Experience Management

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The Service Industries Journal

Vol. 29, No. 10, October 2009, 1377–1395

Experience accounting: an accounting system that is relevant

for the production of restaurant experiences


Tommy D. Anderssonà and Mats Carlback

School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

(Received 4 May 2009; final version received 7 May 2009)

Restaurants are clearly part of the experience industry but managers get little

information and support from the accounting system in their efforts to create

memorable meal experiences for their customers. The objective of this study is to

empirically assess how an accounting system can be better aligned with the

production of customer experiences. First, total costs are allocated to the production

of four major types of experiences in a restaurant: basic food, culinary finesse,

atmosphere, and service. This is followed by an analysis of customer evaluations of

a meal experience categorised into the same four components. The study is based on

empirical accounting data from three restaurants and an explorative study of how

their customers evaluate an ideal as well as an actual meal experience they had in

that restaurant. Experience evaluations are made in monetary terms, using the

contingent valuation method, and the value of an experience can be compared with

the cost of producing it. The analysis of the production cost compared with the

value created indicate that, on average, the restaurants need to reallocate resources

from service and basic food expenses to invest in the interior atmosphere of the

restaurant to meet customer expectations.

Keywords: hospitality; management accounting; experience; value; willingness to

pay; experience accounting


Research on experiences and the experience economy has introduced new concepts and

new perspectives in management and economic analysis (Pine & Gilmore, 1999). The

hospitality industry is in many ways a core sector in the...