FOOD SERVICE QUALITY
Certainly, with the advent of globalization, the market has become more competitive, because it has opened the opportunity for new competitors. This does not necessarily mean risk for the survival of local businesses, but a challenge that they must consider. This challenge relates to the need to create greater consumer loyalty to products and services, greater suitability of the product to the consumer’s needs and greater concern about the social impact of the company. Moreover, this global scenario represents some opportunities for the companies to act in the new markets. It is clear that this action will depend mainly on the quality of their own products and services offered.
However, first, the concept of product quality is not so immediate and obvious. Although not universally accepted, the definition for quality with greater consensus is that "suitability for the consumer usage." This definition is comprehensive because it includes two aspects: characteristics that lead to satisfaction with the product and the absence of failures. In fact, the main component consists of the quality characteristics of the product features that meet the consumers' needs and thus it provides satisfaction for the same. These needs are related not only to the intrinsic characteristics of the product, such as the sensory characteristics of a food product, but also to its availability in the market with a compatible price and in a suitable packaging. The other part is the absence of faults, which is related to the characteristics of the product according to their specifications, making the consumer inspired by the reliability of the product, i.e., the consumer is sure that he will acquire a safe product, without health risks, and with the properties claimed on the label.
For these objectives to be achieved it is required an efficient management of quality, which implies continuous improvement activities at each operational level and in every functional area of the organization. The quality management combines commitment, discipline and a growing effort by everyone involved in the production process and fundamental techniques of management and administration, with the goal of continuously improving all processes. For that, the industries need to be structured organizationally, establish policies and quality programs, measure customers’ satisfaction and even use more quality tools and methodologies. Specifically for the food industry, also involves the knowledge and application of techniques and programs for product safety.
With all that, the purpose of this chapter is to describe the potential use of quality tools in food companies. The study initially intends to contextualize the quality management in the food industry and the activities related to the quality function. In addition, support tools related to quality control in process will be suggested with practical examples of application.
2. Evolution of the quality management: A brief history
It can be said that each company has a particular stage of maturity on the issue of quality management. In general they tend to evolve in four stages, the similarity of ages or how the quality management in the world has evolved over the years. Thus, it is important to highlight these stages of evolution of quality that began with the inspection of products, have passed the statistical quality control, the stage of quality systemic management until the strategic quality management.
Garvin, a scholar of quality management, highlights four ages or stages through which the way to manage the quality has evolving over time in the U.S . The first stage of development was called "era of inspection." In this stage the quality control of products was limited to a focus on corrective inspection, i.e., was a way to check the uniformity of the final product by separating the non-conforming products. According to Garvin in the U.S. only in 1922 the inspection activities were related more formally with quality management, after the publication of the book “The Control of Quality in Manufacturing”. For the first time, the quality was seen as managerial responsibility having distinct and independent function in the companies.
Later, the year of 1931 was a milestone in the quality movement and the beginning of the second phase, the Statistical Quality Control. This phase had a preventive approach, centered on the monitoring and control of process variables that could influence in the final product quality through the development of statistical tools for sampling and process control.
The next phase was called Quality Assurance, that was associated with broader control and prevention, which sought through systematic management, ensure quality at all stages of obtaining the product. The quality management became a practice restricted to industrial production management applied to all production support functions. In the U.S., this time started in the late 50's when the quality of the instruments have expanded far beyond the statistics, now covering the quantification of quality costs, total quality control, reliability engineering and zero defect.
Finally, quality management has been incorporated within the strategic scope of organizations, this phase called Strategic Management of Quality. It represented a vision of market-oriented management, i.e., with a view of opportunities before the competition and customer satisfaction, where market research has become more important for evaluating the market needs and how the competition stands. The strategic approach is an extension of its predecessors, but with a more proactive approach.
Several scholars of quality management are unanimous in emphasizing that the companies in general, and also the food industry, through its organizational structure, the policies adopted, the focus given to the business and the practice of quality control, demonstrate a certain degree of maturity in how to manage quality. Some companies may present practices related to more advanced stages, mature, such as quality assurance and strategic quality management, others may prove more practices related to inspection and process control. Through observation of tools and methods currently adopted in the food industry, it can be inferred that this quality management company is based on the characteristics of a particular stage of the quality evolution.
