When a customer walks through the doors of a restaurant, they are greeted by three things: The aroma of the kitchen, the decor of the dining room, and the host or hostess. Restaurateurs have more control over these three aspects of a diner’s first visit to their establishment than any other, but the most fundamentally important to a positive dining experience is the decor. Decor and design matter most when a new customer dines at a restaurant. It is their most powerful impression, second only to the cuisine.
For repeat customers, first dates, engagements, birthdays, and celebrations of every kind will be framed forever by these surroundings that must be carefully chosen. To distinguish a restaurant of any kind, owners must use the decor and architecture to shape those first and long-lasting impressions. They will make up the slices of life that take place within the four walls of any dining establishment.
There are many options, but developing a plan for the kind of dining experience an owner wishes to provide is the key to making customers happy and creating a thriving business. The following suggestions detail what is most important to consider in terms of creating a better dining experience through planning decor and design.
Plan a Consistent Decor and Stick to It
If an establishment is serving trendy fusion food for the sophisticated foodie, the decor of the restaurant should reflect cultural trends of the cuisine. A Thai-French restaurant needs black and white photos of Paris and Marseilles juxtaposed with tasteful and coordinated mandalas and statues of bodhisattvas. Whatever the intended look and atmosphere, everything about both elements needs to be consistent to a theme, and all decor should suit that theme.
Whether a restaurant is just starting out or remodeling, the owners may want to consider hiring an interior designer and architect to make certain their vision for their business is both well-thought-out and consistent. Hiring a designer/architect can also be helpful when it comes to existing spaces and effectively erasing all decor and added structures from previous establishments. This also vastly simplifies the task of creating the desired design, decor, and atmosphere that new owners hope to establish.
Furnishings and Fixtures
Make certain that your tables and booths are of good quality and are comfortable. Verify this personally, and attempt to visualize how a customer would experience the room, as well as the comfort level of each seating area. If a restaurateur wants customers to know that their comfort and the promise of a pleasant dining experience is paramount, it starts with the furniture and seating areas.
Vary seating options to appeal to the greatest variety of diners. Once you find a balance that works best for the restaurant and its clientele, make certain that all fixtures and furniture are kept in good repair. Poorly patched or damaged furniture makes a very poor impression of care and attention to detail, and can be very off-putting to many diners.
Observe the natural lighting of the restaurant at various times of day. Does the natural lighting create less-than-ideal seating in blinding sunlight? Install blinds and curtains as necessary to eliminate overlit or underlit seats in the house.
Place lighting fixtures to illuminate the dining room according to the light level that coincides with your desired atmosphere. Keep all fixtures clean and in good, working order, and replace or repair any non-working lighting fixtures immediately. A diner’s and her overall customer satisfaction with the dining experience is directly affected by lighting.
Choose a design that coordinates with the atmosphere of the restaurant. Hardwood creates a warm and intimate atmosphere, whereas contrasting tile or carpet patterns can create a trendier, more modern look. Many restaurants hit all the right notes with their decor to suit the atmosphere they are seeking to create, but choose flooring or carpeting that contrasts with the rest of the room and destroys the effect of the decor. Customers and critics alike can spot an element of a restaurant that does not fit, and it can leave a bad impression that is much harder to eliminate than a bad taste in the mouth.
Private Dining Areas
If possible, create one or more private dining areas. This has been shown to boost income and improve customer satisfaction while driving repeat business. Even adding a few tasteful dividers to offer groups of patrons some privacy for their reserved area can help cultivate an atmosphere of consideration and special attention to customers’ individual needs for events and celebrations.
Select music that suits the cuisine and the decor. Only sports bars crank their music and televisions up too loudly. Unless the establishment in question is a sports bar, the music should be a pleasant tapestry of sound that is woven between the pauses in conversation of the diners.
Decor and design have a tremendous effect on overall customer satisfaction. The right decor can make all the difference between a long-established and beloved eatery, and a flop that folds in a week. Choose the right decor, and be the restaurant that thrives and survives.
Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.
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