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Is Your Restaurant’s Ambiance Attracting the Newest Generations?

Our senses shape our perception of the world, and our experience at restaurants is no different. As soon as we walk in the doors, a feeling settles over us, and the anticipation begins. The sights, sounds, smells, textures, and initial introductions give us, your first-time customer, that all-important first impression. 

According to 2,000 Americans and a study by Dollar Shave Club, in 27 seconds many of us have already formed our impressions. Forbes reports that we make those computations in just seven seconds, and about 55% is based on what we see. While not particularly reasonable, such is the nature of human beings. Now, it’s up to you to surprise and delight.

How to Appeal to the Newest Generations

If you’ve been in the industry for some time, you’re probably aware of how to draw Gen X and baby boomers to your establishment. The younger generations, however, namely Gen Z and millennials, have vastly different expectations. 

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that millennials (born 1981-1996) currently make up the largest population group, which is why restaurants are making a concerted effort to win them over. A study by the law firm, CMS, found that almost 60% of this generation eat out at least once a week, spending about 13% of their total income on this experience.

One of the defining elements of this generation is the desire for something different, an exciting and authentic experience. Creating this sense of adventure within your customer’s first few steps into your restaurant requires a skill that’s well admired and pays big in returning guests. Datassential has labeled millennials as experientialists and thrill seekers. The NPD Group defined them as restaurant explorers. 

This generation is drawn to the unusual and, as the first digitally native generation, a large percentage are found on social media. In this realm, the pictures and videos tell a story as much as the words, so make sure to draw the eyes in with appealing, standout décor designed to reflect the theme and overall brand identity, food, and beverages. The color scheme also sends an immediate message and one that’s often cued in by the subconscious. 

The Defining Trend: Entertainment Dining

A growing trend that incorporates many of the desired element is entertainment dining. Is it about the experience? Check. Is it exciting? Check? And does it feel authentic? Hopefully. Many restaurants are embracing this concept, whether through interactive performances, live music, creating an immersive experience, or adding communal tables. The latest generations are, after all, more interested in participating in the chef’s table, tasting dinners, and multi-course meals than many of their predecessors.

Even the music that drifts through your establishment can significantly impact a person’s feelings and mood. Research has shown an over 9% increase in sales when music matches a brand’s message. 

Restaurants with the “Best Ambiance”

The Bagatelle Group is a French hospitality brand with a global presence that includes New York and Miami. It embraces the South of France’s joie de vivre and shared food, with generous, authentic dishes placed in the center of the table for all to experience in a festive and vibrant atmosphere. The staff is known for their friendly and outgoing nature. This brand delivers a social, fun approach to meals with guests able to experience different flavors and textures in an inviting atmosphere.

To help you find some inspiration, let’s explore a few of the brands that have earned the best ambiance accolade and what sets them apart. 

In Chicago, the 3 Arts Club Café offers guests the experience of dining beneath a glass-and-steel atrium. They enjoy crispy artichokes and Delice de Bourgogne cheese, surrounded by trickling fountains, glimmering chandeliers, and heritage olive trees. 

In Los Angeles, Verse creates a unique experience with unparalleled sound. Grammy-winning mixer, Manny Marroquin, helped design the fully immersive environment with 47 speakers and 11 subwoofers, creating the perfect acoustics that allow for private conversation while enjoying global flavors amidst live performances.


What is the ambiance of a restaurant?

A restaurant’s ambiance incorporates everything from sound to décor, lighting, and color. A great atmosphere is felt as soon as your guests walk in the door, so make sure all elements define your brand’s image and represent your desired aesthetics.

How do I attract millennials to my restaurant?

Many millennials are looking for an experience. They want something that cannot be repeated in their homes. This includes a creative menu with high-quality, fresh ingredients and global flavors. Creating a unique experience with different sights, sounds, and smells is also a sure way to capture this adventurous generation.

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