Sniff out higher profits with scent marketing

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By Diane Chiasson

Scent marketing

One of the latest trends in the restaurant and foodservice industry is to attract more customers and increase sales by tapping into one of the more underused senses in marketing – the nose!

It is a well-known fact that human beings use all five of their senses to make a buying decision, whether consciously or unconsciously. We know that we must try to attract customers using all five senses – what the customer sees, hears, feels, smells and touches. When customers engage all five of their senses, it is more likely that they will form, retain or revisit a memory of your brand and operation.

A recent study found that customers who ate at a restaurant that used the scent of lavender generally stayed 15 minutes longer and spent more money.

Scent marketing is not a new concept. For example, theme parks in the U.S. implant scent machines in the shrubbery with infrared triggers, so when unassuming people walk by it would disperse a fragrance that awakens their taste buds and drives them to start looking for cotton candy, popcorn or caramel apples.

Some hotels also pipe scents into their elevator shafts. In the morning, the elevators smell like fresh bacon and pastries, in the afternoon they would smell like turkey, and for dinner, something else.

But unless your operation bakes fresh bread or pies all day long, what can you do to capitalize on scent marketing?

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, offers these ideas on how get customers smelling into your restaurant or foodservice operation:

1. Set up scent machines

Today, there are more and more companies that offer “scent machines” – small, inconspicuous fans that are strategically placed in your operation to gently blow out certain smells and aromas to entice customers to come in and buy more. The smell of a freshly-baked pie is quite irresistible. But now you don’t actually have to bake the pies onsite. You can just blow out the smell of fresh-baked pies! There are hundreds of different scents to choose from, or you can have a specific scent custom-designed to fit your operation.

2. Make your own scent machine

Perhaps setting up a scent machine isn’t quite in your budget at the moment. Create your own scent machine by placing a fan next to a big bowl of the product you want your restaurant or foodservice operation to smell like. Or if your restaurant specializes in a fragrant cuisine, place a fan in the kitchen, and leave the kitchen door slightly ajar to allow the odours to spread out more strongly.

3. Send out scented printed materials

A scented mini menu, brochure or flyer can be a great marketing tool. Place your materials inside a container with the fragrance of your choice to absorb the scent, or use a spray bottle to spritz a bit of scent onto your flyers.

4. Grill meats or other foods outside your door

Another great way to attract potential customers to your restaurant or foodservice operation is to set up a barbecue outside your front door, and grill fragrant meats and other items. The smell with attract passersby and even make them hungry enough to grab a snack or a meal.

5. Pipe the smells from you kitchen outdoors

If your operation offers something that creates a specific and aromatic smell like fresh baked bread, roasted peanuts, roasted coffee beans, curry or fried chicken, it might be worthwhile to pipe the smells from your kitchen up to your roof, where it can drift into the air and tantalize prospective patrons from blocks away.

6. Scent don’ts!

Scent marketing could also have the reverse effect on your customers, and repel them enough to stay away. Make sure that your restaurant or foodservice operation does not emit any offensive odours. Ensure that your washrooms are always clean and fresh smelling, your garbage is tied up properly and hidden from your customers’ view, all your staff is groomed properly and not giving off any body odour, and all odours coming out of your kitchen are appetizing!

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About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Toronto. Her company provides 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 visit

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