Mark Ashton

Associate Professor; Associate Dean (Education) FASS - Interim
+44 (0)1483 682118
44 AP 02
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Executive Assistant: Jasmine Chandler
+44(0) 1483 684040

Academic and research departments

School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.


Areas of specialism

Hospitality Operations Management; Service Design/Management; Artifical Intelligence in Service Design; Food and Beverage Management; Restaurant Innovation; Hospitality Management Education

University roles and responsibilities

  • Director of Teaching and Learning
  • Masters Business Plan Dissertation Lead
  • Editor - SHTM Weekly Industry Digest
  • Faculty Representative - University Student Success Committee
  • Associate Dean (Education) - FASS - Interim

    My qualifications

    BSc (Hons) Hotel and Catering Management - First Class
    University of Surrey
    Master's by Research
    Bournemouth University
    Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning
    University of Surrey

    Previous roles

    September 2018 - July 2021
    Programme Leader BSc (Hons) International Hospitality and Tourism Management
    01 January 2021 - 31 August 2021
    Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching

    Affiliations and memberships

    Institute of Hospitality
    Higher Education Academy
    Senior Fellow

    Business, industry and community links

    Institute of Hospitality
    Member of the National Supervisory Board (2021 - present)


    Research interests

    Research projects

    Indicators of esteem

    • I was recognised as the Early Career Teacher of the Year for the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in 2020

    • With two colleagues, I led a module where we were recognised for the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Collaborative Teaching Award in 2021

    • I was recognised as the Teacher of the Year for the Univerity of Surrey at the Vice-Chancellors Awards for Excellence in 2022 having been recognised at School and Faculty Level for the same award

    • Emerald Literati Awards - Outstanding Paper - How will service robots redefine leadership in hotel management? A Delphi approach - International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 



    Tracy Xu, J. Steinmetz, M. Ashton (2020)How will service robots redefine leadership in hotel management? A Delphi approach, In: International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management Emerald

    Purpose – Using the Delphi technique, this paper aims to investigate how human resource experts perceive service robots will impact leadership and human resource management in the hospitality industry. Design/methodology/approach – A three-stage Delphi study with hotel industry human resource experts was conducted to identify the key trends and major challenges that will emerge in the next ten years and how leaders should deal with the challenges brought about by service robot technologies. Findings – Results show that while service robots are anticipated to increase efficiency and productivity of hotel activities, they may also pose challenges such as high costs, skill deficits, and significant changes to the organizational structure and culture of hotels. Therefore, the anticipated applications and integration of robotic technology will require leaders of the future to carefully consider the balance between the roles of service robots and human employees in the guest experience, and to nurture a work environment that embraces open-mindedness and change. Originality/value – This is the first type of study to examine hospitality leadership and human resource management in the context of robotized hotels. This study has taken an important step to understand the leadership role in robotized hotels from a human resource perspective, and brings clarity as to how robotic technology can influence leadership in the future workplace.

    Hakan Sezerel, Viachaslau Filimonau, Mark Ashton, Shi Xu (2023)“Preducing” food waste in multiple cultural realms, In: International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science32100745 Elsevier

    The kitchen is a gendered realm dominated by masculine culture, but some female chefs challenge this norm by introducing soft skills. This paper conceptualizes the multilayered cultural realm of food waste management in professional kitchens and pinpoints the critical role of individual gender traits of chefs in food prevention and reduction (‘preduction’). The paper outlines directions for future research on the gender-related position of chefs.

    Viachaslau Filimonau, Mark Ashton, Ugljesa Stankov (2022)Virtual spaces as the future of consumption in tourism, hospitality and events, In: Journal of tourism futures Emerald Group Publishing

    Purpose Virtual spaces, commonly referred to as the Metaverse, are predicted to disrupt consumption patterns in tourism, hospitality and events (THE) by shifting some user experiences to a virtual world. Scholarly investigations are necessitated to aid in an understanding of virtual spaces and the implications of their consumption for THE industries. This viewpoint outlines a provisional research agenda on virtual spaces. Design/methodology/approach To inform its arguments, this viewpoint draws upon academic and grey literature surrounding the emerging topic of the Metaverse in THE industries. Findings The research agenda should consider four perspectives representing different actors of THE value chain, i.e. developers/suppliers, THE business professionals, customers and policymakers. The research agenda should also incorporate the wider spillover effects of consumption of virtual spaces which may stretch well beyond THE industries. Originality/value This viewpoint outlines some research directions which may aid different actors of THE value chain alongside academics in better understanding the emerging phenomenon of virtual spaces and comprehend the opportunities and challenges associated with their uptake by THE industries.

