Nine tips to pump up business using displays with eye appeal

By Diane Chiasson

As a restaurateur and foodservice operator, you may never realize how visual food merchandising can substantially increase your sales until you fully understand the concept and you become willing to spend the time to make it work.

Visual food merchandising brings the food and retail products you offer your customers to life through eye-catching displays, where the vision of freshness, colour, quality and quantity is key to increased revenue from retail sales. When done properly, visual food merchandising can boost your sales significantly.

So what does it take? Here are the ABC’s to help you create a fabulous looking and mouthwatering foodservice facility:

1. Evaluate your space and the message you want to send

Before beginning any merchandising project, you must look at the space itself to determine the room you have to work with, giving special consideration to the fixtures that cannot be moved. Also be aware that each retail food display should have a theme, a product that you want to focus on or a specific message that you want to convey. The message is integral to the display and must take center stage, not be diluted by superfluous decorations. Make your message loud and clear!

2. List your props

It is often unnecessary to purchase an expensive array of props to create your display. Look at what items you have on hand in the kitchen, pantry and stockrooms that might add mouthwatering substance to your display. Fresh veggies and fruits, large tins of food items, wine bottles, and many other items that already exist in your restaurant or foodservice operation can be incorporated into your display.

3. Make a statement with colour

When considering props, fresh food or container items and decorations, think vibrant colours. Deep red, vibrant green and yellow will call attention to any display you set up, while colours such as terracotta, coral and sand create an overall warm feeling. Find the one that is right for your restaurant, the space you have chosen and the central theme of your merchandising display.

4. Consider the focal point

Every display should have a main focal point to attract attention. Decide how you will achieve this. It should be noted that items grouped together (i.e. sandwiches and soups) enhance the sales of both items and ultimately you sell more.

5. Stir all the senses

Often times, displays can be more effective if stimulating more than just eyes. The smell of freshly baked goods, fresh coffee, grilled steaks or delicious soup can entice customers into your restaurant.

6. Build up a display and assess as you go

It may be best to start by making a small sketch of what you intend to do, and cross-reference that sketch with the fresh food items and materials you have purchased or have available as a final check before construction. Then, build in layers by starting construction with the display items that will be used in the back first. Raise specific items by using cardboard boxes, small crates or fruit baskets turned upside down. Do not wait until the project is completed to ensure it is taking shape as hoped. If you wait until it is completed, you may have to take additional time to tear the display down and start again from scratch, so do a mid-point assessment as you develop your display.

7. Make everything spotless

Remember, your props will likely be re-used in future displays; therefore fully clean the intended display area so that expensive props and materials are not needlessly ruined.

8. Stimulate

Bring the display to life by employing elements of colour, humour, interrupted visual patterns, props, sample and geometric shapes.

9. One final piece of advice

Once your food display has come together, stand back and assess it. Is it alive with colour? Does it say the intended message? Is it sturdy and safe?  Does it have an eye-catching focal point? Is it appropriately lit? Make sure that the lighting in and around your display focuses on the merchandise – not the floor! Does it have the potential to offend anyone? Is it consistent with the dining facility as a whole? Is signage neat, colourful and effective? After following these steps you can rest assured your restaurant or foodservice facility will be on the way to considerably higher profits.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as the industry leader in providing innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or, or visit

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