Research Project: Poor Service Quality at the Laughing Buddha Restaurant (Maidstone) has resulted in Low levels of Customer Satisfaction

Table of Contents




Data Collection. 7

Sampling. 8

Ethical Consideration. 8






Appendices. 18



The Laughing Buddha is a UK-based restaurant offering Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese and Thai eateries. It is located at Maidstone, Kent, United Kingdom. One of the strengths of the company is that it offers a friendly and relaxed environment and a comfortable interior. It also provides oriental cuisines that meet the dining needs of different customers. The Laughing Buddha claims that it hires professional and friendly staff. These are essential elements of an effective customer service because they ensure that the customers get excellent table service and satisfaction. However, comments from customers seem to indicate a different case.

On 7th March 2014, the Laughing Buddha lost approximately £1,200 after 43 customers walked out of the restaurant without paying after the customers complained about the quality of food and customer service (Glanfield, 2014). When the employees complained, the owner Jin Cheng told them to leave if they did not want to pay. This illustrates that the restaurant had poor customer service including poor quality of food, lack of courtesy, long waiting time poor dining experience, poor delivery service, and other aspects of customer service. On that day, one of the customers who was dissatisfied with the food and services offered by the restaurant stormed into the kitchen and shouted at the chef. Other customers joined him in the agitation. The owner of the restaurant then asked them to leave the restaurant if they did not want to pay. One of the customers said that the owner of the restaurant was rude and did not understand the disgrace of the customers who dined in the hotel that night. The losses incurred resulted in significant impacts on the financial performance of the company.

This research project delves into the real problems facing the Laughing Buddha in terms of service quality, and how poor customer service in the company leads to low levels of customer satisfaction and low sales. The Laughing Buddha is chosen for the research because it is a small restaurant that can be managed for the purpose of providing objective research and effective data collection.

The objective of this study is to find out the effect of poor service quality in a restaurant. It also attempts to establish the relationship between customer service, customer satisfaction and level of sales revenue in a restaurant. This is done by carrying out primary and secondary research on customer service and customer satisfaction. The hypothesis of the research is that poor customer service at the Laughing Buddha results in low customer satisfaction. This is the main hypothesis. The secondary hypothesis of the research is that poor customer service leads to low sales revenue in the Laughing Buddha.


There are various researches based on theoretical and empirical frameworks concerning the relationship between customer service and customer satisfaction. Generally, theory and empirical studies show that poor customer service leads to low level of customer satisfaction. It creates negative customer experience, poor perception and negative attitude towards the company’s products and services. Some of the areas of customer services that companies should focus on in order to increase customer satisfaction include courtesy of the staff, reliability of services offered, quality of facilities, competence, security, credibility, communication and responsiveness. Service quality is defined as the quality of ongoing interactions between a business and its customers (Jusoh et al, 2012). Customer satisfaction is the feeling that a customer gets when he or she compares goods or services received against what is expected. In other words, it is the perception of customers on whether the goods or services they receive are acceptable.

The SERVQUAL model is used to measure the service quality of a company. It was developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry. This model suggests that high service quality is composed of reliability, tangibles, assurance, responsiveness and empathy. Parasuraman et al suggest that SERVQUAL is used to measure and manage quality of service by developing a questionnaire that measures the expectations of customers about the quality of services they want to receive and the perceptions of the services they actually receive.

SERVQUAL model also identifies five gaps that lead poor service quality experience. Gap 1 is the difference between consumer expectation and management perception (Ali et al, 2014). In this case, company management has a poor perception of customer needs. The second gap is the difference between perception of management and specification of quality service. This gap shows that the management may develop the correct perception of what customers want, but fail to provide appropriate service quality standards. Gap 3 is the gap between the specification of service quality and the actual service delivery (Markovic and Raspor, 2010). In this case, the company may not meet its standards of service quality due to poor training, incompetence or lack of willingness to meet the service quality standards. Gap 4 is the gap between delivery of service and external communication. This occurs when the assumed expectations of customers concerning statements made by company representatives are not fulfilled during service delivery. Lastly, gap 5 is the gap between expected service quality and service quality experienced. This means that the consumer may misinterpret the quality of service offered, receiving lower quality of service than he or she expected.

