Despite the prevalence of a common belief associating healthy eating with high status, the effect of such an intuitive association on consumer behavior remains unexamined. To fill this void, this research explores status signaling in a restaurant context. Two studies were conducted to examine the impact of consumers’ need for status on their preferences for healthy dining options. Results from Study 1 show that need for status has a positive effect on consumer preferences for a restaurant with a healthy (vs. less healthy) menu. These results indicate that although dining out can be a means to convey high status, such a symbolic role is limited to restaurants with healthy (vs. less healthy) options. Results from Study 2 demonstrate that need for status has a positive effect on anticipated satisfaction with healthy dining options when consumers’ choice is unconstrained (vs. constrained). These results indicate that restaurants offering healthy foods can inadvertently lose their status-signaling value by limiting consumers’ freedom of choice. This research adds to the hospitality literature by illuminating an unexamined facilitator of healthy dining: need for status. It also extends the literature by demonstrating that consumers may derive status-signaling value not only from luxury goods but also from more mundane hospitality experiences. Additional theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management