Designing a New Experience

With the proliferation of mobile phones and social media, there’s been a distinct shift in the way we interact with our environments. Traditionally, restaurants were primarily designed around the customer in-store journey and guest interactions. Today, people are likely to spend a significant amount of time photographing their meals and the spaces around them. As a restaurant owner, there are several ways you can approach your design to create experiences that are both memorable for your guests and worthy of being shared online.

Pay Attention to Lighting

Dim, moody ambiances are no longer the standard in restaurants. Today, it’s important to focus on better quality lighting with advanced control of the lights. You can still create appropriate moods for the different day parts by using dimming systems that allow you to transition the room from breakfast to lunch to dinner.

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You’ll also be able to create lighter, brighter spaces, which are in turn better for photographs. You’re not just designing for people. You’re creating an environment that looks good on a phone, as well. This is important to keep in mind.

Create a Feature that is Instagram-able

Guests love to take selfies in spaces that are inspiring and unique. Consider creating a feature or wall that caters to the Instagram culture. Bright, bold wall coverings, interesting graphics, focal points and brighter lighting can all be utilized to make this selfie-space. It’s also important to be mindful of where you place it.

Think about the customer journey and be sure you’re not blocking traffic for both guests and staff. Lobbies and waiting areas can be great places to add these backdrops, as long as they’re out of the way. You may even consider putting logos or signage at lower levels, so people can take photos with your company name.

Think about Food Theater

People love to share the action and excitement of their experiences. Any time food is being prepared — from fire on the grill to salad prep areas — you can expect people to record it. If you have food theater in your restaurant, be sure to think about how it translates on a phone. Brighter lighting in the kitchen area will allow videos to remain clear and crisp. Incorporating your logo, signage, messages or feature elements in the design near the kitchen is a great opportunity to get your brand into the images. You may even consider taking it a step further with branded chef jackets or employee uniforms to make the space memorable and unique.

Set up Your Food for Success

Food photographs are the stars on Instagram. People love to share images of their dishes – especially when they’re dining out. So how can you prepare your meals to shine? First, think about presentation and plating. Putting in extra effort to make your food look unique and appetizing will pay off, even if you’re not an upscale establishment.

Next, take note of the backdrop. You may love mustard yellow plates for your brand, but not many meals look enticing when sitting on that color. Consider incorporating your brand color somewhere else in the space, and allow your plating to remain neutral. This will give your food creation the chance to shine. It’s just a fact that most food looks best on white. Finally, think about your tabletop and how it will photograph. You can use a busy pattern, unique material, interesting brand message or neutral backdrop – but be sure it’s something that you can “own” and people will want to share.

Most importantly, don’t fight the trend. With the abundance of cameras and individual online presences, this is simply the direction our culture is headed. You might as well be on the front end and be intentional about how you choose to set up your restaurant. Embrace it! You’re able to gain free marketing and guest conversations through social media shares. So be sure to think about how your space, food and action will photograph in videos, snapshots and selfies. It’s all about designing for a new experience.

Top photo: Rendering of Swensons Drive-in in Ohio.