Khan and Fasih (2014) found out that service quality and its dimensions have a significant and positive relationship with customer satisfaction and loyalty. Some of the dimensions of service quality identified in the study are reliability, assurance, tangibles (facilities) and empathy. These are derived from the SERVQUAL model. Except reliability, all the elements of the SERVQUAL model were found to be significantly positively associated with customer satisfaction and loyalty. Service quality is considered as a competitive tool to differentiate a company from its competitors and satisfy customers through provision of high quality customer service (Khan and Fasih, 2014). This position is supported by Markovic and Raspor (2010) who have found out that the key dimensions of service quality should be fulfilled in order to achieve higher customer satisfaction. The study used the five dimensions of SERVQUAL and added two more dimensions – accessibility and output quality. Markovic and Raspor (2010) suggest that the key attributes that enhance higher customer satisfaction and loyalty include: employees’ attitudes, appearance of facilities, error-free services and solving guests’ services.

Ariffin et al (2012) also found out that service quality elements including room facility contributed significantly to customer satisfaction. Among the elements of service quality, responsiveness and assurance were found to be linked to customer satisfaction more than other dimensions. Assurance is influenced by factors such as hygiene, food flavours and service consistency. On the other hand, responsiveness covers how hotel managers respond to given situations, especially food service efficiency. Satisfaction and loyalty of customers are also influenced by human service and price of hotel services (Voon, 2012). However, human service is more important. It is needed to delight customers. Employees should be empathetic, responsive, courteous, caring and reliable in order to attain high levels of customer satisfaction.


Data Collection

There are two broad categories of data collection methods: primary and secondary methods. Primary data collection involves collecting data from primary sources – directly from a person or any direct source. Some of the types of primary data collection methods include questionnaires, structured interviews, unstructured interview, observation and focus groups. This research uses questionnaires and observation to collect data. Questionnaires are important forms of survey used to collect qualitative or quantitative information including behaviour, opinions, facts and knowledge.

In the survey of this research, past and present customers of Buddha restaurant will be identified and handed a survey questionnaire to answer questions regarding their expectation of customer service quality when entering hotels, and their perception of the service quality they actually receive in the Laughing Buddha restaurant. The questions are divided into three categories; one involving profile information of respondents; the second one involving customer expectation of customer service quality and the last category including questions related to perception of service quality experienced. For the last two categories, the questions asked covered the five dimensions of service quality: reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy, and responsiveness. The questions require two answers: either yes or no which are then coded as 1 and 0 respectively for easy recording. For example, a response of 11010 for the five items respectively means that there are three positive and two negative answers.

Observations of operations and facilities within the Laughing Buddha Restaurant Maidstone are also carried out. The observations occur twice to ensure that all behaviours of customers and employees are observed. The observations are then recorded in writing. They are also recorded for transcription later.


The target population of the research is the customers of the Laughing Buddha Restaurant in Maidstone, Kent, United Kingom. The sampling method used is a random sampling method which considers the selection of participants in a random manner so that each member of the target population has an equal opportunity of being selected for participation in the research. A total of 67 customers were identified and selected for the study. This sample size is manageable, yet it is significant enough to get objective information about the attitudes and perceptions of general customers of the laughing Buddha Restaurant Maidstone.

Ethical Consideration

The researcher sought relevant authorization to collect the data required. The Laughing Buddha Restaurant Maidstone was contacted to allow the researcher to conduct the research in his hotel. The local authorities in Maidstone were also contacted to allow the research to be carried out on people around the town. Ethical issues such as confidentiality, privacy and respect were also taken into consideration. The researcher became confidential with the information given by the respondents and took measures to keep privacy.


The questionnaire used to collect data in this research involves a set of questions asking about the expectation and perception of employees about various dimensions of service quality. The questions test whether the customers view the dimensions positively or negatively. Those who answered “no” to the first set of questions (about expectation) mean that they have negative expectations of the given dimension on hotels. For instance, a person who answers with “no” to the question on reliability as shown in the appendix suggests that he or she does not expect a hotel to perform the promised service accurately. In other words, the customer in these situations expects the hotel to fail sometimes in its promised service. On the other hand, a customer who answers with “yes” suggests that he or she expects the hotel to perform the promised service accurately. In overall, if the numbers of respondents who provide a positive answer exceed those who provide a negative answer, then the expectations of the customers are very high. The results of the first set of answers are shown below.

