Comparative Study of Relative Impact of Atmospherics

Today the Business thinking has changed; it has come closer to the customer or to be more apt to the consumer. It can be observed that the consumer’s decision making for purchasing a product or service is not limited to the tangibility but to the whole product including the environment of delivery. Tangible products like mirror, a pair of jeans, a haircut or food served are only a small part of this total consumption, that are incomplete without services, packaging, warranties, advertising and images.

Similarly the place or physical environment where product or service is delivered is of great importance. As said by Philip Kotler “One of the most significant features of a total product is the place where it is bought or consumed. In some cases , the place, more specifically the atmosphere of the place is more influential than the product itself in the purchase decision. In some cases the atmosphere is the primary product”. The above quote signifies the importance of servicescape in selling of a product or service. Booms and Bitner defined a servicescape as “the environment in which the service is assembled and in which the seller and customer interact, combined with tangible commodities that facilitate performance or communication of the service” (Booms and Bitner, 1981, p. 36). No doubt servicescape has become an essential part of retail and service industry but mostly servicescape comes into action for industries like hotel and tourism, restaurants, consultancies and medical care. It includes facilities exterior (landscape, exterior design, signage, parking, surrounding environment) and facilities interior (interior design & decor, equipment, signage, layout, air quality, temperature and ambiance).

Aim of Research

The aim of this research is to focus on how important is servicescape in terms of atmospherics in UK restaurant industry that impacts consumer’s perception and attitudes to buy this service. It is quite important for this industry to concentrate on physical attributes of the service as apart from food served consumers are quite sensitive about the ambience, lighting, decor, music and ethnicity of restaurants. These factors may drive the motivation and decision making aspects of consumer behaviour. It would be quite interesting to analyse the results of this research as how these areas of servicescape may contribute vitally to increase customer footfall in UK restaurants. For example the HAVELI (FORT) Restaurant situated in Jallandhar, a city in northern part of INDIA has enriched the full Punjabi-Indian culture into their restaurant. It use warm colours, wooden furniture of traditional style, waiters with ethnic dresses and many choreographed corners that portrays Indian Culture. Decor in this restaurant also includes a Truck, which symbolizes a good part of restaurants’ perspective customers, who are truck drivers. As per the customer reviews it has been observed that customers are highly attracted and motivated by the servicescape of this restaurant.

Literature Review

In past researches have been made that spot only on one or two components of atmospherics in servicescape for restaurants or retail stores in general. For example, Wilson(2003) showed that jazz music which matched with a restaurant environment, increased positive attitudes towards the service provider’s image, as well as increased time and money spent.( Wilson, Stephanie. The effect of music on perceived atmosphere and purchase intentions in a restaurant, Psychology of Music, 31 (1), 2003, 93-112.). According to a study conducted by Harris and Ezeh (2008) on servicescape and loyalty intentions found a significant relation between pleasant aroma and consumer loyalty intentions (Lloyd, Harris and Ezeh, Chris, “Servicescapeand loyalty intentions: an empirical investigation”European Journal of Marketing. Bradford: 2008.42, (3/4), 390-422.). The author has been studying consumer behaviour and with the preliminary research on servicescape it has been found that no other author has collectively focused on all the aspects of interior servicescape in restaurants, especially in UK.

The behaviours in servicescape of approach-avoidance are still to be tested against the atmospherics of restaurants.

Secondly, it is still to be explored that how loyalty from customers is gained using servicescape atmospherics as motivational factors.

These are the identified gaps in the existing literature related to current researches. These gaps can act as the queries related to this research and answers to this research would help the author to fill in those gaps. Previous researches conducted in this field clearly demonstrate the relations between colour, music or surroundings (either of them) and subsequent consumer reactions. On the other hand author’s research would testify other aspects (including the above ones) of atmospherics and identify the exact relations between stimulus and perceived emotions of the consumer. As per the process of perception sensory receptors react to the sensory stimulus and undergo a process of exposure, attention and interpretation. Similarly many studies on atmospheric elements have noted the importance of congruity or consistency, which has also been referred to as “fit” or “matching with consumer’s perception.” Bitner’s “Servicescapes” Model, which is based upon the environmental psychology S-O-R (stimuli-organism-response) paradigm, proposes that “compatibility” of the elements (including atmospheric and physical surroundings, and social factors) in a service environment is important to “enhance(s) pleasure” of consumers” (1992, p.64). The S-O-R model can be used effectively in judging the consumers and understanding the process of stimulus response. To support it with a real life example a friend of author visited two restaurants in Hounslow West area near Heathrow Airport namely Restaurant X and Restaurant Y (names not disclosed yet). Both the restaurants cater the same cuisines and serve the same customer market. Restaurant Y is bright in light and with lots of people talking (noisy) and the waiters roam around each table and offer dishes even without asking. On the other hand Restaurant X is bit dark in light, warm interiors, a bit quite and has no compulsive offerings from the staff. Pricing for both the restaurants is almost same, but author’s friend prefer going to Restaurant X as he feels more comfortable here, likes the music, service, ambience and decor. Why is it so? Probably the food they serve is the same but his stimulus response motivates him to go to Restaurant X. The detail of this response would be highlighted in the final dissertation. The result of this preliminary research is quite interesting and further motivates the author to go deep and relate the atmospherics with the consumer’s motivation.

