Restaurants are a notoriously risky business. Although common wisdom might dictate that the restaurant industry is all about the food, it’s really more than that. Restaurant design plays a greater role in restaurant success than you might think. In the past, restaurant design was largely left to choosing a paint color that made diners feel hungry. And maybe setting the ambience with background music. But today’s diners are much more particular than you might think. Just a quick look at Yelp! reviews will show you that diners are paying a lot of attention to what’s going on around the plate, as much as what’s on it. So how can you play into restaurant design to attract customers? Focus on a few key things.
According to expert Elliott Hool, recent studies have found that diners respond to more elements in a restaurant than just whether it is helmed by a celebrity chef or features cutting edge cuisine. The effect of general ambience goes beyond paint colors and music choice to dishware and other design elements.
Warm colors, like yellow and red are known to stimulate appetites. Green suppresses hunger and blue makes time seem to be moving more slowly. So if you have a fast-paced eatery, you might want to go with red, whereas a place where you want diners to linger might benefit from blue. But it’s not just wall color that matters. It seems that contrasting colors are another matter to take into consideration. For example, a dessert plated on a white dish is perceived as sweeter than a dessert plated on darker hued dish. And if a plate is the same color as the food, diners serve themselves more.
When it comes to music, there are many different things to consider. Slower tempos invite patrons to linger, whereas a faster paced tempo brings a sense of urgency so that diners eat and move on, clearing space for the next round of guests. Ethnic restaurants that feature sounds of the region are perceived as serving more authentic cuisine. Higher notes, like flutes, make food sweeter while deeper tones offer a more savory experience.
Dishware also makes a difference in how diners perceive their experience. As an experiment, the exact same dish was served to guests on two different spoons: one silver and one plastic. The metal spoon resulted in higher ratings, most likely because silver is perceived as being more luxurious and indulgent. Size also matters when it comes to silverware. Larger forks give diners the impression that they are eating more and thus they perceive that they feel more satisfied, even though smaller forks make it possible to actually consume more food. Larger plates lead to an impression of smaller food quantity.
Knowing the different perceptions of diners, can help a restaurant design the type of atmosphere they want the diner to experience.