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The Frontline Provider's Appearance: A Driver of Guest Perceptions

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Cornell Hospitality Quarterly

Published online on


Based on a study that compared photographs of models, hotel guests ascribe greater assurance ability to clean-shaven men, and to men and women who smile and are attractive. For unknown reasons, the facial hair effect holds for Caucasian men, but not for African-American men. This study presented photographs of Caucasian men in one set of treatment conditions, and African-American men in another set to compare the two sets of men regarding facial attractiveness, genuine smiling, and effects of facial hair. The theoretical contribution of this research is the identification of the effects of these facial attributes on assurance perceptions. The practical implications of these findings are as follows: (1) Except under special circumstances, hotel firms should not permit their employees to wear beards; (2) hotel firms should incorporate genuine smiling training in their customer service training and should evaluate frontline provider smiling with programs such as mystery shopping; and (3) within appropriate legal and ethical boundaries, hotel firms should put in place, manage, and enforce grooming policies that could influence the facial attractiveness ratings of their employees.