For example, the control of the raw material and products for inspection, with special attention to satisfy the governmental health rules, is a characteristic of the inspection stage. Likewise, the product control only by laboratory analysis is a feature of this stage. Moreover, quality control practices in process, application of statistical methods for quality control and the adoption of Good Manufacture Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) denote that the company has a slightly broader approach that inspection, i.e., a more preventive approach control in the production process. But when practice inspection and process control are well established in the company and efforts are directed towards continuous improvement, it can be inferred that the company is evolved into a system of quality assurance. Practices consistent with this era are shown by performing quality audits in different sectors of the company, adoption of quality systems across the supply chain and also implementation of programs for the development of quality suppliers of products and services. Companies that take a strategic quality management are those that use market research and specific indicators to measure customer satisfaction, such as consumer complaints, returns by wholesalers for the time of the product in the inventory and sales below target. Further, evaluate their products compared to competitors' products and apply techniques of sensory analysis to compare products and find sensory qualities required by the market. Concerned to improve their production processes, automate production lines and constantly launch new products into the market.
3. Tasks quality of the sector in the food industry
In general, the operating system of quality control in the food industry must meet some specific tasks. One of the tasks is to ensure compliance with sanitary standards and compliance requirements of the legislation, including with regard to food safety standards, the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and the system Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). For this, there is need for procedures to control insects, rodents, birds and other pests, and procedures for cleaning and sanitizing equipment, industrial plant and storage areas. Still, personal hygiene of staff working on process lines and proper habits on food handling should be implemented and monitored to ensure that food safety standards are met. In cooperation with the departments of production, research and development, engineering or operations, the department of quality control analyzes manufacturing processes to "Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points." The integrity and safety of food products should be ensured through the identification and assessment of all unit operations of the process in order to prevent potential contamination and adulteration that could expose consumers to health risks.
In cooperation with the department of research and development (R&D), production, purchasing and sales, should be prepared written specifications for raw materials, ingredients, packaging materials, other supplies and finished products. Furthermore, should be established in writing form and in cooperation with the departments of production and R&D the procedures for each unit operation of all manufacturing processes of the fashion industry that can be implemented in processing lines. The participation of staff from other departments of the company occurs by the virtue of their expertise in relation to consumer demands or knowledge of product technology and process, and the participation of the operators of the process, because of its experience in the production.
The quality control personnel works in different laboratories performing physical, chemical, microbiological and sensory properties of raw materials, ingredients, packaging materials and finished products. They also work in the factory or processing areas, collecting samples for performance evaluation processes, unit operations, sanitary conditions or levels, verifying compliance with the requirements of food safety and all other operating specifications. It is the responsibility of the department of quality control implementation of Statistical Quality Control (SQC), in which statistical techniques are applied to assessments of control for scientific analysis and interpretation of data. The SQC's functions include the selection of sampling techniques, control charts for attributes and variables, the use of analysis of variance and correlation, among other statistical tools. The methods, procedures and selection of instruments used to measure quality attributes of products and processes are the responsibility of the department of quality control. These techniques can be developed for specific purposes within the production process, to product development or troubleshooting and optimization standards.
The quality control personnel must interact cooperatively with the personnel of the standards and inspection agencies to ensure that the official food law is understood and met. It should also watch the production department in its efforts to increase revenues, reduce losses and improve efficiency of operations. It should also develop, conduct and assist in an organized program, training of supervisors, operators and workers in general, into specific concepts of quality.
The development of an appropriate plan of "recollect" adulterated or defective product in marketing channels and the planning of internal traceability of products is also a function of the quality control department. Another assignment of quality control includes reviewing and responding to consumer complaints.
Thus, faced with so many responsibilities, it remains to note that the dynamics of intervention and performance of those who are responsible for the quality department is paramount to the success of the food industry and customer satisfaction.
4. Methodologies in support of the quality management in the food industry
The quality management applies systems and tools that are intended to assist the implementation of quality-oriented way to improve the product and the process, increasing the levels of quality business and ensuring customer's satisfaction.
The purpose of this topic is to describe some tools, techniques and systems that have been more widely used in quality management in the food industry. Besides the methods mentioned, there are others that could be employed by companies. The choice of which implement depends on the company's strategies and know-how of its employees.
