Five ways to improve the ambiance of your restaurant

By Diane Chiasson

Does your restaurant serve amazing food but is lacking in ambiance to give your customers the total dining out experience? Studies have shown that the ambiance in a dining facility can affect everything from how fast customers eat, how much they spend and how long they stay.

In today’s competitive society, it is crucial to create an atmosphere in your restaurant that is conducive to the type of food that you serve, as well as the types of customers that you attract. Every detail in your operation should contribute to the ambiance. How do you want your guests to feel when they come to eat at your place?

When customers walk through your door, they should immediately be able to sense what type of operation you want to be. Whether it’s a fun and casual sports bar, or a homey, comforting place that serves your grandmother’s recipes, or a fancy, high-end restaurant, the décor, furnishings, music, lighting and artwork all contribute to the ambiance of your place.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto believes that by following a few simple tips, you can create a much more attractive environment for your restaurant.

1. Make sure your restaurant is clean

A dirty and unorganized restaurant will send any customer running, regardless of what kind of tone and atmosphere you want to create. Be sure to keep your restaurant operation clean at all times. Get rid of any unsightly clutter. There should never be any boxes or items that belong in storage in the front of house, washrooms or hallways. Be sure there are no fingerprints on windows, glass or mirrors, dust on shelving units, displays, artwork or other furnishings, and that floors clean of debris and dirt.

2. Lighting sets the tone

Turn off a few lights and you will immediately notice a huge effect on the atmosphere in your operation. Proper lighting will really help to set the tone of the atmosphere you wish to achieve. Avoid using fluorescent lighting and opt for LED lights that you can dim. This way, you can easily change the atmosphere. For the lunch crowd, you may wish for brighter lights, but for the dinner crowd, you may want to dim the lights and set a few LED candles on the tables instead for a more intimate feel. Whatever you theme, play around with your lighting until you have found the right mood that suits your operation. Whatever you choose, make sure the lighting is evenly distributed in your restaurant. You don’t want one table that is in the dark, while another table is under a spotlight.

3. Music sets the mood

First and foremost, every restaurant operation should play some type of music, unless you are a sports bar showing the big game. There is nothing more unnerving than dining at an operation that is completely silent. The type of music you choose to play should reflect the type of food you serve and the atmosphere you wish to create. For example, slower tempo music helps diners relax, and therefore they may eat more slowly. Faster music may get your customers to eat quicker, therefore increase the turnover in your restaurant. Playing rock music suggests your place is great for more bawdy behaviour. If your restaurant serves ethnic food, you should play music from that ethnicity to create a more authentic atmosphere for your food.

Make sure that your guests can hear your music from any seat in the house, but that it’s not too loud so that they have to scream and shout at each other for conversation. Keep in mind that your restaurant is not a nightclub. If you have no knowledge about music, or do not have the time to create playlists, consider subscribing to satellite radio, or streaming music through the Internet.

4. Colours help to stimulate the palette

Colours play a big role in the ambiance you wish to create. In general, warm colours like red, orange and yellow help to invigorate one’s appetite and put people in a better mood, whereas blues and purples are harder to work with. Neutral colours like white, beige and gray help to keep your customers more calm. However, the colour palette you choose should reflect the theme of your food. For example, it would not make any sense for a Mexican restaurant to be all black and white.

5. Don’t cram your customers together

Be sure to space the tables in your operation properly. Make sure you sit at every seat in your restaurant to ensure that it is comfortable and roomy. However, don`t place your tables so far apart that you do not have enough covers to make a profit. If you wish to create a faster turnover, place more tables in the middle of the room as customers seated in this area of the restaurant tend not to linger as long after they have finished eating. But also have a few booths or more secluded areas for private parties or families with small children so they do not disturb your other customers, as well as a bar area for guests who wish to be more convivial.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FSCI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., is recognized as the world’s best restaurant, foodservice, merchandising, hospitality and retail consultant based in Toronto. She has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years.Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing consulting services including restaurant and retail merchandising, interior design, marketing, brand identity, menu design and training.