To read this content please select one of the options below:

The effect of online reviews on restaurant visit intentions: applying signaling and involvement theories

Leonardo Aureliano-Silva (Department of Graduation Courses, Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing, ESPM, São Paulo, Brazil and Faculty of Management Sciences, ILMA University, Karachi, Pakistan)
Xi Leung (Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA)
Eduardo Eugênio Spers (Department of Economics, Management and Sociology, Universidade de São Paulo – Câmpus Luiz de Queiroz, Piracicaba, Brazil)

Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology

ISSN: 1757-9880

Article publication date: 19 August 2021

Issue publication date: 1 December 2021




The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of online reviews on consumers’ intention to visit restaurants, with the moderating role of involvement.


The research framework was built on signaling theory, message appeals and involvement theory. To test the proposed framework, three experiments were conducted online with real customer samples. T-tests, ANOVA and SPSS PROCESS macro were used for data analysis.


The results revealed that online reviews with higher online ratings and emotional appeal led to higher restaurant visit intention. Review appeal significantly moderated the effect of online ratings on restaurant visit intention. Customers with low restaurant involvement were more impacted by emotional comments than by functional comments.

Research limitations/implications

The present study extends our knowledge on the effects of online reviews moderated by levels of customer involvement. By combining signaling theory with involvement theory, it adds value to the literature on customer online behavior, especially in the foodservice context. The present study has limitations that might provide opportunities for future research. It used evaluations (TripAdvisor scores) and only positive reviews (texts), so customers’ intentions considering negative reviews could not be examined. The level of hedonism concerning consumption in restaurants and prior knowledge regarding restaurant reviews was not controlled for. It is possible that the level of hedonism perceived and prior review knowledge may moderate the customers’ intention to visit the restaurant.

Practical implications

The present study shows the importance of online comments for the promotion of restaurants that have low evaluation scores. It is essential that restaurant owners and managers encourage potential customers by using comments to elaborate on their marketing strategies and promotion. At the same time, they should invite customers to share their emotional experiences, and not just their views on service efficiency (a functional aspect). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of the internet and mobile devices has become more prominent. Managers could therefore use emotional messages on the restaurant’s website or apps to attract customers with low restaurant involvement. Also, a system to identify the involvement of customers with restaurants could be implemented online or on mobile devices to present specific messages. The present study also recommends the use of online tools as virtual tours, photographs taken from different angles, smiling faces, floor plans and sittings and pre-determined emotional expressions. Also, the restaurant could promote lives on cooking different dishes to motive customer’s interaction and comments. These would help to increase customers’ visit intentions.


This study extends knowledge about the effect of restaurant online reviews (both ratings and appeals) moderated by the level of customer involvement. The present study also adds value to the customer online behavior literature showing that customers with low involvement are more sensitive to emotional content as they use the affective route to process information rather than the central route.



本研究旨在探索以顾客参与度作为调节变量, 关于在线评论对餐厅到访意愿的影响。


本文以信号理论, 信息诉求, 参与理论来建立研究框架。为测试提出的理论框架, 本研究进行了三个在线消费者实验。T-检验, 方差分析, 和SPSS PROCESS 来作为统计方法。


研究发现评论分值越高, 运用感情诉求往往导致更高度的到访意愿。评论的诉求形式显著调节了评分对到访意愿的影响。对于参与度较低的顾客, 情感诉求比功能性诉求更加能影响顾客意愿。


本研究对餐厅在线评论(评分和诉求种类)对顾客到访意愿影响, 以及如何被消费者参与度所调节贡献了新知识。本研究对消费者在线行为做出了贡献, 发现参与度较低的顾客对和情感有关的内容更敏感, 相对于中央路径, 由于此类顾客更倾向于情感路径来处理信息。



Aureliano-Silva, L., Leung, X. and Spers, E.E. (2021), "The effect of online reviews on restaurant visit intentions: applying signaling and involvement theories", Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 672-688.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles