Undergraduate research project focuses on future of restaurant dining post COVID-19

Undergraduate research project focuses on future of restaurant dining post COVID-19

Maddie Reim has worked in a restaurant in her hometown of Perkasie, Pa., so she knows first-hand the impact the pandemic has had on the hospitality business.

That’s why the third-year hospitality and tourism management major was excited to work with Saunders College of Business Associate Professor Jerrie Hsieh on research pertaining to the return of consumers to restaurant dining. Reim will present her findings during RIT’s Undergraduate Research Symposium.

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RIT will showcase a variety of research projects undertaken by students and faculty-mentors over the 2020-21 academic year during the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, held virtually July 29 through Aug. 4. Read more about the symposium.

According to Reim, the idea came from Hsieh, who was keen on understanding the challenges faced by restaurant management and owners at the height of the pandemic. Hsieh also hoped to provide aid to smooth the transition back to a post-pandemic reality.

“Because of my interests and intentions to get into the restaurant sector, I was able to join in on her research,” said Reim.

Steps taken by Reim and Hsieh included studying published articles relating to dining conditions during the pandemic, and restrictions and guidelines by the government to permit restaurants to reopen either through take-out options, dine-in options, or both.

Reim and Hsieh conducted multiple surveys using Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing marketplace that enables individuals and businesses to outsource their processes and jobs to a distributed workforce that can perform these tasks virtually. The survey responses generated a convenient, yet random, sample of respondents aged 21 and older to be analyzed.

“Right now, we anticipate the continual and gradual implementation of indoor dining with modified or reduced safety procedures with masks, sanitizers, etc. Meticulous cleaning procedures have become a normalized standard in restaurants across the country,” Reim said.

Reim said patrons can expect to see menu offerings and service quality to be some of the driving factors in restaurants regaining and continuing to retain customers during this transition to more of the pre-pandemic state.

“This experience has taught me so much,” Reim said. “I am excited to show the people I work with at the restaurant our symposium presentation once it is completed and offer insights to how we can better our customer retention.”

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