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H.G. Parsa

Research from University of Denver professor of hospitality management  

It is common for industries to have standard classifications for their products. In the vehicle industry, there’s a clear difference between a compact sedan and luxury SUV. In the lodging industry, hotels are classified as luxury, midscale and economy, to name a few. Until now, the National Restaurant Association has had no standardized or official classification system.

New research from the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business now offers classifications for the restaurant industry. Hospitality Management Professor H.G. Parsa and his two co-authors propose four categories. Their study, titled, “New Classification System for the U.S. Restaurant Industry: Application of Utilitarian and Hedonic Continuum Model” was published online in the January 2020 Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.

The researchers propose four classifications that evaluate the dining experience and restaurant class. The classifications include:

High Hedonic (Luxury Dining), Low Hedonic (Fine Dining), Low Utilitarian (Casual Dining) and High Utilitarian (Quick-Service Dining). Each of these four categories offer different levels of hedonic and utilitarian experiences ranging from lowest to the highest.

“This classification is extremely beneficial to the restaurant associations as they profile and analyze restaurants and help the industry grow,” said Parsa, the Barron Hilton professor of lodging and management for the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management. “It is very helpful to restaurateurs in assessing their current operations, expanding the business or entering new markets.”

The researchers explain that “while industry classification terms such as ‘fast food’ and ‘fine dining’ are subject to blurring, they have been used for decades without any consideration for intra-category homogeneity. In addition, new restaurant classification terms continue to be coined via consumer and trade media, such as ‘pan-Asian’ and ‘casual upscale,’ to describe emerging trends in style of cuisine and service, which further confuses restaurant taxonomy.”

Most of the current industry-based classification systems, unfortunately, do not have either theoretical or empirical support. This study aspires to overcome this limitation by offering a theory-based restaurant classification system that is empirically tested in four studies with restaurateurs, food experts and consumers.

About the Author:
Parsa holds a PhD from Virginia Tech and an Master of Science in Food Science. He is an associate editor of the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly and the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research and a Fulbright Visiting Scholar (2005). His research interests include corporate social responsibility, marketing and pricing strategies, and analysis of restaurant and food trends. He has over 15 years of restaurant industry experience in management.