The focus group encourages a group of participants to share their ideas, thoughts and attitudes on a certain subject. It is very important that all questions asked should be open and neutral. In addition, the moderator should have a good control over the group discussion.
The focus group conducted aims to explore the factors that influence students’ eating choices. There were six students participating in the focus group who come from China, UK and Ukraine. It is interesting to note that students who come from the same country may have different eating habit and preferences. To be more exact, there were three Chinese students attending this focus group, and two of them go to Young’s Kitchen very often, because this restaurant provides cheap and nice Asian food. Two UK students and a Ukraine student have different choices, they go Chancellors, Lakeside or Hillside.
According to the focus group, many factors contributed to their different choices, which involve price, taste, friends’ desire, timetable and location. Only one student considered price as the primary factor of choosing food. Most students thought that quality and taste of food are much more important, given the fact that the restaurants on campus always have a fairly price compared with other restaurants in the town center. Besides, the ambience of the restaurants is quite important, as well as their friends’ suggestion. Specifically, a Chinese student usually go eating at Young’s Kitchen because they provide nice meal under 5 pounds. The Ukraine students often goes to Lakeside with his friends because sometimes it depends on his friends’ desires. One of the UK students goes to Chancellor most because of its good atmosphere.
There are different ways to obtain information about meals in restaurants on campus. Two students thought that eating in a particular restaurant is the best way to gain information, and this can be the first hand information. Other ways involve information from posters or email, advices from friends and menus from restaurants. In terms of advertisements, most students believed that they had a great influence on their choices. Advertisements provide interesting and sufficient information. For example, a good or special offer from advertisement would definitely effect students’ motivate students to go to a particular restaurant.
Surprisingly, half of the participants believed that environment of the restaurant is important too. An UK student considered it as an extremely important factor, because a restaurant would be cold and unwelcoming without good atmosphere. Good sanitation and good customer services are important as well.
Overall, when eating on campus, students are concerning the following aspects. Firstly, the taste of the food would be a large concern. Nice food with nutrition will attract more and more customers. Secondly, affordable price is also an important factor. If two restaurants provide similar food with similar taste, students will definitely choose the cheaper one. Thirdly, friends or classmates’ advices cannot be neglected. Some students go eating with their friends, so their eating habit sometimes depends on their friends’ desires. Nevertheless, their choices would be changed depending on the context, for example, it may depend on students’ timetable, whether they eat alone or with friends or even the weather.
As a qualitative research method, interview seeks to cover both a factual and a meaning level.( Kvale,2006) In addition, understanding the meaning of what the interviewees say is a important task in interviewing. It is very important that interviewers should ask one question at a time, and encourage responses. Besides, they should remain neutral in the interview and do not lose control of the interview.
The interview involved in this research aims to explore the factors which influence students’ choices when eating out in campus.
The interviewee is a Chinese student who had come to the UK for just four month. She provided very useful information for this research. The interviewer had a good control over this interview and most questions are helpful and effective. According to this interview, this interviewee usually eats out at Young’s Kitchen and Chancellors, and she is a regular guest at Young’s Kitchen, at least once a week. The main reason that she goes to Young’s Kitchen most is that it is the only restaurant cooking oriental food in campus. She has not adapted to western food because yet. Another factor contributing to this is the low price at Young’s Kitchen. The interviewee sometimes goes to Chancellors with her friends. This restaurant cooks British food, and her friends love the taste of food in Chancellors.
Therefore, according to this interviewee’s opinions, the following factors influence their eating choices. The price would be their first concern. Most students do not have much disposal money, so it is unlikely that they can afford much money eating out every day. Hence, they tend to choose restaurants which are cheap and convenient for them. Secondly, the good quality of food is another important factor contributed to this issue. It cannot be denied that a successful restaurant must provide food with good taste. Some students even think this factor is much more important than price. Sometimes they would like to pay higher price for better food, because good quality food is good for health and can be very enjoyable. Thirdly, a student’s eating choice can be easily influent by his or her friends. Take this interviewee for example, some of her friends have some taste, and they often go eating together, or some of her friend would recommend her to a new restaurant that she had never tried before. The last factor that needs to mention is that the promotion and discount in restaurant may drive students to eat. The interviewee once tried Pizza Man because they offered discount one day although they are not tasty. There are nearly no advertisements of these restaurants in campus, most students get information of them from their friend, that is to say, word from mouth. Therefore, some promotion and discount in restaurant would definitely be helpful.
Surprisingly, though, this interviewee does not think the environment of the restaurants and the services are important factors that influence their choices. This is mainly because she often go eating with her friends in campus and in most restaurants on campus, students need to help themselves. If they go out eating with some important person, they would choose town center.
Participant observation is a widely used research strategy which can obtain first hand information. It can be a powerful check against what people report about themselves during focus groups or interviews. ( Mulhall,2002)
In order to explore what factors influence students’ eating choice on campus, a Chinese student entered into Young’s Kitchen for observation. This restaurant being chose because it provides cheap and nice Asian food, so it is very popular among Asian students. The participant came to the restaurant at peak time at noon and waited for seven minutes to be served.
