UT Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Students Award ‘Golden Napkins’

KNOXVILLE — A pizza restaurant, a fast food chain, a casual dining establishment, a grocery store chain and a bar/pub were honored Friday with the first Golden Napkin Awards for quality customer service, based on UT students’ perceptions.

The awards are part of a survey project done by students in a customer service course offered through the Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Golden Napkin winners were:

– Pizza restaurant — The Pizza Hut at 2405 Chapman Highway.
– Fast food chain — Chick-Fil-A.
– Casual dining establishment — Calhoun’s on the River.
– Grocery store chain — Kroger.
– Bar/pub — The Roaming Gnome.

Students in this junior-level course identified businesses frequented by students in the five categories and then rated them on 11 aspects of customer service — convenience of location, convenience of parking, helpful and friendly employees, overall cleanliness, overall atmosphere, overall value for price, accuracy of orders, availability of specials, wait time, entertainment aspects (if relevant) and overall customer service.

During the fall semester, each student in the 40-person class visited 25 of the businesses and encouraged their acquaintances to do the same. They then completed surveys rating the businesses — “poor,” “average,” “good,” “great” or “fantastic” — on each aspect of customer service.

The top-rated business in each category was honored with a Golden Napkin Award. Representatives from the winning businesses were on hand Friday to accept their awards.

Professor Ann Fairhurst said the project was so successful she plans to repeat it this spring using another type of business.

“You try to teach these different concepts, but when students actually have to go out and evaluate businesses, they start to recognize how these ideas translate into delivering great customer service,” Fairhurst said.

“From a business’ standpoint, the Golden Napkins are significant,” she added. “Students are a good consumer population in Knoxville and, in these tough economic times, good customer service can set businesses apart from their competitors.”

Contacts:

Ann Fairhurst, (865) 974-6609, fairhurs@utk.edu

Amy Blakely, media relations, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu

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