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Drivers of Customer Relationships in Quick-Service Restaurants: The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility


Cornell Hospitality Quarterly

Published online on


Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) face a particular challenge in creating customer relationships, given low levels of consumer brand loyalty and a standardized product that makes it difficult to developing a distinctive identity. One way that quick-service firms attempt to set themselves apart is through genuine, long-term corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, in addition to the quality of their food, service, and overall restaurant environment. This article explores the extent to which customers’ perceptions of Chick-fil-A’s food, service, environment, and CSR affect the three dimensions of their relationship quality with that firm—namely, satisfaction, trust, and identification, based on convenience survey of 483 of the firm’s customers. With regard to the elements of a customer relationship, the analysis found that (1) awareness of CSR programs did not improve customer satisfaction but did boost identification and trust, (2) service quality supported trust and satisfaction but does not influence customers’ identification with the firm, and (3) food quality affects customer satisfaction but has no connection with trust or identification with the firm. Finally, customer satisfaction and trust were related to customer loyalty, but identification with the company was not connected with loyalty. These findings suggest that increasing customer satisfaction levels (or any short-term goal) should not be the primary objective of CSR programs in the QSR industry. Instead, it appears that CSR initiatives should involve a genuine long-term effort to build customers’ trust and identification.