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The Importance of Being Local: The Role of Authenticity in the Concepts Offered by Non-Themed Domestic Restaurants in Switzerland

In the highly-competitive restaurant environment, restaurateurs continually optimize the quality of their offer so that customers leave the restaurant with the intention to return and to tell others about their experience. Authenticity is among the attributes that restaurateurs seek to provide; and a wealth of study has been conducted to understand authenticity in a variety of contexts including ethnic-themed restaurants. However; insufficient attention has been given to non-themed domestic restaurants; which make up a significant proportion of available dining options. This study aimed to explore the role of authenticity as part of the concepts offered by domestic restaurants in Switzerland. Interviews with managers of 30 domestic restaurants were analyzed according to their content and interpreted according to authenticity dimensions identified by Karrebaek and Maegaard (2017) and Coupland and Coupland (2014). The approach of using a framework with four dimensions—“tradition”, “place”, “performance”, and “material”—was a useful epistemological lens to view the construct of authenticity. Participants from country restaurants placed more importance on tradition, while restaurateurs from both country and urban restaurants emphasized the importance of seasonal and regional ingredients and of fitting the restaurant within the cultural and geographical landscape. Managers of domestic restaurants in Switzerland see authenticity as a way of attracting and retaining customers, which can thereby contribute to the economic sustainability of restaurants, although the participants cautioned that customer expectations of sufficient choice can outweigh the added value of authenticity. Authenticity of the product offered by domestic restaurants can also contribute to the sustainability of place by enabling continuity of cultural heritage and traditions. These results provide a basis for future research that could guide restaurateurs’ decisions of how to include authenticity when developing and implementing their concepts for domestic restaurants.
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