According to her observation, this restaurant is quite busy at lunch peak time. However, it is fine for her to wait for 7 minutes because this restaurant offers nice meal with relatively low price. These are main factors that influence this participant’s choice. It can be seen from this observation, this restaurant provides a variety of meals for students to choose, including pork, beef, vegetable, rice and noodle. Individual’s eating habit can affect his or her choice. The participant chose rice, pork ribs and fried beef for lunch, and asked for more sources for the rice. She asked wait staff aobot curry however did not choose it because it is an unfamiliar food for her. This is according to her personal eating habit, choosing what she likes and avoid unfamiliar meals. In addition of this, she also chose vegetable to maintain a balance diet. Besides of someone’s eating habit, other people’s choice may influence one’s choice as well. For example, when the participant waited in the queue, she looked at other’s choice then decided what she would like to order. People from same place may have the similar taste and tend to like the same kind of food. The popular food that other people choose may have a good reason. Therefore, one’s choices can be affected by this.
However, a problem raised in this observation that can be improved is the service. Instead of just one employee, managers should arrange more wait staff in peak time. Therefore, customers do not need to wait for such a long time for their order.
Overall, the good taste of food and relatively low price are major concern for students to choose a restaurant on campus. This is the main reason why Young’s Kitchen is so popular among Asian students. Another factors influences students’ choices would be their own eating habits which are hard to change. Other people’s order or friends’ suggestion would also affect their choices. In addition, good service is quite important in a restaurant that cannot be neglected. A restaurant with friendly and helpful wait staff would definitely be an advantage of a restaurant.
- Provides an good opportunity
for brain storm, participants are able to build on one another’s response and come up with new ideas
- provide useful information on people’s attitudes
- can obtain in-depth information
- allows quick turnaround
- the content can be tapped
- participants’ idea can be easily influenced by others in the group
- researchers do not have much control over group discussion, it may dominated by one or two participant in group
- may include large amount of unnecessary information, therefore sometimes this can be time consuming
- information are gathered from a small number of people
- sometimes it can be very expensive
- there is no significant time delay in interview, interviewer and interviewee can directly react on what other says
- can provide in-depth information
- the interviewer has the opportunity to probe and ask follow up questions, and very quick turnaround
- often time consuming and resource intensive
- interviewers without good interviewing skills cannot control the interview well and may not obtain useful information
- some interviewees may lack self-awareness or cannot remember important information
- provides fist hand experience
- observers have freedom to choose what they want to observe and determine what does not occur
- may obtain in-depth and comprehensive information
- it is a relatively objective way to gain information, observers focus on what they see and will not be effected by other’s opinions
- sometimes there are too many things to observe, therefore it can be time consuming
- may not be representative
- it is difficult to determine root cause of a behavior
- there are limitations of observed people and setting
- reactive effective may occur when people knowing they are being observed
- some unimportant material may be collected
- can be expensive and time consuming
Summary: these three techniques for qualitative data collecting have their own merits and drawbacks, and they also share some common basics. For example, all of them can be expensive and time consuming, and on the other hand, all of them can provide in-depth information. Therefore, it is very important for researchers to obtain the useful skills, thereby organizing and controlling their researches. As already mentioned, different methods have different characteristics, hence, which one to choose should depend on a case-by-case basis. Researchers should understand their strengths and weaknesses before conducting a research.
Section C Application of results
The three different types of research strategies provide in-depth and comprehensive information on factors that influence students’ eating choices on campus. Managers can use these important information to improve their business performance in order to attract more students.
The first aspect that managers need to improve is the taste of food. For most students, the taste of food is their primary concern. Therefore, managers should take steps to improve the taste of food in their restaurants. For example, they could employ a better chef for their restaurant. They can also develop new types of food to attract customers. Another important factor is that they should always use the fresh ingredients for food in order to make healthy and nice meals for students.
The second aspect that managers need to concern is the price. Although it is not the primary factor that influences students’ eating choices, it is still quite important. Some students do not have much disposable money, and they do not have much time cooking at home. Therefore, price can be an important concern for these students. Managers can provide some low price meals for students to choose, for instance, lunch special. In addition, 12:00pm -1:00pm is usually the peak time for each restaurant on campus, restaurant can provide low price meal in their ‘happy hour’, for example from 2:00-3:00. This would attract some students who would like to pay less for a nice meal. Besides, they can offer discount for regular guests for their loyalty.
The third aspect that can be improved is the environment and services of restaurant. Some people considered this is extremely important factor that influence their choices. Managers should make sure the restaurant is clean and welcoming. It can provide soft music for friends to hang out and chat. TV programs such as sports games may attract many students. Besides, the service people in restaurants should be friendly and helpful. Many students stated that they would like to go to a restaurant offering good services. Therefore, managers should know how to manage their staff well and make sure they work hard and helpful.
The last aspect that managers can improve is the advertisement of their restaurant. Most students do not have a way to get sufficient information about a restaurant on campus. Their friends’ advices might be the main channel for students to get information. Other way could be emails or posters. In order to attract new customer, it is good for restaurants to do promotion or offer discount on special meals. Besides, offering discount or coupons for regular guessers is also helpful to maintain the existing customers, and they may recommend this restaurant to their friends thereby bringing more customers.
Although there are other factors that influence students’ choices of eating on campus, these four factors mentioned above are most important and cannot be neglected. In order to be successful and attract more customers, managers should take steps in terms of taste, price, environment and service and advertisement.
Kvale, H.(2006) Qualitative Research Methods. Business Management. 23(2), 23-30.
Mulhall,A. (2002) In the field: notes on observation in qualitative research. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 41(3),306-303.