An Exploration of Solo Dining Experience in South Korea

  • Songyi Han

Student thesis: Phd


A global increase in the number of single-person households has produced new societal trends, and one such emerging phenomenon is the rise of the solo diner in the restaurant industry. Embracing this growing customer market requires an understanding of what factors influence their dining experience and how best to enhance this. Despite the paramount importance of customer experience in services marketing, a model of the factors influencing the experience of diners in the restaurant sector remains elusive. This is especially true in the case of solo diners, where there is a paucity of data on what factors influence their dining experience. There is therefore a pressing need to understand the factors which influence the dining experiences of this blossoming market, and in doing so create a model of customer experience in this setting. In order to identify, describe and analyse the influencing determinants of restaurant experience from the solo diners' perspective, experiential elements within the context of the solo diner's restaurant encounters were explored. As a country with a largely collectivistic culture and an increasing number of solo diners, South Korea provides an interesting environment through which to explore these factors. Thirty semi-structured interviews were conducted amongst solo diners in South Korea. The data were subsequently analysed using a thematic technique through which common themes and patterns were identified, and their respective influence on solo dining experience explored. The findings of this study show that customer experience is constructed from a delicate interplay between the collectivistic cultural background of solo diners and their perceptions of various factors. Such factors include: environmental factors, staff attitude and behaviour, interaction with other diners, physical environment, perceived value for money, locational convenience, service design, and food quality. Crucially the effect of some of these influential factors on solo dining experience is determined according to inherent differences in the solo diner's needs and desires. With regard to factors influencing customer experience, this study has identified a clear dichotomy between 'solitary' diners who choose to dine alone versus unwilling 'lonely' diners. The results of this study contribute to the extension of existing knowledge about customer experience by developing a customer experience model, which not only integrates the differential determinants of solo dining experience, but also importantly shows that and individual's motivation for solo-dining influences his/her perception of restaurant experience. In addition, through this study's focus on solo diners within South Korea, this research extends the knowledge of customer experience to both the solo dining and collectivistic cultural context. A greater understanding of customer experience in these contexts is vital if the restaurant industry is to tailor its services effectively, and this study has highlighted various methods through which the customer experience of solo diners can be optimised. Such methods include careful interior design of restaurants (e.g. attractive ornaments, open-kitchen); optimal choice of tables (e.g. bar tables, communal tables, tables with partitions); distinct food menus for solo diners; and training of service employees to specifically address the needs and wishes of this growing customer group.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJudith Zolkiewski (Supervisor) & Ebrahim Marandi (Supervisor)


  • solo diners
  • customer experience
  • restaurant
  • Solo dining experience
  • South Korea

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