How Restaurant Design Affects the Customer Experience

January 10, 2018 by Leigh Anne Thompson
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There are several things that will make or break the customer experience. From menu selection to wait staff performance, there are a multitude of factors that will play into whether a customer decides to become a patron of your establishment. While it is impossible to make everyone happy all the time, there are subtle customer psychology tactics you can implement to help improve every customer’s experience. One of these tactics rests in your restaurant design.

This goes beyond choosing the coloring and furniture for your restaurant. Consider managing your restaurant as a daily practice in curb appeal. The same way curb appeal works for your home, you need to manage daily care of your restaurant’s appearance. Upkeeping your restaurant curb appeal will instill a subtle sense of impressment in your clientele.

What Customers See in Restaurant Design

As we mentioned before, your design goes beyond your décor (although all of that contributes to the atmosphere!). There are certain subtle elements on the outside and lobby area of your restaurant that will leave a good or bad first impression with your customers. To get into your customer’s psychology, start with these small changes.

  • Music. The type and volume of music you play will go a long way in presenting a perfect atmosphere and start the experience out on the right foot. Not only should the music be playing in the restaurant, but also outside as people are walking in. Carefully choose your music selection in line with the theme of your restaurant. Then experiment with the volume. You do not want it to soft where there is an awkward feeling while people are waiting, but you also don’t want people to complain that they had to shout over the music to hold a conversation. For more information check out ROCKBOT.
  • Lighting. Much like the music, the lighting will help set the mood of the restaurant as soon as they walk in. While you want brighter lighting where people are eating, you can create a dimmer mood lighting in the waiting area. Also, don’t forget about adding accent mood lighting on the exterior of the restaurant as people are walking in. Consider colored lights as an accent or putting a spotlight on features in your restaurant.
  • Cleanliness. Arguably one of the most important parts of your curb appeal and restaurant design, you want everything to be clean and presentable both inside and outside of the restaurant. There should not be trash in the parking lot or in the landscaping around the restaurant. Likewise, the lobby and bathrooms should always be wiped down and kept clean and tidy.
  • Amenities. It is all about the little things and ensuring they are ever-present in your restaurant. Consider the amenities you provide as part of your design. Things like an umbrella holder or a heater in the entryway for long waits on cold days can make a big difference. The amenities should also represent convenience and communication while waiting for a table.
  • Exterior Presentation. Items that are not part of your restaurant should also be considered as part of your presentation and curb appeal. The parking lot should be smooth without potholes. Parking spaces should be plentiful and clearly marked. Some of the ugly but necessary components like trash bins and air conditioning units should be clean and camouflaged as well.
  • Signage. There should be a careful balance when it comes to your signage to present your restaurant in a positive light. First, all signage should clearly communicate instructions to your guests. You don’t want to overkill how many signs you place, but you also don’t want instructions to be lacking where guests aren’t sure what your hours are or if they need to seat themselves. Likewise, carefully consider what vendor signage you place in your restaurant. It can be easy to throw up banners for every brand of beer or top shelf liquor you carry. But too many vendor signs can cheapen your restaurant.

How to Improve Curb Appeal

Believe it or not, your restaurant design can change from day to day! Implementing the subtle elements we outlined above is not a one-time task. There is a huge importance on taking a daily walk through at the start of each day to ensure your curb appeal is still appealing.

  • Start with the exterior and ensure everything is clean and presentable.
  • Test the music and the lighting.
  • Ensure all trash cans are emptied even if the bags aren’t full (food starts to stink after awhile!).
  • Provide the amenities as necessary for each day’s activities, such as having the umbrella stand out if it will rain or the heater on if it is chilly.
  • Review your signage to see if you need to make changes for clarity or elegance.
  • Scrutinize the lobby and ensure every part of the space is clean and comfortable.

Taking time every day to ensure each of these elements in your restaurant design are top notch can make a big difference in the customer experience. When some of these items are out of place, they can serve to make every small bad moment a customer has in your business a little bit worse. The more positive psychological influence you can place in the subtle details of your curb appeal, the better experience you can provide.

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Leigh Anne Thompson

I'm passionate about the restaurant industry, and nothing makes me happier than helping clients achieve greatness in their organization. As a restaurant professional, I work hard to build relationships with my clients and I think they appreciate my honesty, integrity, perseverance, and candor." My job isn't done until I've made a positive impact on my clients organization. Technology may help the restaurants bottom line look better....but I help them get there faster.