What Makes a Good Restaurant Atmosphere?

Often times, the atmosphere of a restaurant is overlooked in favor of other factors. New restaurateurs think it’s all about the food, but an inability to provide customers with a dining experience that consists of great food, great service, and an enjoyable atmosphere is a recipe for failure.

In general, there are three things guests notice about a restaurant during their first time eating there – food, service, and atmosphere. These may be prioritized differently depending on the guest, but it’s important for restaurants to get all three of these right in order to attract repeat diners.

In general, there are three things guests notice about a restaurant during their first time eating there – food, service, and atmosphere.

Ultimately, the goal of a restaurant is to get diners coming back as frequently as possible. Creating an exceptional atmosphere is a necessary and frequently overlooked part of making this happen.

What is Restaurant Atmosphere?

If you’re opening a restaurant, restaurant atmosphere is easy to overlook because it’s a bit of an abstract concept. Ultimately, it’s what makes your restaurant “feel” a certain way. When done correctly, this can enhance the experience of a meal for your diners.

What makes the atmosphere so difficult to control is how many factors are involved. Any part of your restaurant that influences the feel of it is an element of the restaurant’s atmosphere. This includes lighting, music, colors, and decor to name a few.

If these atmospheric elements don’t align with the particular theme you’re going for, it can be damaging to your success.

Why is Restaurant Atmosphere Important?

The atmosphere and feel of a restaurant is part of the reason people go out to eat instead of cooking their own meal at home. Not only that, but getting your atmosphere right can actually increase your sales.

Human beings are very sensory dependant when making decisions. We rely on smell, sound, and sight to move throughout our lives. This is no different when making food or other purchase decisions. Paying careful attention to how your restaurant’s atmospheric elements influence these senses can influence the decisions your customers make.

What Makes a Good Restaurant Atmosphere?

Choose the Right Music

Music is a huge part of how your restaurant influences your customers. There are a number of factors to consider when crafting your restaurant’s playlist.

Most importantly, you want to make sure you choose music that fits the theme of your restaurant. Rather than choosing a pop radio station for your island themes taco joint, a better choice might be island themed music that immerses your customers within the theme of your restaurant.

Music actually has the power to influence how much time people spend in a restaurant as well. For example, if you turn your volume up and play music that’s faster paced, it increases the heart rate of your diners and will cause them to eat faster. With this in mind, playing louder, faster music during busy times can help increase table turnover, but if your goal is to keep customers in your restaurant to increase the average check size, slower, quieter music is a better fit.

Finally, the right selection of music can influence the perception of taste. Indie rock music, for example, complimented the spices found in curry, according to one study. This same study also found that dance and hip-hop music had a negative effect on the ability to enjoy food, so it’s best to avoid this altogether.

Decorate with a Theme in Mind

The foundation of a restaurant’s atmosphere is defined at the moment the restaurant chooses a concept. The decorating decisions should all be based around this chosen concept. For example, if you’re going for an Irish pub concept, you might include wooden bar stools in place of chairs, would fill your walls with Irish decor, and may paint the walls in the room using a medium-to-dark-brown color.

When choosing how to decorate your restaurant, it’s important to keep color theory in mind. Similar to music, colors work in harmony with each other. In visual experiences, harmony is when something is pleasing to the eye. It creates a sense of order to the viewer.

When you’ve chosen a theme for your restaurant and are looking for decorations, research what colors and textures your chosen theme is commonly associated with. Decorate your restaurant with those colors and textures in mind. If you need some inspiration, Pinterest can be an excellent source of restaurant decorating ideas.

Light it Up

In addition to maintaining consistency in your theme with your music and decorations, you also want to make sure your lighting is in line with your restaurant’s theme. When it comes to lighting, you want to consider three things – the style of the fixtures, the brightness, and the colors. Think about the overall theme of your restaurant and how these elements enhance it.

If you’re going for a more modern look, you may want to go with minimalist light fixtures that emit a bright, daytime-like light. If you think back to our Irish Pub example, darker, orange or yellow-colored lights with fixtures that are more rusted and metallic looking would be a better fit.

Most importantly, make sure it’s easy for your staff and customers to see where they’re going. Don’t make the lights too dim in a dark-themed restaurant. This could result in frustration for everyone involved.

Dress Your Staff

Music, decor, and lighting are important, but your staff interact directly with your guests. The level of service of your staff provides is important, but it’s also important to consider how they dress and the attitude they convey.

A server in jeans and a t-shirt wouldn’t be a fit in a pirate themed restaurant, for example. Instead, a better fit would be staff that’s dressed like a crew from a pirate ship. For an Irish themed restaurant, having your staff in green would be important.

Your staff will be your guests main point of contact throughout their experience in your restaurant, so consider the theme of your restaurant and dress them accordingly.