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Customization and standardization in hotels – a paradox or not?

Mette Sandoff (Department of Business Administration, School of Economics and Law, Goteborg University, Goteborg, Sweden)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 1 October 2005




This paper is based on the empirical study of human resources and service work and its purpose is to reveal that the international hotel industry is becoming more standardized. The argument presented here is that progressive standardization within customized service production is paradoxical. The aim here is to discuss the paradox and in so doing, to highlight the fact that control, predictability and risk minimization are just as important to hotel operations as customized service.


The data, in the form of qualitative interviews conducted in five European capital cities, are drawn from international first class hotel groups. Three international hotel groups are represented, and four hotels have been picked out from each group. In addition to the hotel‐based interviews, head office interviews with the three hotel group directors of human resources were undertaken.


Attempts to standardize service production are popular due to the unpredictable character of service operations. The traditional view – as reflected in the service management literature, is that service should be customized in order to satisfy customers. It seems paradoxical to strive for standardization and customization at the same time and the findings show that customized service is seldom found in practice.


The data reveal the divide in the discourse between academia and practice on standardization versus customization.



Sandoff, M. (2005), "Customization and standardization in hotels – a paradox or not?", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp. 529-535.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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