Purpose. This study aims to use the theory of third places to understand how different kinds of social interactions in small hospitality businesses, such as restaurants and cafes, can enhance senior customers’ experiences and alleviate their loneliness. Design/methodology/approach. The target population of this study were Hong Kong residents of age 60 or older. The sampling frame comprised respondents who visited a Cha Chaan Teng (i.e. a Hong Kong-style tea restaurant) more than once a year. The authors distributed 500 questionnaires and collected 411 valid responses in 2016. They used structural equation modeling for data analysis. Findings. The results show that social interactions (service manner and need identification) with employees and other customers have a positive effect on senior customers’ experiences, while the service manner of employees reduces senior customers’ loneliness. Originality/value. This study demonstrates the respective contributions of social interactions with employees and those with other customers to enhancing senior customers’ experiences and alleviating their loneliness. This study’s findings may provide a foundation for future research into the relationships between social interactions, customer experience and loneliness in third places (that are, informal public places that offer individuals opportunities to escape from home and the workplace and to enjoy voluntary conversation, entertainment and gatherings). Further, this study also demonstrates the specific role and importance of the hospitality industry in addressing a contemporary social problem in the form of seniors’ loneliness.
Song, HaiyanAltinay, LeventSun, NingWang, Xuan Lorna
Oxford Brookes Business School\Oxford School of Hospitality Management
Year of publication: 2018Date of RADAR deposit: 2018-11-09