Even in most small towns, residents have a number of options for dining out. Choosing a restaurant is rarely about the food itself. It’s about the dining experience – the scenery, atmosphere, and lighting are equally important. Ambience is what makes a special occasion a memorable occasion. Food is more appetizing when it comes with fascinating or luxurious surroundings, or even a new approach to dining. Here are three times when it can pay off to have a design that will set your restaurant apart from the others.
Sometimes when people go out to eat, they’re looking for a bit of adventure. Casa Bonita, a Mexican restaurant in Lakewood, CO, transformed its space into a Mexican village complete with cliffs, caverns, live shows, and a gift shop. A genuine experience will enhance the meal, not distract from it, so find a way to get the diners emotionally and intellectually invested in the restaurant itself.
Last year’s award winner for best restaurant design was The Jane, of Antwerp, where New Age décor of metal and crystal adds a stunning contrast to a centuries-old chapel.
You could even rearrange things and change the décor regularly so that returning customers don’t start to feel it’s “the same old thing”.
Know your customers
Instead of just hoping you’ve got it right, ask the customers what they like and don’t like, and adapt. Experiment. Print up anonymous survey cards and leave them at the tables. That way you can get a sense of the honest consensus instead of a few polite remarks. If people feel overwhelmed by the elaborate Buddhist shrine you’ve put up in your Thai restaurant, try something different. Develop a relationship with your regular customers. It’s a small investment to alter the décor a little to make the experience even more pleasurable for them, and that kind of personal service will not only keep them coming back, but have them telling their friends how pleased they were.
Adapt to your clientele; even a hectic atmosphere can be more desirable for some diners.
A unique selling point
Don’t get caught up in the idea of themes. Sometimes it’s about novelty. Customers may realize it’s just marketing, and understand that there’s nothing special about an Italian restaurant displaying Italian memorabilia. But nothing may be more effective than a new dining experience.
For instance, the generic atmosphere of a fast-food chain can be transformed by luxurious furnishings, secluded booths, and dimmer lighting. All of that provides more ambience to what is still basically a fast food approach. You might want to raise the quality of the food beyond generic burgers and fries, but you can likely raise the prices, as well.