A case of Robles Inc (MR)

Robles Inc owned and operated a chain of 23 fast food units located in and around such areas as Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. The company had experienced rapid growth despite strong competition from such well known franchise operators as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. While specializing primarily in hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries, the company had in recent years introduced a number of new food items, including a fried chicken sandwich, a roast beef sandwich, and ham on a bun. None of these had been very successful, and none was currently being carried by all units within the chain.

The company’s experimental kitchens had recently developed anew fried breaded catfish sandwich for possible adoption by all operating units. In doing so it was guided by several research studies designed to determine what people wanted in a fried fish sandwich, and by numerous taste of different types of sandwiches conducted among such captive groups as Robles employees, church groups, and high school clubs. After several months of work, the project chef had developed three different formulations.

At this point, the company asked a Memphis-based marketing research firm to undertake a study, the objectives of which was to evaluate consumer attitudes towards the three different formulations of the fried cat fish sandwich. In essence, what was being requested was a taste test among a group of respondents who were similar in demographics to consumers who constituted Robles’ target audience.

The research company proposed a three-day central location taste test among pre-recruited, qualified respondents in Memphis and Little Rock. The respondents were to be recruited by telephone and upon arrival at the test site were to be screened. All respondents had to meet the following qualifications:

1. Head of household (either male or female)
2. 18 – 55 years of age.
3. Have purchased food from a fast food restaurant within the past month to eat there or take out.
4. Have eaten fish (of any kind prepared in any form) either at home or while eating out in the past four months.

The sample design called for a random selection of names from the appropriate telephone directors. Ultimately, a total of 300 qualified individuals were to participate in the test. Three matching sub-samples were then to be drawn in each city one for treatment. Each respondent was to taste and evaluate only one alternative sandwich. The difference between the three alternatives consisted mainly in the type of batter used: plain corn meal’ seasoned (herb); and “puff” (egg whites, baking powder, and flour). Each alternative would retail at the same price.

The proposed design called for each respondent to taste and evaluate one treatment on a “blind” basis (i.e. without any knowledge of brand or price) Respondents would be given no descriptive statements whatsoever about their sandwiches. After tasting the fried catfish, respondents were to be asked to rate it on the basis of its overall appeal, appearance, taste and moistness; shape of sandwich; color taste, texture, and amount of catfish; amount of breading; overall bun rating; price expected to pay; and unbranded purchase intentions. Respondents would then be told the brand name of their product and the retail price involved, and again asked to state their purchase intentions.

The research company planned to use a series of five point scales to analyze the different aspects of the test sandwiches. These scales were to deal with purchases intent, overall ratings, and attribute ratings. The scale used for purchase intent ranged from definitely would buy it to definitely would not buy it.

Definitely would buy it 1
Probably would buy it 2
Might or might not by it 3
Probably would not buy it 4
Definitely would not buy it 5

The basic performance measure computed from this scale was to be the positive purchase intent – that is percent of respondents who indicated definitely or probably would buy it.

A similar five-point scale was to be used to obtain the overall ratings:

Excellent 1
Very Good 2
Good 3
Fair 4
Poor 5

The primary performance measure to be computed here was the highly positive rating that is, the percentage of respondents who indicated either an excellent or a very good.

The individual attribute ratings were also to be obtained using a five point scale. The primary performance measure to be computed for each attribute was the middle rating just about right. The ratings on either side of the just about right rating were to be analyzed to show respondent tendencies to consider the particular fried catfish sandwich they tasted as having too much or not enough of a given attribute.