Academic Relevance

The proposed research to be conducted is closely related to many theories and concepts of consumer behaviour. Firstly we relate this procedure with the perception process that is very important in today’s hyper-competitive and hyper choice markets as consumers rely highly on sensory experiences. The sensory simulation provokes emotions, moods, and promotes association and memories, creating meaning and order. While experiencing a service in a restaurant all the sensory stimulus of vision, touch, smell, hear and taste are active and effect the way the service is perceived.

According to Kennedy and Keanty 2007 (Servicescape a review of) Kotler (1974) atmospherics is the term used for the intentional control and manipulation of environmental cues in the service environment. Bitner (1992) concurred with Kotler (1974) and coined the term ‘Servicescapes’ in reference to the physical surroundings fashioned by retailers to facilitate the service offering to consumers. It is acknowledged that the service environment is made up of both tangible (buildings and furniture) and intangible (temperature, colour, scent and music) elements which make up the service experience (Hoffman and Turley, 2002). Gulus and Bloch (1995, p 95) noted that ‘millions of dollars are spent by retailers each year on special lighting, background music, carpeting and fixtures, all with the hope of creating an atmosphere that is conducive to retail success’.

Mehrabian-Russell stimulus-response model and Russell’s model of affect help us understand customer responses to service environments

Pleasure and arousal


The model would generate the relevance between service provided and the perception created amongst the consumers.

Maslow’s hierarchy of need and motivation concentrates on how a consumer starts below from satisfying his or her physiological needs up towards satisfying the need of self-actualisation. How does it fit into the proposed research? Well satisfying the basic need of food can be done anywhere either from street shops or from different takeaways, but the needs satisfying ego and self-actualization endows a consumer with a feeling of relaxation. It is not always the food that a consumer or customer wants but the Hedonic consumption, the consumption of a service that gives pleasure to the consumer. This is where the proposed research would head. How would atmospherics add on to the pleasure of dinning in a restaurant? How do the atmospherics of servicescape help a consumer in satisfying his or her pleasure over utilitarian need of food?

As mentioned above in an example of Restaurant X and Restaurant Y, author will come across the decision making process of consumer behaviour. How is quality perceived; what are the factors that drive the perception; how does a consumer choose one option over the other?

Kearny et al 2007 state that “of the research carried out before 1990, half of the studies looked at Bitner’s (1992) variable of music (Milliman1982, 1986; Yalch and Spangenberg 1988, 1990), one study looked at the variable of colour (Bellizzi et al., 1983) and the other studies concentrated on elements of Mehrabian and Russell’s (1974) environmental psychology (Russell, 1980; Donovan and Rossiter, 1982; Amato and McInnes, 1983). One justification for the lack of studies before the 1990’s could have been the lack of knowledge of the effects of environmental stimuli. Yalch and Spangenberg (1988, p 106) noted that ‘published research studying atmospheric factors is limited, with music being one of the few factors studied repeatedly’. In further research Yalch and Spangenberg (1990, p 31) indicated that ‘little is known about how atmospheres affect consumers’. Yalch and Spangenberg (1990, p 37) called for ‘more research in the area’ and between 1991 and 1999 there were sixteen articles published.” Therefore the proposed research by author would jointly focus on all aspects of atmospherics in a service environment.

Industry Background

Atmospherics have been of great interest for service providers as a means of augmented appeal of service environments and influencing consumer behaviour in service field. Academic interest in this area has grown following Kotler’s (1972/3) article emphasising the importance of atmospherics in the field of marketing and, moreso, since Donovan and Rossiter’s (1982) application of Mehrabian and Russel’s (1974) model of environmental psychology to the retail context.

The proposed research reported in this paper would focus on atmospherics of servicescape as an element of the service environment. The influence of lighting, decor, service, music, colour and food on consumer behaviour within restaurant environments has been studied by a variety of scholars (Milliman, 1982; 1986; Yalch and Spangenberg, 1990; North and Hargreaves, 1996) but in parts. Understanding of the effects of atmospherics has not been done collectively yet therefore the proposed research is particularly useful to service managers, as this element of the environment is relatively inexpensive and easy to control. Specifically, the paper would examine the effects of atmospherics on perceived value and actual time spent in a restaurant and the money spent.

Research Aim, Research Questions and Objectives

For research aim, question and objective the author would now try to link down the title, emerged objectives and resulting questions. The title of the proposed research is “Servicescape in UK Restaurant Industry: A comparative study of relative impact of atmospherics on Consumer Buying Behaviour”. The title signifies the objective of author to gain knowledge about the impact and effect of atmospherics in the physical environment of restaurants in UK that attract customers towards the restaurants. Considering the main objective it can be further classified into three sub objectives:

Objective 1

To find the key elements of atmospherics that drive consumer’s perception and attitudes towards restaurants in UK.