4.1. Food security programs
The issue of food safety has been in the public eye as never before. Foodborne disease has an enormous public health impact, as well as significant social and economic consequences. It is estimated that each year foodborne disease causes approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the U.S., and 2,366,000 cases, 21,138 hospitalizations and 718 deaths in England and Wales . Thus, many food safety programs have been published in order to ensure safe food production and consumer protection.
Safety food programs can be set as the measures to be taken to ensure that food can be eaten without adversely affect to the consumer’s health. These measures aim to prevent food contamination, such contamination are chemical, physical or microbiological. The programs commonly used in this area are Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), frequently found in the food industry, are obligatory by law, and others are implemented voluntarily by the food chain members .
4.1.1. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
The Good Manufacturing Practices program is composed of a set of principles and rules to be adopted by the food industry in order to ensure the sanitary quality of their products. The GMP program came at the end of the last century when the U.S. pharmaceutical industry began to define optimal manufacturing practices based on technological knowledge available. In the late 60's, organizations such as the WHO (World Health Organization) and the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) adopted the program as a minimum criterion recommended to the manufacture of food products under adequate sanitation conditions and routine inspection. Later in 2002, FDA forms Food GMP Modernization Working Group and announces effort to modernize food GMP´s .
The rules establishing the so-called Good Manufacturing Practices involves requirements for industry’s installations, through strict rules of personal hygiene and cleanliness of the workplace to the description in writing form of all procedures involved in the product. These standards are characterized by a set of items summarized below.
The projects and industry facilities, in addition to requirements engineering/architecture, must meet requirements to ensure food safety, such as the installation of devices to prevent the entry of pests, contaminated water, dirt in the air, and still be designed to avoid the accumulation of dirt or physical contamination of food that is being manufactured. The equipment and the entire apparatus of materials used in industrial processing should be designed from materials that prevent the accumulation of dirt and must be innocuous to avoid the migration of undesirable particles to foods. On the production line, the procedures and steps for handling the product have to be documented, in order to ensure the standardization of safety practices. Also running records should be implemented as evidence that the job was well done.
Otherwise, the cleaning and sanitizing phases are inherent to the processing and handling of foods, and thus programs for execution on a routine and efficiently must be implemented. Similarly, is required a plan for integrated pest control in order to minimize access vector and reduce the number of possible focus of insects, rodents and birds.
Regarding food handlers, the GMP recommend that training should be given and recycled so the concepts of hygiene and proper handling are assimilated as a working philosophy and fulfilled to the letter.
A control of raw materials should be developed with suppliers, not only in the laboratory, but in a gradual and continuous improvement work, where food security is split with suppliers. Guidelines for the safe packaging of raw materials, inputs and finished products should be followed and extended to the storage and loading area, and to the transportation that reach the consumer.
The Good Manufacturing Practices have wide and effective application when all the elements cited are effectively deployed.
4.1.2. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)
HACCP is a system based on prevention of hazards to the industry to produce safe food to consumers. The HACCP involves a complete analysis of the dangers in the systems of production, handling, processing and consumption of a food product. HACCP is widely acknowledged as the best method of assuring product safety and is becoming internationally recognized as a tool for controlling food-borne safety hazards .
Quality not quantity: The importance of quality management in the food industry
Why is product quality important for the food industry? Because customers have high standards and they’re expecting high-quality products that meet their needs. Unless you want to risk your customer satisfaction and sending them to the open arms of your competitors, you need to meet or even better, exceed those expectations.
In today’s blog post, we’ll be talking about the role of quality management in the food industry, why it’s so important and how you can improve it to boost your brand reputation.
Why quality matters
How to improve quality in food manufacturing
It only takes one product that your customers deem subpar to leave them disappointed and turn away from your brand. That’s why quality matters.
