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Dining alone? Solo consumers’ self-esteem and incidental similarity

Joongwon Shin (The Pennsylvania State University)
Yoohee Hwang (The Pennsylvania State University)
Anna S. Mattila (The Pennsylvania State University)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 24 October 2018

Issue publication date: 5 November 2018




Though social trends are driving consumers toward solo consumption of various services, many are reluctant to do so. There is little guidance for service providers as to how to effectively induce solo consumption. This study aims to examine the joint effect of self-esteem and an incidental similarity cue (e.g. a person’s initials) on anticipated satisfaction with with a solo consumption experience to fill this gap.


This study used a two-factor (incidental similarity cue and self-esteem) quasi-experimental design to test the hypotheses. The respondents read a scenario depicting a solo service consumption experience and completed scales that measured perceived fit with the service context and anticipated satisfaction with the experience.


Results indicate that, in the absence of an incidental similarity cue, self-esteem has a positive effect on solo consumers’ perceived fit. In the presence of such a cue, however, self-esteem has a minimal impact on perceived fit. Furthermore, perceived fit mediates the effect of self-esteem on anticipated satisfaction when the cue is absent.


The authors’ findings suggest that promoting incidental similarities with consumers may not be an efficient strategy to attract solo consumers. Conversely, service providers wishing to induce solo consumption may benefit from situationally increasing self-esteem among potential solo consumers. The current research advances the authors’ understanding of the effect of an incidental similarity cue and self-esteem in the context of a growing social trend of solo consumption.



The authors thank the Marriott Foundation for the funding of this research.


Shin, J., Hwang, Y. and Mattila, A.S. (2018), "Dining alone? Solo consumers’ self-esteem and incidental similarity", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 767-776.



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