Staging the Experience Economy: Theme Restaurants in Klang Valley, Malaysia

Farah Che Ishak

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis is an investigation into the staging of experiences in themed restaurants in the Klang Valley metropolitan area in Malaysia. It is based on qualitative empirical research of three main sorts: semi-structured interviews with those involved in the production of theme restaurants (principally owners and managers but also in some instances specialists such as interior designers); focus group discussions with varied groups of Klang Valley theme restaurant customers about their experiences; and visual methods designed to document and evoke the material ‘experiencescapes’ (O’Dell, 2005) of the studied restaurants. Disciplinarily, the research develops ‘critical hospitality management research’ (CHMR) on the experience economy, informed by debates over the production of retail places and themed environments in Human Geography. Substantively, the thesis develops its arguments in four main empirical chapters: the first approaches theme restaurants as produced through marketing practices, focusing on theme concept development and the marketing and advertising media used by restaurants; the second concentrates on the material making of themed restaurants, with a specific emphasis on the designing of their ‘dinescapes’ (Ryu, 2005); the third extends the focus on restaurant materialities beyond decorative design towards their ‘affective dinescapes’, focusing in particular on the orchestration of diners’ bodies and restaurant ambiance; and the fourth views theme restaurant experiences more from consumers’ perspectives, tracing out a generic ‘customer journey’ from pre-visit preparations and expectations, to emotional responses during a visit, to post-visit evaluations and sharing practices (especially via social media). Conceptually, the thesis argues for understanding the theming of commercial hospitality spaces through four lenses: as a mode of ‘introduction’, signaling the product and experience on offer; as a mode of ‘representation’, using material decoration of the restaurant space to attach wider cultural meanings to the dining experience; as a mode of ‘affect’, engaging with consumers through the body and its physical senses; and as a mode of ‘guidance’, choreographing customer experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Crang, Philip, Supervisor
  • Adey, Peter, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date16 Sept 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


  • experience economy
  • theme restaurants
  • experience
  • place

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