Creating the perfect atmosphere for your restaurant
Why is atmosphere important in a restaurant?
What do many people look for in a restaurant besides excellent food and fantastic service? Great atmosphere. At first glance an elusive concept, great restaurant atmosphere is the result of a successful combination of many factors - from your restaurant’s lighting and noise environment to interior design choices, employee attitudes and more. A great atmosphere can be tricky to define because it involves so many aspects of the restaurant experience, but most of us recognise it instantly when we encounter it. It is that extra positive vibe you experience when you eat in a restaurant or that overall happy feeling when everything seems to come together in a supremely satisfying dining experience that makes you want to come back and tell your friends.
So how can you achieve a great atmosphere in your restaurant? Here are a few tips on how to take your restaurant’s atmosphere to the next level.
How to achieve great restaurant atmosphere
💡Use lighting creatively
Lighting plays a critical role in creating a great restaurant atmosphere and should be a key consideration when planning interior and exterior design. Whether you're going for a cosy, romantic feel, an upbeat, dynamic vibe, or a relaxed ambience, lighting should not be taken lightly! But what are the different kinds of restaurant lighting and how can they be layered to create the right mood for your restaurant?
Ambient lighting, either natural or from electrical overhead fixtures, is the foundation that creates an overall mood while enabling customers and staff to safely and comfortably occupy your restaurant space. Soft-lit, low ambient lighting tends to create a more intimate, cosy dining experience and is thought to encourage customers to linger longer. On the other hand bright ambient lighting creates a more lively, energetic vibe and may inspire diners to finish their meal sooner.
Accent lighting, when strategically positioned, is an effective way to draw attention to decorative features or specific areas such as the bar, the dessert table, or artwork. It creates contrast and dramatic effect and is used to separate restaurant space into different areas: for example candles or table lamps can create an intimate, more private setting around each table, while overhead lights may showcase an open kitchen and set the stage for the chef to demonstrate his or her magic.
Finally, task lighting is essential to help staff and customers safely achieve tasks such as cooking, reading a menu or finding their way to the restroom.
When it comes to creating a great restaurant atmosphere, don’t leave your customers in the dark. Try layering different kinds of lighting to positively shape your customers’ dining experience.
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🎶 Leverage the power of music
The noise environment and particularly music have the power to enhance or seriously put a damper on your restaurant’s atmosphere. No matter how amazing your food or decorating theme is, if the music is so loud people can’t hear each other talk, you risk alienating customers. After all, for many people dining out is not just about eating: it’s a fundamentally social experience allowing people to share both great food and conversation.
In addition, according to some studies, music that is too loud may detract and distract from enjoyment of food. Of course, if you are a cocktail bar catering to the club crowd, intimate conversation is probably not a priority for your customers and loud music may be the way to go. On the other hand, not having any music at all can also be problematic. Dining out in a restaurant where it is so quiet that you can hear your neighbours’ conversations, can be embarrassing and may make customers uncomfortable. Music, when it is not overpowering, can help create a private space around guests and put them at ease.
Strike the right note
The type of music you choose for your restaurant is also important when it comes to cultivating your restaurant’s particular atmosphere. Have you ever been in a restaurant where the food and decorating theme simply didn’t go with the music? Take a charming country-style inn with top of the charts pop blaring in the background, or an upscale gastronomic establishment with bad elevator music. The experience can be very disconcerting and enough to make you lose your appetite.
Keep in mind that your restaurant’s music should align with and reflect the mood you are trying to create while appealing to the tastes of target customers. It is worth noting that according to some studies, slow music causes diners to linger longer, eat slower and potentially spend more, while loud music with a fast tempo encourages people to eat faster, driving customer turnover. Some scientists have even concluded that music has an effect on our taste sensations.
🌱 Take the greener route to great atmosphere
Studies show that people everywhere are concerned about climate change and the environment. And many people are looking for ways to improve their environmental footprint by choosing more sustainable dining options. Taking a more sustainable approach to designing and running your restaurant can create an atmosphere in which your customers feel more hopeful and better about themselves. Of course, a green vibe has to be founded on real actions or else customers will cry greenwashing.
There are many ways a restaurant can reduce its environmental footprint such as using sustainable building materials and decoration, working with local suppliers and farmers, offering more plant-based options, reducing water use and implementing energy-saving lighting and appliances, among others. Why bother? Because today every industry has a responsibility to limit their environmental impact. The added benefit is that customers will feel good about giving you their business and employees are likely to feel more engaged, all of which contribute to a positive atmosphere.
🤝🏻Put professional behaviour first
Most people go out to dinner to relax and escape from daily stress. So imagine what it feels like to customers to see staff bickering or a manager yelling at or talking down to staff. Public displays of irritation, bad humour or impatience on the part of restaurant staff from the chef to the manager and on down should not be tolerated. Regardless of kitchen drama, order mishaps or other issues, the customer should not have to watch interpersonal conflicts unfolding front-of-house. Ensure that tensions and mistakes are addressed discreetly and out of ear and eye shot of customers.
In short, to achieve an outstanding restaurant atmosphere you must first have a clear idea of the mood you are trying to create, and then adapt key factors such as your lighting, music, design and operational approach, to achieve it. Whatever your restaurant segment and unique brand, don’t forget that professional staff behaviour and friendly, attentive customer service should always be top of mind if you want to cultivate a great restaurant atmosphere 🤩