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Multiple reference effects on restaurant evaluations: a cross-cultural study

Soyeon Kim (Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA)
Jae-Eun Chung (Department of Consumer and Family Sciences, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)
YongGu Suh (Department of Business Administration, Sookmyung Women’s University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 11 July 2016




This paper aims to explore multiple reference effects with regard to customers’ post-consumption evaluations in a cross-cultural context. The authors propose to test an integrative model of three types of reference effects (disconfirmation, attractiveness of alternatives and self-image congruity) and their relationship to customers’ evaluations associated with satisfaction and loyalty. Additional insight into the link between reference points and customer satisfaction is provided by examining the moderating influence of the cultural orientation of customers: South Korean (an Eastern, collectivist and high uncertainty avoidance culture) versus American (a Western, individualistic and low uncertainty avoidance culture).


The data for this study were collected through a Web-based survey. Based on a sample of 723 Korean and American consumers, multi-group analysis of structural equation modeling was used to test the proposed model and the moderating effect of culture.


Overall, the results indicated that American customers’ use of reference points in their post-consumption evaluations is significantly different from that of Korean customers. Specifically, disconfirmation had a stronger effect on Korean customers than on their American counterparts, whereas the attractiveness of alternatives had a stronger effect on American customers than on those from Korea. Moreover, self-image congruity was found to be equally important in both cultures.

Research limitations/implications

Owing to the comparison of American and Korean participants in this study, these results may not be applied to customers from other countries. Moreover, the study is limited to post-consumption evaluations in restaurants and generalization of the results to other industries may be ill advised. Thus, further research is required to replicate the results and include customers from different countries in more diverse consumption settings.

Practical implications

The findings provide useful guidance for efficient marketing strategies to generate positive consumer outcomes across borders. Marketers must consider the interaction of cultures and customers to better understand customer perceptions and evaluations about their experiences. This understanding will enable the marketers to more effectively communicate with their target markets and allow them to tailor advertising to different segments of their customer base contingent upon their cultural orientations.


Although the role of reference effects has begun to attract considerable interest among consumer behavior researchers, much of this research has been conducted in a single cultural context. Because the global economy is becoming increasingly cross-cultural, it is valuable to conduct international consumer research to further the understanding of consumers’ post-consumption evaluation processes using multiple reference points from a global perspective.



Kim, S., Chung, J.-E. and Suh, Y. (2016), "Multiple reference effects on restaurant evaluations: a cross-cultural study", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 28 No. 7, pp. 1441-1466.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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