Learn How Restaurant Setting Influences the Dinning Experience and Industry Altogether

I don’t know about you, but when I go into a restaurant, the last thing that’s on my mind is if the restaurant is playing psychology with me to get my patronage. I go to a particular restaurant because I like the food, I like how the staff treats me, and because I like the ambience there.

But what if I told you all of that is carefully planned and calculated to ensure that you’re having a good time? Sounds crazy, right? Almost like a Jedi mind trick? Well, it’s pretty real.

Learn How Restaurant Seating Influences the Dinning Experience and Industry Altogether

Cheering restaurant / h&p architects
© Nguyen Tien Thanh

You Don’t Choose Your Seats

Have you ever had the experience of going into a restaurant and asking for a table? You’ll find that there’s a table near the wall or corner that’s free, and instead of taking you there, the waiter will take you to a table in the middle of the room. There’s a reason for that.

See, most restaurants are about getting you seated as fast as possible, eat as fast as possible, and leave immediately. They don’t want you lingering, since that’s time lost that could otherwise be used to cater to other customers.

Putting you in the middle of the room ensures that you’re somewhat uncomfortable with your surroundings. This means that you’re less likely to enjoy the ambiance around you, and more focused on eating and getting out as soon as possible. This is how they do it if they’re looking for a lot of traffic in the restaurant.

But this can also be done inversely, if the restaurant is pretty posh and wants a single high paying customer, rather than a number of smaller paying ones. They’ll seat you in the corner or somewhere private so that you can enjoy your meal and conversation. This makes you want to stay longer, and order more food.

Boos beach club restaurant / metaform architects
© Steve Troes Fotodesign

Colors Play With Your Psyche

Colors go a lot further than “blue is sad, red is angry”. They have a proven effect on people, and depending on what is used where, this can be used to influence whether or not you like a certain place.

Try and remember the last time you went to a restaurant that was predominantly blue or purple? Can’t do it? There’s a reason for that. Blue, green, and purple are difficult shades to use in a restaurant, since they aren’t known to help stimulate your appetite.

Typically, colors on the neutral and warmer side of the palette stimulate appetite, and that’s why you see restaurants using those colors in their interior decor. Neutral colors are those like ivory, taupe, beige, etc.

Ever wondered why Burger King and McDonald’s have similar color schemes?

You guessed it. Red and yellow are the easiest colors that can stimulate appetite, so they’re used a lot more often.

Bao restaurant / yod studio
© Andrey Avdeenko

But there’s more to it than just dabbing red on every wall of your restaurant. You want to be proportionate about it, since their appetite isn’t all you want to induce.

They want you to stay longer, order more food, and that’s where neutral color palettes come in. Neutral colors are known to calm people, ensuring that they feel relaxed and comfortable. The more neutral colors are used, the longer that customers are likely to stay.

The best part about neutral colors is that they can easily incorporate this into paintings and artwork that they’d have in the restaurant decor. Even the furniture can help with this color placement. This makes it feel very natural and tasteful, and not forced in any way.

Contrapunto restaurant / janfridesign + gglab

The Lighting Affects Your Mood Too

If you’ve ever taken your partner out on a date to a fancy restaurant, you’ll notice how the bigger restaurants have soft and dim lighting. That’s done on purpose too. Softer lighting makes you want to stay longer, and that means you’re more likely to order more food.

That’s why better restaurants have more comfortable lighting, since it’s trying to make you stay there as long as possible. That’s because they don’t expect the same foot traffic as that of a local McDonald’s or Taco Bell. For them, the profit lies in making fewer customers pay more.

Contrapunto restaurant / janfridesign + gglab

Fast food joints don’t have that issue, since they prioritize speed. Brighter and harsher lighting for them is paramount, since that means that they’re likely to have you buy food and get out as soon as possible. This is because they expect a lot of traffic, and the additional purchase that you’re likely to make with a change in the lighting isn’t as valuable as more customers.

Another thing that lighting does is ensure that you’re not hit with direct light, since that can show an unflattering side of yourself. Direct lighting also casts shadows on your face, which tends to be rather uncomfortable. Focusing light on the architecture or ambience around you is a great way to illuminate your surroundings and ensure you’re enjoying the lighting.

Chotto matte restaurant, london, uk

Even Your Waiters Change Things

Depending on the restaurant you’re going to, you’ll find that waiters are also different, depending on the ambience that the restaurant wants.

If you go to a restaurant that’s dimly lit and is trying to get a romantic setting going, you’ll find that waiters are friendly, quiet, and generally leave you to yourselves until and unless you ask for them. They value your privacy, and that means they’ll come to you only when you need them.

On the other hand, if you’re going to a place that’s a bit more upbeat, you’ll find that your waiters are more talkative, louder, and will check up on you a lot. They want to make sure that you’re there to enjoy a louder and more social atmosphere.

Bao restaurant / yod studio
© Andrey Avdeenko

Waiters are trained to give these kinds of experiences. If you’re out for a dinner with your partner, then you’ll find that waiters are mostly non-existent until and unless you call for them. They’ll do everything they can not to get in the way of you and your conversation. They’re there to put food in front of you, light a few candles, and that’s about it. They know that the true value of the ambience they’re providing are those romantic conversations that you’re having. Doing anything against that would be counterproductive.

Louder restaurants are more like social watering holes, designed to take advantage of the fact that you’re there to mingle with people. That’s why waiters will check up on you regularly and make sure that you’re having a good time. All of this builds into a restaurant’s brand image, and they want to keep it that way.

A manifesto for london at 10 million: 'give its citizens the freedom to live well'
Sushi Samba restaurant atop Heron Tower, London / Photo: Rowan Moore

Good Furniture Makes You Stay Longer

Of course, after all we’ve seen, restaurant owners would think about the furniture too.

Naturally, comfortable furniture makes customers want to stay longer. No one likes sitting on hard benches and stools for a long period of time. That’s why fancier restaurants have much more comfortable furniture than something you’d find at your local steakhouse. The longer you sit in them, the more you’re likely to order more food, it is easy to imagine that most commercial bar stools for sale today are comfortable or at least beautiful in terms of aesthetics today.

Think again.

Are they?

Everything plays a role, absolutely every detail contributes to your overall experience !

Cheering restaurant / h&p architects
© Nguyen Tien Thanh


Before a restaurant is actually designed and built, a whole lot of thinking goes into how it should look like, and what kind of clientele it’ll attract. A fast food joint operates in a much different manner from a 3-star Michelin restaurant. They serve different kinds of food, and they’re looking for fundamentally different kinds of people for their food. All of this thought is put on paper when a restaurant is being designed.

Once you get an idea of how all of these gears fit together to make the whole machine run, you get an understanding of how much work these establishments are putting in to make sure that you’re getting the most for your money. The next time you’re in a restaurant, try and see if you can spot these features and tricks that restaurants are using to keep you there.

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