Culture and Service Quality Perceptions: Development of a University Foodservice Survey

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition and Food Systems

First Advisor

Mary Kay Meyer

Advisor Department

Nutrition and Food Systems


This study was exploratory in nature and employed multiple steps, which included both qualitative and quantitative research methods. This study's three purposes were to: (1) Develop an instrument that measured service quality attributes of university foodservice facilities, which produced reliable and valid scores; (2) Determine if differences in service quality perceptions existed between various cultural groups and; (3) Investigate if time spent living in the United States impacted service quality perceptions. Focus groups, an expert panel, cognitive interviewing, and pilot testing were used in the instrument development process. First, four focus groups were conducted with students enrolled at The University of Southern Mississippi's English Learning Institute (ELI). During focus group discussions, the students were asked about their likes and dislikes of specific foodservice experiences they had encountered in their home countries, the United States, and the University of Southern Mississippi. Service quality attributes that were mentioned at least three times were used to develop the initial draft of the instrument. Next, a total of eight experts, with varied foodservice and cross-cultural backgrounds, were asked for their input regarding the wording, the scales, and the comprehensiveness of the instrument. Recommendations were evaluated and were used to produce the second instrument draft. Finally, a total of 13 students from The University of Mississippi's ELI participated in the pilot study. During the pilot, cognitive interviewing techniques were used to assess content validity as well as cognitive validity and equivalency. Finally, the instrument was analyzed for inter-item correlations and internal consistency using Cronbach's alpha (.935). The final survey was completed by a total of 141 of the 342 international students enrolled at The University of Southern Mississippi for the 2004/2005 academic year, resulting in a 41% response rate. The results of survey items were examined using exploratory factor analysis (EFA). Principal components analysis and varimax rotation were used to determine fundamental constructs among the questions. After poorly loading items were eliminated, a six factor solution, based on 31 items, was created that accounted for 52% of the variance. Rotated factor loadings less than .40 were suppressed. The six factors that emerged were: Service and Sanitation (α = .866), Food Dislikes (α = .713), Selection and Taste (α = .738), Drinks (α = .760), Value (α = .731), and Crowding (α = .693). The cross-cultural analysis indicated that some differences did exist. MANOVA testing indicated that there was a significant difference between cultural groups and service factors. In the factor Food Dislikes significant differences were discovered between India and Asia and India and Latin America, with the Indian group showing greater levels of dissatisfaction within this factor than the other two groups. Next, the Latin American students showed statistically greater satisfaction levels with the drink services offered on campus. Finally, the Canadian/UK students' scores within the Value factor indicated that the Canadian/UK group had lower satisfaction and perceived value than the Latin American students. Finally, MANOVA testing indicated that there was a significant difference between length of time in the United States and service factors. Significant differences existed in the Service and Sanitation factor. The group of students who had been in the United States for less than six months were more satisfied with the service and sanitation levels than the other groups who had been in the United States for six months or more.