Racial and Gender Biases in Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Evidence from a Restaurant Chain

44 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2023

See all articles by Masoud Kamalahmadi

Masoud Kamalahmadi

Miami Herbert Business School, University of Miami; Miami Herbert Business School, University of Miami

Qiuping Yu

McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University

Yong-Pin Zhou

University of Washington - Department of Information Systems and Operations Management

Date Written: April 14, 2023

Abstract

Despite the passage of the Civil Right Act and other anti-discrimination legislation, racial and gender inequalities are ubiquitous in the workplace. Whereas previous studies have primarily focused on how employer discrimination contributes to workplace inequalities, much less is known about the role of customers in the persistence of such inequalities, especially in occupations that are female-dominated and racially-diverse. We fill this gap by exploring whether, and how, customers discriminate against service workers based on the workers' race and gender. Using a data set of 1,444,044 transactions and 257,656 customer satisfaction surveys from a full-service casual-dining restaurant chain in the U.S., we study racial and gender biases in customer rating of restaurant servers, an occupation where women hold historical majority and racial minorities have a strong presence. We find that customer ratings are biased against racial minority servers, and, interestingly, that customer ratings are biased against female servers despite their majority status in this occupation. We further show that racial biases diminish as the uncertainty about the servers' ability decreases, while gender biases may even increase. These results along with the discrimination theories in the economic and sociology literature suggest that statistical discrimination is the primary driver for racial biases, while status-based discrimination is likely to be the main driver for gender biases. Given the different underlying mechanisms, we propose tailored strategies to mitigate customer racial and gender biases.

Keywords: Gender and Racial Biases, Customer Satisfaction, Restaurant Operations, Empirical Operations

Suggested Citation

Kamalahmadi, Masoud and Yu, Qiuping and Zhou, Yong-Pin, Racial and Gender Biases in Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Evidence from a Restaurant Chain (April 14, 2023). University of Miami Business School Research Paper No. 4418420, Georgetown McDonough School of Business Research Paper No. 4420106, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4418420 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4418420

Masoud Kamalahmadi

Miami Herbert Business School, University of Miami ( email )

5250 University Dr
KE 308
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.masoudkamalahmadi.com

Miami Herbert Business School, University of Miami ( email )

5250 University Dr
KE 308
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.masoudkamalahmadi.com

Qiuping Yu (Contact Author)

McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University ( email )

3700 O Street, NW
Washington, DC 20057
United States

Yong-Pin Zhou

University of Washington - Department of Information Systems and Operations Management ( email )

BOx 353226, Foster School of Business
University of Washington
Seattle, WA Washington 98195-3226
United States

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.washington.edu/yongpin

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