Your restaurant may have great-tasting food, but if the atmosphere is bland or distasteful, it will overshadow the quality of the meal. Not only will customers be unlikely to return but they’ll also spread negative reviews. On the flip side, a great restaurant atmosphere will make the fare taste better, keep your customers around longer and ensure that they’ll return again and again. This is why the atmosphere of a restaurant is just as important as the food, if not more so.
The lighting in a restaurant should strike a balance that makes customers feel comfortable. During the day, when the sun is shining, the lighting should be brighter to fit the energetic atmosphere of the day. When day turns to night, the lights should be dimmed to capture that quieter, more intimate feeling.
When it comes to lighting, also consider what type of lighting fixtures fit the concept. For example, for an elegant, romantic restaurant, chandeliers and candles would work well, but not so much for a modern restaurant concept.
Color & Décor
The colors in your restaurant, on the wall and on the plate, have an impact on the dining experience. While warm colors such as red and orange ramp up appetite, cooler colors dampen hunger. Color combinations have similar effects; less contrast between the color of food and the plate on which it’s served has been shown to increase the amount of food consumed.
When making decisions about color, keep not only the concept and brand in mind but also the effect it will have on customers.
Décor is important as well. Simply put, bare walls in a restaurant are unappealing. The artwork and décor on the walls help set the mood and expresses the creative point of view of the restaurant. Each room should have a point of focus, but nothing too overbearing or busy as to detract from the elegance or balance of the overall design.
For your atmosphere to be cohesive, the music needs to fit the restaurant. For upscale dining, music should be subdued and calming. In more casual restaurants, louder and faster music can help create a more social atmosphere.
For a bar or very social establishment, live music can be a great draw. Also, keep in mind that faster music leads to faster eating and quicker turnover. And, when it comes to volume, it should always fit the size of the room so customers don’t have to strain to speak over the noise.
Furniture & Layout
Furniture can have a big impact on the guest experience. It should fit the concept just as lighting, but needs to be inviting and comfortable. That said if you’re looking to turn tables over quickly, going too comfortable won’t be a good choice as guests will tend to stay longer.
Tables and chairs specifically should also be durable and easy to keep clean.
As for layout, tables should have enough space between them so that customers aren’t squeezed together, but close enough to retain a social atmosphere. If possible, separate small tables from large ones, because a single person or couple may be overwhelmed by the ruckus from a large group.
Excellent layout and décor are only effective if the service is up to the same standard. Service staff including hosts, servers and server assistants should be attentive and polite without being stiff or overbearing. Service staff should also be knowledgeable; when asked about the menu or restaurant in general, having an answer at the ready is always best practice. Next best is making an effort to find the answer.
When keeping all these aspects in mind, it’s important to understand the organic nature of a great restaurant atmosphere. The ambiance shouldn’t be forced, but instead, develop naturally by adapting to the customers’ needs and the environment of the surrounding neighborhood. So, after putting the basic elements in place, let the ship steer itself.