The Role of Psychology in Restaurant Interior Design

There’s a reason why the most successful fast food chains all have red as a staple colour in their branding, and why every restaurant or bakery you walk past pumps out the universally acclaimed scent of freshly baked bread.

Psychology plays an integral part in how a restaurant is perceived, with the smartest brands and restaurants using the industry’s understanding of psychology to help them make vital interior decisions and design choices – from the big decisions all the way down to the small details.

If you’re opening or renovating a restaurant, or simply want to understand the complexities of human psychology to further your understanding of how consumerism in the restaurant industry works, then this article is for you.

The psychology of colour

It’s no secret that different colours hold their own unique emotions and projected meanings. Yellow is seen as a bright and joyful colour, while black is the colour of mourning, green is recognised as a natural and healthy colour, and white depicts innocence.

But the meaning behind each colour goes further than simply inciting different feelings and emotional responses. Colours also have a direct impact on how we feel about food – not least because of the traffic light system now added to products across supermarkets.

Red is the most powerful colour when it comes to boosting hunger and stimulating a good appetite. The primary colour of many successful fast food chains and food brands, the colour red literally makes us feel hungry – and can be used to great success in your restaurant’s branding as well as woven subtly throughout the interior design of your space.

With red in particular, take care not to overpower the space – as red is also regarded as an angry colour and one which sparks overpowering emotions. Because of this, using red as part of the interior design of a restaurant should be done carefully.

Other appetite stimulants are yellow and orange – with the other end of the scale resting on grey as the colour least likely to make diners feel hungry. Nonetheless, grey is a popular colour throughout modern design, with our advice being to uplift any grey interior scheme with those vibrant appetite stimulating colours worked into the detail and décor of the space.

When it comes to restaurant interior design, colour is arguably one of the most important decisions you will make – not only in terms of the way your restaurant is presented, but in relation to how you make diners feel. Diners want to feel comfortable and at home in your restaurant, able to relax and unwind in a warm setting.

Which is where lighting comes in.

How to use lighting to create a memorable diner experience

Restaurant lighting psychology

The way your restaurant is lit has the power to transform the diner experience, inspiring them to relax and settle or remain mentally stimulated. There’s a reason why fast food chains are all brightly lit, while restaurants tend to benefit from softer lighting – while the former operates on an in-and-out basis, with high turnover and diners encouraged to leave soon after finishing, the latter experience is much softer and more welcoming as evidenced by the atmospheric attention to lighting.

There are certain psychological details that can be successfully integrated into the design of your restaurant – namely that people tend to follow the brightest path, and are drawn towards places that feel bright and exciting. Making sure the entranceway of your restaurant is well lit, and that the route towards the bar is bright, can all contribute towards the experience – however, the main takeaway here is to embrace soft and warm lighting if you want to bring to life a more luxurious and slower-paced dining setting.

Tapping into the senses

Lighting and colour are, visually, two of the most important factors when it comes to connecting your restaurant interior design with the psychologically-charged experience of diners.

However, they are not the only components of your space that need considering – with acoustics, scent, and navigational layout all playing an important part in refining the diner experience.

A restaurant which is too quiet offers an uncomfortable feeling of awkwardness; conversely, a restaurant which is too loud is annoying and can put diners off or even inspire complaints.

The way your restaurant smells can inspire hunger or turn diners away, with fresh coffee and baking bread among the most popular scents which drive diners through the door. On the other hand, while smoked foods no doubt taste delicious, the smell of smoke can be enough to suppress the appetite of diners and make the restaurant feel smaller and more compact.

Finally, the layout of your restaurant plays a major part in how it is designed and finished, and also contributes towards how diners feel about the space as a whole. Plenty of space around each table can make diners feel at ease, while being squashed against another table can stunt conversation and make diners feel awkward; similarly, being able to easily find the bar and bathrooms facilities makes a restaurant feel more welcoming, while different dining spaces can help to separate and create a tailored experience for family groups, couples, and large parties.

All in all, the experience of designing and bringing your restaurant to life can be enhanced, improved, and even transformed with a basic understanding of psychology. We hope that these tips help you to fine tune a dining experience which stimulates hunger, and which satisfies all the little preferences and needs of modern diners.

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