Exploring the relationship between professionalism and perceived organizational performance in small to medium restaurants
[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The key to success in the hospitality industry depends on the professionalism of the workforce (Lee, 2014). In the restaurant sector, the characteristics of employment, such as high turnover, low pay, and absence of long-term challenging careers, led to the industry's low status and prevented it from becoming more professional (Pizam, 1982). In particular, small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that comprise a major portion of the restaurant industry face many obstacles to professionalism, such as inept management skills and low level of training and education (Dale & Robinson, 2007). Moreover, a multitude of environmental factors, such as globalization, technological evolution, and higher customer expectations, are changing how business is conducted. To succeed in this turbulent environment and attract a steady flow of customers, restaurant firms will need to engage in professionalism to ensure quality service, increase the satisfaction levels of customers and employees (Gottlieb & Sanzgiri, 1996), and eventually enhance organizational performance. Professionalism traditionally is aimed at classic professionals. As society diversified and entered a consumer-oriented era, many occupations were created, and the value of services to customers has become highly diversified. Many fields of employment are pursuing professional status, and professionalism has become an important factor of the service sector (Rawel, 2003). However, the term professionalism is freely used, and there is no consensus about what attributes comprise professionalism in hospitality industry (Sheldon, 1989). The primary purposes of the study therefore are to (1) identify key dimensions of professionalism in SME restaurants, (2) compare the level of professionalism in restaurants by its features and (2) examine the relationship between professionalism and perceived organizational performance. The study found that, first, the two-time Delphi technique-based surveys conducted in this study found five professional dimensions: "knowledge pursuance," "code of ethics," "customer orientation," "competence & skills," and "service standards." Second, there is a level difference of professionalism between a franchise restaurant and an independently owned restaurant. That is, a franchise restaurant requires a higher level of professionalism in all dimensions than independently owned restaurants. Last, restaurant professionalism dimensions were examined for their influence on organizational performance measured by growth and profitability. Of the five dimensions, "code of ethics," "customer orientation," and "service standard" all influenced growth and profitability performance, while "knowledge pursuance" influenced only growth performance.
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