restaurant interior design

The psychology of restaurant interior design

By Jude Kamal

Sometimes, a customer will walk into a restaurant and instantly feel relaxed, comfortable, and ready to have a pleasant time. That should be the aim of every restaurateur, and there is a science behind making patrons feel that way. Great restaurant settings don’t just happen randomly; they are designed that way.

There is a science and a method that allows you to blend all the different elements to create the restaurant interior design that matches your restaurant theme and business goals. 

This article will educate you on how restaurants use psychology for their interior design. 

The most important elements of restaurant interior design psychology

There are five key elements that are crucial to the psychology of restaurant interior design. Here, we discuss these elements and explain how restaurants use this psychology to their advantage.

1. Colour

In restaurant interior design, colour psychology plays an important role.

There are three colours that are regarded as the best colours for restaurants because of how they help in stimulating appetite. They are red, orange, and yellow. Bright red produces a strong signal for an appetite in the human brain. This is why most food packaging and fast-food restaurants use bright red as their signature colour. Orange and yellow are also appetite stimulants and the brain associates these colours with happiness and warmth.

Grey, black, brown, purple, and blue are colours considered to be appetite suppressants. They are usually associated with bad food or poison, so our brain subconsciously shies away or is repulsed by these colours. Blue is also a calming colour that induces sleep so it’s not advisable to use it heavily in a restaurant’s design. You want your guests to be wide awake and stimulated when dining. 

Green is a colour that is very important to discuss. Today, people are more conscious of eating healthier, going organic, and wanting vegetarian and vegan options. Given this massive shift in eating habits, it is safe to say that green is a strong appetite stimulant and should not be ignored when thinking about colour for restaurant interior design. 

2. Lighting

The lighting of a restaurant sets the general mood and is a very crucial aspect of ​​restaurant psychology. There are three main types of restaurant lighting, which should work seamlessly together to create your desired mood.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is the main lighting that dictates the general mood of your restaurant.

The preferred type of ambient lighting will depend on the type of restaurant, but some main rules apply. Bright lighting creates a lively mood and is more suitable for casual and fast-paced restaurants where guests come and go quickly. Low lighting is appropriate for upscale and fine dining restaurants, as it creates an intimate and relaxing environment that encourages guests to be leisurely, confident, and to lean in to talk. If you’re a restaurant that caters to many guests on dinner dates for example, then low ambient lighting is the most appropriate. 

Task lighting

What you don’t want is guests having to turn on their phone light to be able to read the menu because it is so dark. This is bad task lighting. Task lighting helps guests and staff to do basic tasks like read the menu, find their table, walk to the bathroom, etc.

3. Scent

What scent do you want to greet visitors when they walk into your restaurant? The smell of the food cooking in the restaurant kitchen, a curated perfume smell, something seasonal like autumn spices or mint, or nothing at all? Research has shown that scent is one of the senses that is closely linked to memory, so it determines how guests remember their dining experience at a restaurant. It can also change the entire perspective of a place. 

Scent is one major way restaurants can use psychology to their advantage. The scent of a restaurant should be pleasant but not distracting and should stay in the background and complement the dining experience. 

4. Acoustics and music

The type of restaurant will determine what type of sound it should have. However, you don’t want to design a restaurant that is either too loud or too quiet. When a restaurant is too loud, it can distract guests from the food and disrupt their conversation. In contrast, when a restaurant is too quiet, it can make the place seem unpopular or cause guests to feel self-conscious and isolated. 

The interior design of a restaurant can help control the acoustics. For example, high ceilings or padded booths can help control noise. When deciding to have an open kitchen or not, keep in mind the effect it will have on the acoustics of the restaurant as noise from the kitchen can flow into the dining hall and distract guests. There are instances in which designing a place to be loud is the desired effect. Places like bars or restaurants like to have the place loud and noisy as it causes guests to eat and drink faster and order more. 

Another important aspect of ambiance is the type of music playing. Some restaurants choose to play piano music. This is common because music with lyrics can be distracting to guests.  

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5. Furniture and layout

In designing the layout and choosing furniture for a restaurant the cardinal rule is that every table should be a good table.

Some guests usually like to pick their table or prefer to be seated in certain areas of the restaurant, especially when those guests are regulars. But, regardless of where a guest is seated in a restaurant, they should feel like they have an excellent seat and thus an excellent dining experience. By a good table, we mean that the furniture and location are comfortable and well thought out so that the guest does not feel shortchanged. The general psychology of dining out is that guests want to have a good time and feel taken care of. 

Breaking the rules of restaurant interior design psychology

Finally, in restaurant interior design, you need to know when to break the rules. The psychology of interior design requires a delicate balance of all the factors that help blend your restaurant story and operations seamlessly. Colour is a good place to break rules and set your own standard and many restaurants do this. There is an intangible aspect of things that can’t be quantified and that includes knowing when to go off-book.

Jude Kamal is a registered interior designer under ARIDO, the professional association of registered interior designers of Ontario. With over seven years of interior design experience in both residential and commercial projects, she has led multi-disciplinary projects across Canada and built a very distinctive interior design approach. Her energy and love for interior design create a highly collaborative design studio| Sansa Interiors Inc.