. Exploratory factor analysis, specifically Principal Axis Factoring, using Oblimin rotation with Kaiser Normalization to determine the underlying factors associated with service quality in fast-food outlets. Confirmatory factor analysis was done using unweighted least squares (ULS) estimation to address multivariate non-normality. Good fit indices were achieved. Calculations of means, standard deviations, Cronbach s Alpha, Anova, t-tests and Post hoc Bonferroni tests were done to identify significant differences between and among different demographics categories for further interpretation.
The study concluded that consumers expectations were higher than their perceptions for four of the eight factors, namely: Courtesy and efficiency; Hygiene and precision; Expeditiousness, and Availability. Confirmation of expectations was confirmed for three of the eight factors, namely Orderliness and ease of compliant; Healthiness, and Child friendliness. Positive disconfirmation occurred for only one of the eight factors namely Comfort. Findings indicate that there is ample opportunity for fast-food outlets to improve their service offering in terms of various dimensions and that they could even choose which elements they would want to excel in to achieve a competitive advantage in the Market place.
Females have significantly higher expectations than men for five of the eight dimensions of the service offering and therefore it would be more difficult to please females. Young consumers held significantly higher expectations about one of the eight factors namely child friendliness. Particularly interesting is that lower middle income consumers expectations seem significantly higher compared to upper income consumers about health related aspects. White consumers were significantly more concerned about hygiene and efficiency compared to black consumers, whereas the opposite was true for child friendliness. Black consumers expectations also seem significantly higher than white consumers in terms of the healthiness of fast foods. Fast food establishments should take note of the dimensions of the service offering where consumers expectations are high, namely: Hygiene and precision; and Courtesy and efficiency to ensure confirmation as a non-negotiable mode of operation. Fast-food outlets could instigate consumers satisfaction with positive return intentions if they exceed consumers expectations with regards to service dimensions where expectations were not particularly high, for example Child-friendliness, and even Healthiness where consumers expectations are modest.