Objective 2

To study the importance of key elements founded from the objective 1 that impact the consumption behaviour positively or negatively.

Objective 3

To identify the gaps between previous researches made in this field and conclude with answer to these gaps.

Research Question

The objectives above mentioned come up with specific research questions that may answer or may fulfil the set objectives.

What are the key elements of atmospherics in a restaurant’s physical environment that impel consumer’s perception and attitudes positively?

How important is servicescape in terms of atmospherics in UK restaurant industry that impact consumer’s motivation and decision makind criteria to but the service?

Research Methodology

Restaurants in UK are the service context or service industry chosen for study. The research would be carried around various restaurants in UK. Like other service organizations restaurants also face the problem of perishable service. To keep the service consistent and gain long term customer loyalty the restaurants owners should concentrate on the physical environment in which the service is sold. As the research is aimed to investigate the close relationship between servicescape atmospherics and consumer’s behaviour a qualitative analysis design would be adopted to meet the research objectives. The target interviewees would be from an age of 18 to 45, irrespective of the sex they belong.

Primary Data Collection

For the purpose of collecting primary data interviews and questionnaire both the approaches shall be followed. For interviews a sample size of 30 consumers is proposed. These consumers are the ones who have recently experienced a service from one of the restaurants. The type of restaurants to be judged is not limited; it can be anyone of an Italian, English, Chinese or an Indian restaurant. The theme of the restaurants is not focused upon to avoid biased decisions and answers from the consumers. The interview questions would come up with an answer to the research questions.

Secondly the qualitative data collection would be done by questionnaires. The author intends to create an online questionnaire related to the research that can be distributed among the consumers easily. These questionnaires would be distributed through emails and social sites like facebook. In this case the number of respondents is not certain at this moment, but expected sample size may vary from 50 to 80 individuals.

The reason for choosing qualitative data is that it can also work in situations where there is no clear defined path and is a flexible approach for carrying out the research. The qualitative data obtained from the respondents will provide necessary data for examining research questions. It will help in investigating, the relationships and patterns among factors or the context in which the research is being carried out. It is helpful when trying to concentrate on multi-dimensional picture of the subject of investigation.

Qualitative research method is helpful when we are looking to get rich explanations of a complex phenomenon, but it also helps in creating or evolving theories or conceptual bases, and also clarifying the presumed notions with regards to topic in question. Besides all this, value of the qualitative method of research mainly consists in validity and authenticity of the information received through respondents; people are minutely interviewed so as the obtained data would be taken as correct and believable reports of their opinions and experiences. Its major disadvantage is that small group of interviewed individuals cannot be taken as representative, so the sample need to be of sizeable proportions to achieve credible opinion. On the other hand the time constraints also restrict the sample size, therefore due to time constraint the author will have to rely upon the amount of data collected from proposed sample size.

Secondary Research

The following secondary sources will be used to assist and aid in the process of understanding and analysing through research:

Academic Journals- The most important sources for reaching to most recent and valid research on my literature review. A very authentic, reliable and highly specific.

Books- Valuable for creating wider knowledge of the subject.

Emerald Insight- One of the trusted, searchable with specific categories search engine data base for academic papers and journal articles.

Google Scholar- Another extremely important and trusted tool for carrying out the research.

University of Wales eLibrary- An excellent tool made available to assist in research process.

Web Pages- A good and easy source for updated, specific data and markets, companies, products, promotions etc.

British Library – Electronic Thesis Online Service.

As per the limited time the validity and reliability of the research depends on the sample size chosen. A sample size of 30 for interviews and 50 to 80 for questionnaires is not a difficult target. At present it appears achievable but may vary as per the time and situations during the research.


Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Review of literature

Research Proposal

Proposal Presentation

Meeting with supervisor

Compile, pilot and review questionnaire

Arrangements for data collection

Data Collection

Data Analysis

Final writing of project report.


Reserve Week


As per the above time scale the schedule of the meetings shall be agreed by supervisor. However there may be some delays corresponding to the availability of interviewees and delays in receiving the online questionnaires. Apart from these the time schedule is in line with the proposed research.


Academic Journals-The most important sources for reaching to most recent and valid research on my literature review. A very authentic, reliable and highly specific resource for research.

Books- Valuable for creating wider knowledge of the subject.

Emerald Insight- One of the trusted, searchable with specific categories search engine data base for academic papers and journal articles.

Google Scholar- Another extremely important and trusted tool for carrying out the research.

University of Wales eLibrary- An excellent tool made available to assist in research process.

Web Pages- A good and easy source for updated, specific data and markets, companies, products, promotions etc.

British Library – Electronic Thesis Online Service.

The online resources and academic journals are easy to access. On the other hand the data to be collected from interviews and questionnaire may depend on the interviewees and respondents. However the timescale and sample size are accordingly adjusted so that the target data can be achieved without fail.


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