Table 1: responses on customer Expectation of service quality

Dimension Positive Responses Negative Responses Total
Reliability 45 22 67
Assurance 55 12 67
Tangibles 60 7 67
Empathy 63 4 67
Responsiveness 61 6 67
Total 284 51 335
56.8 10.2 67


The table shows the number of positive and negative responses of the selected customers of the Laughing Restaurant regarding their expectations of various dimensions of service quality. It shows that most respondents have responded positively about empathy followed by responsiveness and tangibles. This shows that customers have high expectations about the empathy, responsiveness and tangibles of the hotel. Therefore, most customers want to be attended by caring staff who can give them individualized attention. They also expect good appearance of physical facilities, equipment and other tangibles. Furthermore, customers expect hotel staff to be willing to help them and provide prompt services. The average figures show that 56.8 customers responded positively while 10.2 responded negatively. This indicates that there is a high level of expectation of service quality among customers. This agrees with the suggestion of Segoro (2013) who suggests that service quality produces high customer expectations.

Fig 1: Graph showing expectations of customers on various dimensions of service quality

The table above shows a good visual representation of the responses, and it shows that the number of positive responses is significantly higher than that of negative responses.

Regarding the perception of customers about the actual services received, negative responses represented low level of perception of customers in relation to a particular dimension of service quality. The table below shows the number of negative and positive responses to the questions regarding perception of actual service quality in Laughing Buddha Restaurant.

Table 2: Number of Positive and Negative Responses

Dimension Positive Responses Negative Responses Total
Reliability 15 52 67
Assurance 5 62 67
Tangibles 39 28 67
Empathy 4 63 67
Responsiveness 2 65 67
Total 65 270 335
Average 13 54 67


This table shows that most customers have given negative responses concerning their perception of various dimensions of service quality except tangibles which received more positive than negative responses. This means that most customers have positive perception regarding the appearance of actual tangibles of the organisation including facilities and equipment. However, they the least number of people responded positively on responsiveness and empathy, showing that customers have a poor perception about the level of empathy and promptness of employees. The average values show that the overall perception of customers regarding service quality received 13 positive responses and 54 negative responses. Therefore, the overall perception of customers on service quality is poor.

The figure above indicates that most customers have negative perception about the responsiveness of the restaurant. The clear visual figure also shows that tangibles have higher positive perception.

The gap between expectations and perception of customers regarding all the five dimensions can also be analysed to show the level of customer satisfaction in the restaurant. This is done by finding the differences between the numbers of positive or negative responses of in the survey.

Table 3: Gap between expectations and perceptions

  No. of Positive Expectations No. of Positive Perceptions Gap (P-E)
Reliability 45 15 -30
Assurance 55 5 -50
Tangibles 60 39 -21
Empathy 63 4 -59
Responsiveness 61 2 -59
Average                                           56.8                                           13 -43.8


P-E = perceptions – expectations

Fig 3: Graph showing number of perceptions and expectations

The table above shows a big gap of 43.8 out of 67 between the expectations of service quality and the perception of actual service quality experienced by customers in the Laughing Buddha Restaurant. Therefore, the level of customer satisfaction is low because the experience of customers in terms of service quality does not meet their expectations. In terms of specific dimensions of service quality, it is clear that the gap between expectations and perceptions of customers is highest in terms of responsiveness and empathy. The figure clearly shows the gap represented by the length of each bar. The blue bars represent expectations while the red bars represent perceptions. It is clear that the lengths of the bars in tangibles are almost similar in length.

This indicates that customers have high expectations in terms of empathy and responsiveness, but the perception of what they experience in terms of these dimensions is far below their expectations. Therefore, the main causes of low customer satisfaction in the Laughing Buddha Restaurant are poor empathy and poor responsiveness from the employees. This reflects what most customers claimed on the night of 7th March 2014 when they received poor services from the restaurant and left without paying for food and drinks. The owner of the company responded rudely by saying that if the customers were not satisfied with the services they should leave immediately. This shows that the owner and his staff did not show appropriate empathy and responsiveness, causing low customer satisfaction.


