How do you select a restaurant? As a patron, what makes you dine out? How do you select your preferred dining experience? I’m talking about casual and easy or even more a more in-depth gastronomic event.
When it comes to casual, quick and easy, I still want the experience to have personality – a pleasing personality and great flavors. Personality is atmosphere. Great flavors is the kitchen. Service might be “step-up and place your order” or table-side wait-staff. In either case, I want it to be a pleasing experience. Why would anyone want it to be difficult or unpleasant? Perhaps that lies in the definitions of the beholder. What is difficult or unpleasant and the various degrees thereof is not be the same for everyone.
Throughout my childhood, I remember my mother and her peers reference “atmos.” It was important. It came up often. “Does the place have atmos?” Or “what great atmos.” Atmosphere – it is the feeling you get in an environment. It is the feeling a place emits. I don’t ever recall it being used in the negative – such as this place has horrible atmos…rather, like ambiance, it was reserved to compliment.
We now hear “vibe.” The place has a good vibe – but not limited to only compliment, a place can have a decidedly bad vibe too! Is it just the saying “If you can’t say anything nice about something, don’t say anything at all?” Perhaps we are less polite than the previous generations. Yet, constructive criticism let’s you know what makes your patrons pleased. Truth be told…be honest with discretion.
As a restaurant owner, it seems that erring on the side of greater numbers sharing the same opinion of easy and pleasing would capture the greater share of the demographic. Therefore, studies are out there to determine the value of ambiance and presentation. Starting with defining the description of your eatery…who are you and what and how do you serve? What is your “brand?” Whether funky or fine, dining should be worth the visit.
I read a few excerpts from a fascinating new book, Gastrophysics, The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence. In it, he touches on the importance of atmosphere. He observes the value of interior design even as it relates to how much people eat and how much they spend as a result of atmospheric influences.
Another great read for understanding the art of a successful restaurant is Daniel Boardman’s Your First Restaurant – An Essential Guide. As an “essential aspect of your concept” Boardman identifies why the “thoughtfulness of the interior design” communicates to the patron a lot about the service and food that one might expect to receive.
From lighting to the shape of the plate, ambiance and presentation are key features in a successful eating establishment.
All the way from candles on a white linen table cloth to a handsome juicy burger in a basket lined with paper, in the context of the environment – design details matter.
Some reading this might say they don’t care. Fine. Perhaps on the surface, they think it doesn’t matter. They don’t realize the effectiveness of well thought-out details. They take these things for granted. Yet these details can make or break a dining experience – from casual to fine.
Next time you eat out, look around, smell the smells, hear the sounds, see the colors, notice the lighting sources and levels, feel the furniture and – have I not mentioned it? – check out the restrooms!!!!
Not only should they be very clean – but they should also continue the theme of the place.
Pay attention and you might be surprised at what you discover about your sensitivities.
What you hear while dining contributes greatly to the pleasure or discomfort of your time spent in the environment. It either contributes positively or detracts annoyingly. Listen to the sounds next time you dine. At home or out, notice voices, chairs being moved, glassware, music, kitchen noises, traffic…see what detracts, what enhances or what might be considered neutral.
Interior designers are considering it all – the theme, atmosphere, colors, artwork, furniture, lighting, table dressings, serving pieces, fabrics, textures and even sound. Whether casual or more formal, these design details can make or break the success of the business.
Even if the food is exceptional, too bright lighting, ineffective colors, uncomfortable furniture or confused design elements can result in negating even the best chef’s efforts. It is a package. It is about the whole. It is a multi-sensory experience. Buen provecho!