Purpose – The purpose of this study is to investigate how geography (distance from the host country, i.e. Mexico) mediates individuals' perceptions of “authentic” ethnic‐themed restaurants and to identify which information sources influence their beliefs. Design/methodology/approach – To explore these issues, a two‐part (qualitative and quantitative) study was undertaken with informants recruited from two regions of the USA (Northeast and Southwest), each with differing proximity to Mexico. Findings – Findings of the study reveal that, despite the fact that all informants reside within the same country, perceptions and expectations of what constitutes an authentic Mexican restaurant varies depending upon geographic location. The further an individual resides from the host country, the more stereotypical their cultural expectations and the greater the emphasis they place on various atmospheric components when selecting an appealing authentic environment at which to dine. Atmospheric and design elements that define an “authentic” Mexican restaurant are provided. Finally, the study shows that significant regional differences are relevant to the frame of reference used for determining the authenticity of a Mexican restaurant. Practical implications – The selection of atmospheric and tangible design elements needs to be carefully considered in the construction of ethnic‐themed restaurants. Findings suggest that marketers utilizing an ethnic theme need to research the cultural expectations of their target audience, their source, and to take into consideration geographic distances between the host country and the restaurant's location. Originality/value – This paper advances scholarship about the mediating role that geography and informational sources play in an individual's perceptions of “authentic” ethnically‐themed environments.
International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 7, 2009
Keywords: Mexico; Ethnic groups; Restaurants; Brand image
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