The purpose of this study was to find out the relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction in the Laughing Buddha Restaurant in Maidstone, Kent, United Kingdom. Primary data collection approach was used to collect data. Questionnaires containing 13 questions were distributed to customers of the Laughing Buddha. These questions included those that tested the expectation of customers on the five SERVQUAL dimensions of service quality and those that tested the perception of actual experience of the customers in terms of each of the dimensions. The gap between each dimension was also determined. The findings of the study indicated that there was a big gap between the expectations and perceptions of customers regarding service quality, leading to low customer satisfaction. Empathy and responsiveness were found to be poor in the restaurant, and contributed largely to the low customer satisfaction. There was a small gap between customer expectation and perception of tangibles, showing that the company’s facilities are almost what the customers expected.


This study recommends that the owner of the business should learn how to become responsive to customer needs. He should be willing to help customers and provide prompt services. He should also learn to become empathetic and care about the needs of customers in order to provide individualized attention to customers. This does not happen just in a day. A culture of customer contact, empathy and responsiveness should be developed over time through training and practice. Employees and the owner of the business should listen to the customer requests and respond to them appropriately. Employees should be encouraged and trained to provide prompt services from time to time until values of responsive service becomes part of the organisation’s culture. They should be courteous and respectful to the customers, and communicate with them regularly.

Secondly, the firm should develop a customer survey to get the feedback of the customers and understand their needs. After the customers get their meals, they should be requested to fill a short survey questionnaire to give their feedback about the level of service quality they received. This enables the company to understand what the customers need and respond to them appropriately.


Future research should consider wider dimensions of service quality apart from the SERVQUAL dimensions including accessibility and quality of output because consumer needs change from time to time. Future research should also consider other factors affecting customer satisfaction apart from service quality, including brand image, price and external factors. The external factors that may influence customer satisfaction include regulations and political factors. Some customers may also have walked out of the restaurant with the main intention of avoiding payment, so price may also influence customer satisfaction. Future research should examine such factors in addition to service quality.


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Ariffin, H.F., Abdullah, R.B.S. and Bibon, M.F. (2012). Assessing Service Quality: Prayers’ Perspective. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 36, 51 –519.

Glanfield, E. (2014). Why the owner of the Laughing Buddha isn’t laughing any more: every diner walks out of restaurant complaining of bad service (leaving him down £1,200). Daily Mail, Accessed May10, 2015 from

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Segoro, W. (2013). The Influence of Perceived Service Quality, Mooring Factor, and Relationship Quality on Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 81, 306–310

The Laughing Buddha (2015). Special Offer. Accessed May 10, 2015 from

Voon, B.H. (2012. Role of Service Environment for Restaurants: The Youth Customers’ Perspective. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 38, 388–395.





What is your gender? Male    Female

What is your age?       Below 18,        19-25,  26-35,  36-45,  46-55, Above 55

What is your Nationality?       Chinese, French, Japanese, British, German, Spanish, Other

Customer Expectation of service quality

Reliability – Do you expect the hotel to perform the promised service accurately? Yes, No

Assurance – Do you expect employees in the hotel to show high levels of knowledge, courtesy, trust and confidence in their work? Yes, No

Tangibles – does the appearance of physical facilities, communication materials, personnel and equipments in the hotel matter to you? Yes, No

Empathy – Do you expect the hotel’s staff to be caring and demonstrate individualized attention to you? Yes, No

Responsiveness – Do you think the hotel’s staff should be willing to help you and provide prompt services? Yes, No

Customer Perception of service quality received

Reliability – Do you think the Laughing Buddha Maidstone performs the promised service accurately? Yes, No

Assurance – Do you think employees in the hotel have shown high levels of knowledge, courtesy, trust and confidence in their work? Yes, No

Tangibles – Are you satisfied with the appearance of physical facilities, communication materials, personnel and equipments in the hotel? Yes, No

Empathy – Are the hotel’s staff caring and do they demonstrate individualized attention to you? Yes, No

Responsiveness – Is hotel’s staff willing to help you and provide prompt services? Yes, No

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