How can employees engage customers?: Application of social penetration theory to the full-service restaurant industry by gender

Jinsoo Hwang, Heesup Han, Seong Seop Kim

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this study is to understand how to engage customers socially in the full-service restaurant industry. More specifically, based on the existing theoretical background, it was hypothesized that server disclosure induces customer disclosure. By a literature review, it was further hypothesized that server disclosure and customer disclosure influence trust, which in turn positively affects commitment and loyalty. Design/methodology/approach – The proposed hypotheses were empirically tested using data collected from 287 full-service restaurant patrons. Structural equation modeling was conducted to empirically test the proposed theoretical hypotheses and evaluate the proposed conceptual model. Findings – Based on the data analysis results, server disclosure was found to be a key predictor of customer disclosure. In addition, server disclosure and customer disclosure aid in the creation of trust, and can thus help to enhance commitment and loyalty. The theory building process revealed that gender is a significant moderator. Practical implications – First, restaurant managers need to develop a systematic training program which would help restaurant servers attain adequate knowledge of their job. Furthermore, the restaurant servers must know the importance of frankness when providing services; a frank confession is the key to understanding the minds of people. Finally, restaurant managers are required to hire employees with an outgoing and likeable personality because they are more likely to induce customer disclosure. To achieve this, restaurant managers should conduct in-depth interviews or personality tests in the recruiting process, which help clarify an applicant’s personal traits. Originality/value – Social penetration theory was applied to identify the relationship between server disclosure and customer disclosure, as it is first attempted in the hospitality industry. In addition, this study separated mutual disclosure into two subdimensions (e.g. server disclosure and customer disclosure) and investigated the impact of these two subdimensions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1134
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Customer engagement
  • Gender
  • Mutual disclosure
  • Restaurants
  • Social penetration theory
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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