The global fast-food restaurant industry has experienced strong growth in recent years in response to changes in consumer tastes and challenging global economic conditions. According to IBISWorld (2015), in the period since the global financial crisis and the worldwide decrease in individuals’ income, there has been a decline in spending on luxuries such as eating out which has increased consumer preferences for lower-priced and more convenient food options.
Globally, the fast food market has shown modest growth since 2011 reaching a total value of $2, 849,950.5 in 2015 (Marketline, 2016). In terms of global segmentation of the food service industry, full-service restaurants represent 40 percent of the market value, quick service restaurants (QSRs) and fast food are the second largest segment of the market with 22 percent of the market value, while pubs, clubs, and bars have 11 percent of the market value and 9 percent relates to the accommodation sector.
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The food service industry in the UK grew by an annual compounded rate of 2.3 percent over the period 2012-2016 and by 2.6 percent in 2016 to reach a total value of $95.5 billion (Marketline, 2017). The food service industry in the UK is structurally different in relation to the most important sectors with pubs, clubs, and bars representing 35.7 percent of total market value, followed by the QSR and fast food sector with 26.1 percent and full-service restaurants with only 15.5 percent.
This is a significant cultural difference in preferences for food service encounters and differs markedly in comparison to other European and Western contexts, and relates to the popularity of eating out in pubs as evidenced in the growth of chains such as Wetherspoons and the higher-quality gastro-pub market.
When it comes specifically to the fast food industry in the UK, the sector overall has seen major developments over the years such as the introduction of the drive-through restaurant format in the 1980s (Duffill and Martin, 1993) and the current expansion of home delivery services. It is clear that the global fast food industry and the UK fast food market in particular have grown consistently in the recent past and generated significant annual revenue.
This makes for a promising operational context for fast food chains to improve their performance and increase profits, especially in the UK. This study, therefore, investigates the impact of service quality on customer satisfaction in the UK fast-food restaurant industry for the purposes of developing an understanding that might help drive such continued growth.
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