Judging the Book by the Cover: Consumer Preferences of Hospitality Industry Uniforms for Destination Brands
Purpose– The purpose of this study is to examine if consumers have substantially common color preferences in hospitality uniforms for destination brands. Employee uniforms with their dimensions of style, material and color are a crucial part of the coordinated brand message of a business or a destination; however, this has been a void in tourism and hospitality literature. Current visitors to Hong Kong were studied using intercept surveys in four different groups controlling for potential confounding factors. Although results reveal the common perception and preference for black-white-formal uniforms for Hong Kong’s hospitality industry across different treatment groups as well as different cultural groups, implications and discussions are provided as a call for further research in this venue of inquiry. Design/methodology/approach– This is a cross-sectional study using a site intercept survey with structured questionnaires on Chinese and international travelers in Hong Kong. Four different surveys were used as different treatments for four groups of respondents that were randomly assigned into each group. Each group was presented with a different default pair of male and female uniform pictures for the initial evaluation on the first page of the survey, followed by a list of uniforms with different colors and styles on the second page of the survey to select and evaluate their own pairs of male and female uniforms. Findings– Results revealed that consumers’ general favorite colors may not apply to their preferences for the employee uniforms for a destination they visit. Also, there were similarities in the favorite color and choice uniform color for the three general culture groups, such as Chinese, Asia-Pacific and Western consumers, included in the study. Besides, findings implied that Hong Kong may be a strong brand with a uniform color preference for hospitality uniforms for different consumer segments. Research limitations/implications– This study needs to be considered as an exploratory attempt to bring researchers’ attention to the several questions still to be answered by future research. The results and discussions provided in this study are beyond being robust or conclusive; insights about potential brand connotations with employee uniform colors need to be taken as potential leads for future studies because there is a need for further study in this area. Practical implications– The importance of hotel employee uniforms for quality hotel experience was the highest for the Chinese group, whereas it was the lowest for the Western group. Chinese and Asia-Pacific respondents placed more importance on uniforms as a cue for a quality hotel experience, which signal a higher level of involvement in visible cues in the consumption environment. Hence, hotels as well as destinations catering to these groups need to take their market segment preferences into consideration before making decisions about brand cues for their products. Originality/value– There is a lack of attention to the color aspect of service encounter in tourism and hospitality literature. Therefore, color needs attention from researchers as a new venue of research in tourism and hospitality, especially in the tourism destination context. This study is a spearhead to generate interest by intriguing questions for future attention from researchers.