If you can consistently provide your customers with high-quality products, you can benefit from:
More satisfied, happier customers who are more likely to return to your brand and recommend you to others
Higher profitability - it’s said that increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase profits by up to 95%. Additionally, it costs five times more to attract new customers than it does to gain business from your existing ones. So, prioritising your existing customers should be a no brainer when it comes to boosting profit margins
Standing out from the competition - the higher and more consistent your product quality, happier your customers are. That already puts you ahead of the competition
Protected brand reputation - recalls can hurt your reputation. If you can ensure consistent quality, you can minimise their likelihood and protect your reputation (while simultaneously increasing it)
Lowered overall costs - as a direct result of a great reputation and high quality products, your overall operational costs may be lower. For example, you may be following more efficient procedures which reduces waste and improves your overall cost efficiency, and higher customer retention means you’re potentially spending less on attracting customers
Better employee morale - happier employees mean you can reduce staff turnover and their performance improves (which then improves your overall product quality - it’s a never-ending cycle)
How to improve quality and ensure consistency
Food manufacturing challenges
Here are some considerations to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring high quality:
Raw material control/ingredient specifications - document these to maintain consistency and ensure you regularly review and modify as needs change
Suppliers - a pre-approved supplier list would help your team responsible for purchasing and quality control
Product formulation - if it’s documented, you can ensure quality is consistent across batches, lots and production days
A robust allergen management process - to reduce the likelihood of product recalls and ensure your end consumers are safeguarded
Manufacturing process control - document your processes to ensure all employees (both new and long-time) are meticulously following your processes. This also includes sticking to manufacturing and sanitation best practices
Final product standards - your final product needs to meet the specific physical, chemical and microbiological characteristics you’ve set. Make sure you also have specific rejection criteria
Packaging and labelling - the packaging you choose should adequately protect your final product while the labelling should meet current regulations
As you can see, quality is about more than just your finished products. It’s also about your systems, processes and people responsible for creating that product - all are key in ensuring a high-quality result. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to be impossible or an arduous task if you have a solution that can help you efficiently and successfully manage all of the considerations above.
Improve quality management in the food industry with the right technology
Digital transformation in food manufacturing
A food ERP system must have the relevant quality control functionality to perform all quality testing and reporting. Then that quality control data should be used to facilitate the best possible decision-making and production planning.
The right solution should enable you to create tests and design the appropriate response to their outcomes. Having quarantine procedures to ensure that items aren’t distributed and materials not used until they’ve passed testing is a good example of this.
In addition, the right solution should:
Comply with governmental, industry, and corporate regulations and quality standards for the food industry
Incorporate effective quality criteria into business processes and align them with quality policies
Have the right documentation to demonstrate adherence to certain quality parameters and certificates of analysis with the solution
But to maximise your technology investment, they must be evergreen...
As important as business applications are to the productivity and efficiency of your business, it’s equally important to maintain them. In other words, are you prepared to keep them evergreen?
Exploring the role of service quality, atmosphere and food for revisits in restaurants by using a e-mystery guest approach
Bernhard Fabian Bichler, Birgit Pikkemaat, Mike Peters
Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights
Open Access. Article publication date: 26 August 2020
Issue publication date: 19 July 2021
PDF (254 KB)
2. Theoretical perspectives
5. Discussion and conclusions
Quality in foodservices has become essential, and new methodological ways of determining service quality enable a better representation of service processes and help to increase revisits. This paper focuses on the foodservice context and explores the relationship between staff-related service dimensions, atmosphere, food quality and revisit in a full-service setting.
This study combines an often neglected mystery guest approach with partial least square–structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) to shed more light on customers' service perceptions. The mystery guest approach has been updated with a digitally supported smartphone questionnaire (e-mystery) that provides more reliable results since previous measurements experienced difficulties of feasibility in time-limited settings (N = 247).
The findings of this study confirm the direct effects of the service quality dimensions reliability, attentiveness and atmosphere on revisit intention and highlight the mediating role of food quality. In detail, the findings showed significant results for service employees' reliability and attentiveness and underlined the role of atmosphere for revisit intention.
The contribution of this paper supplements that mystery guest approaches represent a reliable alternative to convenience sampling, especially in combination with a digitally supported questionnaire (e-mystery). Thereby, this paper suggests the further application of e-mystery for the hospitality and tourism industry. In terms of implications, this study highlights the importance of securing food quality by fostering specialized schools and training programs for career starters. Since the findings stress the importance of service quality and atmosphere, managers need to ensure that employees are trained in culturally sensitive communication and services to excel in service-related dimensions.
