The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed how hospitality businesses operate and how customers perceive and approach other customers in a shared physical space. Using strangership in commercial contexts as a theoretical framework, this research investigated how the pandemic's dynamic trajectory and relatively stable cultural interpersonal distance preferences jointly influence customer-to-customer (C2C) engagement in a restaurant context. Data from four countries in different stages of the pandemic and with distinct cultural interpersonal distance preferences showed a robust pandemic effect on C2C engagement in restaurants. In particular, this study found simultaneous heightening of both C2C sociability and estrangement when comorbidity is high. Results further indicated the pandemic's unequivocal impact on C2C engagement across contact and non-contact cultures, with the effect being more salient in contact cultures. This study contributes to the growing literature on COVID-19 and hospitality by presenting a multi-distance strangership theoretical perspective on C2C engagement in hospitality.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
- Strategy and Management