    Aarni Tuomi, IIS PATIMAH TUSSYADIAH, MARK THOMAS ASHTON (2021)Covid-19 and Instagram: Digital Service Innovation in Top Restaurants, In: Wolfgang Wörndl, Chulmo Koo, Jason L. Stienmetz (eds.), Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2021: Proceedings of the ENTER 2021 eTourism Conference, January 19–22, 2021pp. 464-475 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

    Governments across the world have imposed strict rules on social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19. In particular, restaurants have been impacted by government-mandated lockdowns. This study adopts a mixed methods approach to explore how Finnish high-profile restaurants used Instagram as a means for service innovation and diffusion during nine weeks of government-mandated lockdown. Comparatively analysing 1,119 Instagram posts across two time-stamps (2019 and 2020) and across 45 restaurants, as well as conducting five semi-structured interviews with restaurant managers, it is found that while the overall number of Instagram posts and likes on posts stayed relatively similar to the year prior, the number of comments increased significantly, suggesting a move towards a more didactic and dyadic form of Instagram communication. In addition, four digital service innovation strategies are identified: launching new service offerings and introducing new elements to existing service offerings, fostering social relationship with customers, exploring novel streams of revenue, and reinvigorating the brand’s image. Implications to service innovation theory and practice are discussed, along with suggestions for future research.

    Purpose – The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace is on the rise. To help advance research in this area, we synthesise the academic research and develop research propositions on the antecedents and consequences of AI adoption and application in the workplace to guide future research. We also present AI research in socio-technical system context to provide a springboard for new research to fill the knowledge gap of the adoption and application of AI in the workplace. Design/methodology/approach – This paper summarises the existing literature and builds a theoretically-grounded conceptual framework on socio-technical system theory that captures the essence of the impact of AI in the workplace. Findings – The antecedents of AI adoption and application include personnel subsystem, technical subsystem, organisational structure subsystem and environmental factors. The consequences of AI adoption and application include individual, organisational and employment related outcomes. Theoretical and Practical implications – A research agenda is provided to identify and discuss future research that comprises not only insightful theoretical contributions but also practical implications. A greater understanding of AI adoption from socio-technical system perspective will enable managers and practitioners to develop effective AI adoption strategies, enhance employees’ work experience and achieve competitive advantage for organisations. Originality – Drawing on the socio-technical system theory, our proposed conceptual framework provides a nuanced understanding of the antecedents and consequences of AI adoption and application in the work environment. We discuss the main contributions to theory and practice, along with potential future research directions of AI in the workplace related to three key themes at the individual, organisational and employment level.

    Mark Ashton, Aarni Tuomi, Peter Backman (2022)Ghost production: applying the Servuction model to establish a typology and propose a research agenda for on-demand restaurant food delivery, In: Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insightspp. 1-25 Emerald

    Purpose The rapid growth in volume and value of on-demand restaurant food delivery, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is causing a paradigm shift in the food service sector. However, there is a lack of hospitality management research into this emerging phenomenon. To address this gap, this paper defines and develops a novel conceptual model and typology and proposes a research agenda for ghost production in the context of food service. Design/methodology/approach This paper uses the Servuction model to explore, define and model the radical separation between food service production sites, points of sale and consumer interaction from the perspective of on-demand restaurant food delivery. A novel typology is developed and illustrated with eight industry examples from the UK and an accompanying cost benefit analysis. Future research priorities are identified. Findings In the hospitality literature, little attention has been paid to changes on-demand restaurant food delivery brings to production and business models of food service organisations, resulting in significant gaps between food service practice and theory. The knock-on effects to stakeholders include increased convenience for customers, uncertain employment status of riders and, for restaurants, striking a balance between capturing new markets and losing control of the customer. Additionally, for aggregators, there is a lack of profitability in existing models, despite holding the balance of power (and data). Originality/value The concept of “ghost production” and its associated typology is novel and offers a contribution to hospitality management literature by defining the term, scope and scale of this new phenomenon. Practical implications are proposed.

    Aarni Tuomi, MARK THOMAS ASHTON, Hanna-Kaisa Ellonen, Iis TUSSYADIAH (2022)Innovation in High-End Food Service During COVID-19 Lockdowns

    COVID-19 lockdown measures have forced hospitality operators to re-configure their dynamic capabilities through innovating operational practices and pivoting traditional business models. The high-end food service sector has undergone a particularly drastic shift towards a new normal. This qualitative study explores factors facilitating innovation at 16 high-end food service organizations in Finland and the UK through semi-structured expert interviews. Three key themes facilitating innovation during COVID-19 lockdowns are identified: 1) Combining high-tech and high-touch through new ways of producing and providing technology-driven service offerings, 2) Prosocial engagement, i.e. working together with multiple stakeholders to bring added value to all parties, not just the business, and 3) Reactivity, i.e. pushing the traditional boundaries of the sector through quick decision-making and constant iteration and refining of processes and procedures. Drawing our empirical findings together, innovation during COVID-19 lockdowns in high-end food service is conceptualized into three phases: React, Refine, and Reflect.

    Additional publications