|A wine bar and a quick service restaurant both have atmosphere, but the mood they are creating will be completely different. Diners already have a preconceived notion about what certain types of restaurant identities mean. Choose the wording in your brand messaging very carefully. It sets the stage for the customer’s expectations even before they set foot into your establishment. The word “bistro” evokes an image of a certain experience, very different than the image of a sports bar, but maybe not so far off from that of a wine bar.|
Some of the obvious drivers of atmosphere are colour, finishes, layout, lighting and music. So when selecting these options, be very mindful of what impression they are creating.
When it comes to colour, have specific reasons for your colour and finish selections that support your concept. Colour can be subjective but it will make a strong statement. Current trends lean towards a more tone-on-tone balance of colours punctuated with a shot of contrasting colour. When selecting your base finishes to cover your walls, floors and ceilings, select colours and products that are more timeless. A shot of colour from paint or wallpaper can easily be changed up when they become tired or dated, but changing flooring is expensive and time-consuming.
Planning for success
When creating new concepts and designs for our clients, the central focus of the initial design work is spent on planning, starting with developing a solid, functional floor plan. The entire feel of the restaurant hinges on creating a seating layout that maximizes capacity while creating multiple seating arrangements that are flexible. Good planning will also allow the staff to easily and efficiently deliver the food offerings to your patrons, thus reducing the risk of poor or slow service.
Residential design elements have become popular in restaurant design. Nowhere is this more apparent than in lighting. Crystal chandeliers and table lamps have become commonplace as designers blur the lines of design. But more importantly is the ability to control the lighting. Install dimmers and create separate circuits that allow you the flexibility to change the mood of the lighting. This also helps reduce energy usage and costs. The new trend of fast casual restaurants almost requires two levels of lighting in order to create different atmosphere over the course of an entire day. Fluorescent lighting or LED lighting to boost light levels during the day should have the option to be turned off in order to create a more intimate experience during the evening hours.
Satellite radio has made access to many genres of music a lot easier in recent years. That allows you to select the perfect music to create your atmosphere. Maybe even change it up over the course of the day. Be very careful of your choices, however. Music makes a very strong impression even if it is simply background music. Use it to set the mood and create your atmosphere. Lower volume is best in most situations, enough to allow for conversation, but still be heard. Monitor those levels as your restaurant becomes busier. Be informed and know the stations or recordings that you use and have a strict policy with your staff as to its use. Control is key with music.
Some of the less obvious, but no less important drivers, are traffic flow, seating layouts, menu design and uniforms. These elements may speak subtly to your patrons but they are intentionally designed into your concept to create a carefully crafted experience for them, without them ever consciously noticing.
Your restaurant’s ambience and interior design is a three-dimensional representation of your business brand and it sets the stage for your entire operation. It is a calculated extension of your food experience, designed for impact, so get your guests in the mood for food. It’s a winning combination for success.
About the author
Steve Forler, a Toronto-based registered interior designer, has been designing and renovating restaurants and retail stores for 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO). He established his firm Squarefoot Design Inc. in 2001 to provide creative, common sense interior design solutions for their clients’ restaurants and hospitality projects.