A study from Cornell University adds a new dimension to the definition of good restaurant service. The study finds that good service means more than just delivering food orders promptly and correctly—although that is vital. In addition, the service style is also an essential element of the service transaction, because customers notice—and are more pleased—when a restaurant's service style matches its brand image.

The study, "Fitting Restaurant Service Style to Brand Image for Greater Customer Satisfaction," by Michael Giebelhausen, Evelyn Chan, and Nancy J. Sirianni, is available at no charge from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research. Giebelhausen is an assistant professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Chan is an associate at MaPS/Millward Brown Analytics, and Sirianni is an assistant professor at Northeastern University.

"We found that restaurant customers would be more satisfied with their dining experience when the service style fits in with the restaurant's image," said Gielbelhausen. "Both satisfaction and anticipated tips were better when the service and the concept matched up. We believe this occurs because guest expectations are met and the service experience is seen as more authentic."

He added: "In our study, we tested responses to scenarios that simulated service at two contrasting casual dining restaurants. We tested a Japanese-style restaurant, where we used what you would call a 'reserved' style of service, and a burger place, where the service was 'extroverted.'"

The study concludes that managers might consider training existing employees to act in a way that is consistent with the restaurant's brand image. However, Giebelhausen cautions against asking employees to fake their service style, because authenticity is important—and guests can quickly spot a fake.