The Magic of Design

Elegant table setting with fork, knife and red napkin
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So, you want to attract a lot of people to your restaurant. If you build it, will the people really come? A few people might come just to satisfy their own curiosity. But, it takes more than just great food to attract people to your restaurant. Sure there are some rather questionable looking establishments that sometimes turn out decent food, but you don’t want to be a sketchy hole-in-the-wall restaurant. You must be looking to expand your business, otherwise you wouldn’t be using the services of

Now, part of your overall marketing campaign strategy must be all about image. Image is actually everything. Think about that rather frightening, sketchy, hole-in-the-wall place we just talked about; that likely does not bring up happy feelings. Now think about a fine dining establishment, clean and well-designed in every aspect. Much happier feelings come from this new image. Let’s side track for a minute; don’t worry, we’ll be back, I promise.

Have you ever been to Disney World or Disneyland? Or have you paid attention to the minute details and “easter eggs” scatter throughout Disney movies, or Pixar’s movies too? Granted they’re now one and the same, but back to the matter at hand. Let me bring a few things to your mind: throughout every single Pixar movie, if you watch carefully, you can spot the pizza delivery truck from the first Toy Story hidden somewhere among the background. Yes, it even appears in the movie Brave, about the Scottish princess who likes to ride her horse and practice archery. Does that sound like a movie in which a 20th century truck should or even could appear? No, but it does.

Another recent example, in the movie Frozen, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (Eugene Fitzherbert) from Tangled, make a brief appearance just before the coronation. And, throughout the Disney movies, you can also find hidden Mickeys, just subtle arrangements of everyday objects to form the shape of Mickey’s head and ears. These hidden Mickeys are also all over the parks. Everywhere. Disney has an absolute obsession with detail. You may grouse that it costs too much to go there, the lines are too long, the crowds too large… and these things may be true and yet, millions of people go to Disney theme parks every year. Out of the Top 25 Theme Parks in the World, Disney’s parks take up the top ten spots. Between 2013 and 2014, Disney’s flagship park, Magic Kingdom of Disney World in Orlando, Florida, actually saw a 4% increase in attendance!

Why is this happening, and more importantly, how? Disney employs people known as Imagineers. It is their job to obsess over everything imaginable when designing new attractions. From the tiny little engagement ring embedded in the concrete sidewalk at The Haunted Mansion ride in Magic Kingdom, to the massive guitar and guitar strings forming a pseudo-coaster for the front of the Rock n’ Roller Coaster (aka the Best Ride Ever), these gals and guys have thought of every detail possible. It is their job to make everything perfect. And in orientation for new “cast members”, ie. everyday employees in the parks, it is in the job description to always be smiling. No sad faces at the happiest place on earth! Seriously, I used to work there, I know. People go to Disney for all of these details and for the outrageous customer service. Not having a good time? Go make it known to guest service and they will do everything they possibly can to help you.

They will bend over backwards to make sure you have a magical time. It is always about the guests. Always. That is why people return: the service, the obsessive attention to detail. There are even back entrances to different sections of parks so that cast members don’t cross into other “lands” wearing the wrong uniform on the way to and from work. Walt Disney wanted to create a magical place where cast members seemingly popped up from the ground to be in their locations and wanted nothing to break the illusion of each specific “land” within the parks.

So now, what does this have to do with you and your restaurant? Everything. As I was saying, it’s all in the detail. Of course you have to have amazing food, but if you present it like a pile of dog poo baked in the sun on the sidewalk, unless you’re Cards Against Humanity, people aren’t going to stick around.

Think about how often major companies rebrand their products; people like things that look good. It’s pretty simple. Do your research on similar restaurants and their menu stylings, and heck, even their architecture. That way when people see your branding and marketing, they will already be able to associate by quick glance, just what you are.

Da Vinci once said that, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” This was exemplified by Steve Jobs when he came back to Apple and cut out extra products and focused the company back to the basics: iPod, iMac, and iTunes. Apple business took off with the launch of iTunes and all but capitalized the digital music wave of the early ‘00s. By 2010, Apple’s stock had risen from “$6.56 to $403… in just 8 years.”

In conclusion, do your research: figure out what other successful restaurants have done similar to yours in terms of design so people can do a quick association. Make sure your menu is simple to read and figure out. Especially in today’s “now, now, now” society, no one will want to sit around for too long trying to decipher your menu.  And, of course, it’s all about the details. Pay attention to the little things, they really matter.

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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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