FOOD SERVICE QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Food experiences represent a crucial component of tourism, contributing to tourist expenditures and overall satisfaction of traveling (McKercher et al., 2008). In this context, quality dimensions are accepted as a key to achieving competitive advantages in foodservices. Crick and Spencer (2011, p. 466) highlighted that “organisations (…) need to understand with as much precision as possible what the guests want from the service experience.” Particularly in the foodservice context, customers have various choices between different restaurants, which could result in restaurants switching if expectations are not met (Stevens et al., 1995; Park and Jang, 2014b). Choice and quality of food, service, price, as well as atmosphere, are often seen as the main focus of restaurants. Still, foodservices do not solely concentrate on these attributes, but instead offer holistic dining experiences (Yuksel et al., 2010). An essential element of these experiences is service quality (SQ), which is intangible, individualized and subjective by nature (Chow et al., 2007). Therefore, restaurants try to optimize customer experiences by managing specific factors of total quality management (Psomas and Jaca, 2016).
There exist several schools of thought, which have defined quality dimensions differently (Parasuraman et al., 1988; Grönroos, 1984). The bottom line is that SQ consists of multiple dimensions, which can be classified as functional and technical (Grönroos, 1984) or interactional quality (Brady and Cronin, 2001). Crick and Spencer (2011) synthesized that satisfaction with the (service) product and the way the front-line staff delivered it are the minimum requirement. SQ is recognized to be a significant determinant of a company's success and therefore represents a major research stream of hospitality research (Bouranta et al., 2009; Bujisic et al., 2014).
Previous literature summarized the role of service, food and environment for customers' satisfaction and behavioral intentions (Shahzadi et al., 2018; Ryu et al., 2012). Crick and Spencer (2011) called for a better recognition of each sector's nuances in determining SQ, supported by the call of Shahzadi et al. (2018) for more comparative studies. Therefore, this paper sheds more light on foodservices in the small but highly touristic city of Innsbruck, Austria. Due to the long tradition in the foodservice and hospitality industry and the legal requirements (WKO, 2020), this study uses an adjusted set of measures and applies e-mystery to avoid convenience sampling. The e-mystery also accounts for the importance of assessing quality continuously throughout the service process (Crick and Spencer, 2011). E-mystery allows us to mirror and observe customers' service perceptions throughout the service delivery process: customers can evaluate services immediately, in real time during the service experience without introducing bias by evaluations after the service delivery process. The objective of this paper is to explore the relationship between staff-related service dimensions, atmosphere, food quality and revisit in a full-service setting. In this context, e-mystery enables to benchmark foodservice performance, which is difficult due to the intangible, perishable and inseparable nature of services (Ladhari, 2009).
2. Theoretical perspectives
2.1 Service dimensions and revisit intention
Numerous studies show that behavioral intentions refer to positive word of mouth resulting in recommendations, remaining loyal and revisits (Shahzadi et al., 2018; Jani and Han, 2011). Following the early work of Berry et al. (2002) on how to manage service experience with food quality (functional clue), SQ (humanic clue) and atmosphere (mechanic clue) as key attributes, revisits have been discussed extensively in the foodservice context (Karamustafa and Ülker, 2020; Nguyen et al., 2018; Bujisic et al., 2014; Ryu et al., 2012). Satisfaction and behavioral intentions are often used as dependent variables and in this context, previous research underlined the mediating role of satisfaction for customers' intentions (Barber et al., 2011; Lee and Whaley, 2019). Measuring revisit intention is important since behavioral intentions represent the likelihood to engage in a particular behavior (Oliver, 2014). Therefore, SQ is directly related to customer satisfaction and affects customers' intentions and thereby company's success (Gupta et al., 2007).
2.2 Customers’ perceptions of quality dimensions in the food industry
A plethora of studies highlighted the role of SQ, food quality and atmospheric/environment quality for the foodservice industry (Shahzadi et al., 2018; Park and Jang, 2014a; Bujisic et al., 2014; Ryu et al., 2012). Grönroos (1984) separates quality dimensions into technical (e.g. food quality, meal) and functional quality, where the latter is more concerned about the service delivery process, personal contact and the atmosphere. Due to the intangible nature of the service process, the evaluation of the functional quality is highly subjective compared to food quality where a more objective assessment is possible. Later, the three-factor model by Brady and Cronin (2001) conceptualized quality dimensions as interaction quality, physical environment quality and outcome quality, which have proven to be positive predictors of SQ.
Several scholars focused on the crucial role of food quali