Why Service Standards Matter & A Time-Test Best Practice for Restaurateurs

In a 2018 study published by Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, the guest-server exchange (GSX) model was replicated to include guest revisit intention as an intermediary between food and service sales and guest satisfaction (Susskind, Kacmar, & Borchgrevink, 2018). The GSX model focuses on the relationship between frontline employees’ performance, guest satisfaction, and an organization’s sales performance.

The study spanned across 80 full-service restaurants in the southeastern United States and included 990 servers and bartenders. The results revealed that coworker and supervisory support played an integral part in increasing performance when there was a high level of commitment to service standards. The final findings by Susskin et al. (2018) reported that employees who perceived their work environment as positive were related to guest satisfaction and an increase in the restaurants’ overall sales.

This study echoes previous findings that employees who perceive their organizations as being positive in terms of professional relationships and the workplace’s overall tone are more likely to deliver superior performance (Hwang, Lee, Park, Chang, & Kim, 2014; Jang & Kandampully, 2019; Newton, Handy, & Fineman, 1995). By delivering above par service, employees contribute to their organization’s financial and emotional health.

Coyle Hospitality’s guest experience measurement programs provide vivid narratives of guest perceptions in concert with quantifiable scoring in regards to the aforementioned service standards. Guest feedback is crucial but only useful when it ultimately encourages organizations to set a positive tone in the workplace.

One of our time-tested best practices for boosting employee performance is for clients to provide mystery shopping reports ‘narrative only’ to employees, and then have then score themselves based on what they are reading.

Especially when the feedback is critical or constructive, staff are more open to learning (instead of defending), and ultimately gain a much fuller understanding of the spirit of the service standards, as they apply to many different situations.

With management taking the lead, employees can participate meaningfully (and safely) in a positive organizational climate. Scores and grades give way to positive, collaborative learning about guests and how to boost performance, loyalty, and revenue generation.


Hwang, Lee, Park, Chang, & Kim. (2014) https://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=3621f6ec-ef9e-443f-b633-155750f7dff0%40pdc-v-sessmgr04

Jang & Kandampully. (2019). https://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=eb43cb48-587d-4c61-8f72-a87ab80a7bde%40pdc-v-sessmgr02

Newton, Handy, & Fineman (1995). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279998184_’Managing’_Stress_Emotion_and_Power_at_Work

Susskind, Kacmar, & Borchgrevink. (2018). https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1096348016683512

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