ICFF

 In the past, we have been impressed by many things that we have seen while visiting trade shows in Milan, Paris, Dubai, Las Vegas, Miami, etc…  Each year, we attend the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, at the Javits Center here in NYC.  Just like the others, it is meant to be a place for inspiration and education on new products and design trends in the hospitality industry.  The last couple of years have been very disappointing.  I suppose it’s understandable this year and last, with everyone being affected by Covid.  On the other hand, it could have been a time of more innovation and expression, without borders, which you would hope would translate into exciting new items and ideas on display.  Not so, at the Javits.  During the pandemic, we took the opportunity to create imaginary spaces, without the confinement of a specific project, client, or location, to restrict our minds.  We’ve been designing a series of restaurant spaces via renderings, which we will eventually (and hopefully not in the too distant future) have up on our website.  But, back to the issue at hand, these trade shows, specifically the ICFF in NY.  Even the year before Covid, I recall the show being much smaller, with less participants than in prior years.  We have displayed at shows in the past; it’s costly, and a lot of work.  We have also heard that the Javits has been making it more difficult to participate in these things.  All of that aside, we wonder if shows like this are becoming a thing of the past, that companies are finding other outlets to be more effective for them.  Social media, for one, has changed the game drastically.  Exposure is no longer confined to showing up to anywhere specific, to see what’s new.  Not having been to a show at an overseas location in a few years, I wonder if they are experiencing the same drop off, or if this is a problem here in NY.  Are we pushing enough?     

https://icff.com/

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Ground Central

A few years ago, one of our more active clients enlisted us to take over the design of his existing brand of coffee shops here in NYC, Ground Central.  We have been slowly introducing new design elements, transitioning the look bit by bit.  Sometimes, editing an existing design can be just as if not more interesting than creating something new.  It requires a different kind of analysis, considering the existing clientele.  Depending on the venue, it can be risky to make a drastic shift.  But sometimes, a severe turn is necessary, if you need to capture a different crowd.  In the case of a coffee shop, familiarity and comfort is part of the formula.  So we are being careful as we go.

An interesting element that will remain as part of the design is their signature custom murals, created by an artist from Australia, specifically for each location.  They're really cool, here is an example, outside of the newest location currently under construction...


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Mamo Continues...

We checked back in on our Miami restaurant project last week, and found that the demo phase was complete.  We are now in the bidding stage for a General Contractor, and hope to start construction within the month.  We learned that a close relative of Fadi is opening a large restaurant on the same block, with a well known restaurant group from France & the Mid East... what are the chances??  Good company!  Working on the exterior design this week, as the restaurant will aim to open for the good-weather Fall season, here are some rendered views of how that's shaping up:




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Little Island

There's been a new addition to the West Side, called Little Island.  It happens to be one of my favorite structures in all of NYC, mostly since I have fully realized my love for all things formed concrete.  It's located just to the West of The Whitney, another favorite, which is also near the base of The Highline, yet another asset of this part of town.  We've also recently learned that a Shake Shack will inhabit the space underneath that entrance to the promenade, which will undoubtedly revitalize that part of Meatpacking, which has been slightly dormant since the pandemic.  

In any case, Little Island is a nicely landscaped dynamic little park, with few visual/experiential attractions, lawns for lounging, and a full amphitheater overlooking the NJ skyline.  We really appreciate the organizations that have made things like this possible near our home, namely The Hudson River Park Trust along with The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation.  They have reimagined and transformed several areas of our community, which are used and enjoyed by locals and visitors.  If you haven't been, I encourage a visit as we enter into better weather.  www.littleisland.org  



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New Opening

We are happy to announce the opening of a new room for our client, Gennaro, in Hamilton NJ!  It's bold, and it's pretty, and we wish him continued success there with his growing business!  

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Basquiat

Yesterday, we visited the Starrett Lehigh building, which is currently displaying works by Jean-Michel Basquiat.  By the time of his early death in 1988 at just 27, he somehow had the vision and drive to create some of the most recognizable and influential art work out there.  He was a trend setter then, and remains as such, with current collaborations from Coach to Tiffany's, and countless others.  His work was reflective of the societal issues of his time, most of which, unfortunately, are still relevant today.  The exhibit was haunting.

His studio on Great Jones, where he lived and worked, was right around the corner from our office, in one of the most creative hubs in Manhattan. 

The architecture of the exhibit was also of note.  The exhibition's designer, David Adjaye OBE, was the Architect behind The National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC.  Abbott Miller of Pentagram was responsible for the exhibition's identity.  




57 Great Jones Street Studio
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the Public

A few years ago, we were forced to stay at a hotel while our apartment was undergoing some necessary surgery.  We chose to stay at The Public Hotel in Soho, by Ian Schrager.  To our surprise, it was the best experience we have had outside of living in our own home, dare I say even better at times.  The vibe and comfort level that he has created, through various types of venues, materials, lighting, style of service, etc., made for an excellent environment to live and work in.  We would spend our days in the lounge working among an inspiring crowd (most of whom most likely were just using the place as "the new Starbucks" and not actually staying at the hotel), and the nights at one of the few restaurants there, if not in our small yet completely adequate and attractive room.  This hotel embodies the true essence of a lifestyle brand, mixing all things effortlessly.  It was and is where people want to see and be seen, for good reason.  We have just learned that this hotel brand is a passion for Schrager, which we can get behind 100%.  If only all hotel experiences came close to this one...  

PUBLIC HOTEL

https://hospitalitydesign.com/news/five-on-friday/april-15th-2022/ 

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Restaurant Design Q&A

1- How long does it take to design a restaurant:

On average, it takes about 2-3 months to fully design a restaurant and have plans ready for Department of Buildings submittal.  But the length of the process depends on several factors; renovation vs new construction, what type of occupancy if it falls under, ie: “Place of Assembly”, what if anything has been developed as far as concept, etc.

2- How long does it take to build a restaurant?

Depending on whether it’s a renovation or new construction, the process can vary between 4-6 months of construction, once the plans have been fully approved by local municipalities.

3- What is the cost of construction for a restaurant?

This depends greatly on the area.  In a metro area, it can be 30% more for a build-out, than if you are in a suburb.  In NYC, it can be $300 per square foot, or more, depending on what the concept calls for.  Certain concepts, such as fast-casual, could allow for a lower cost per sf.

4- Do you assist in establishing the restaurant design concept?

We like to be involved as early on in the process as possible.  A designer who specializes in restaurant design can help the client shape the restaurant concept or redirect it if need be, taking all factors into consideration.  It also allows for a most cohesive end result.   

5- What should one assume to pay for a restaurant chair?   

Commercially-rated chair costs can vary drastically, depending on the end use/concept.  For example, a fast-casual concept would typically call for a lower-end cafĂ© chair, which can be around $100.  The intended customer time dictates the comfort level, ie: if you want to turn tables quickly, you don’t want someone to be so comfortable that they stay for an hour or more.  However, when you are looking for more comfort at a mid-range restaurant, the cost would be around $250, while a high-end restaurant chair would start around $350.

6- Is it ok to follow certain trends when you are designing a restaurant in NYC or any other metro area?

Trends are tricky, because they come and go.  Once they go, the restaurant is at risk of no longer being current, and can therefore have a short lifespan.  Every restaurant should be authentic; true to the cuisine and to the character of the owner/chef.  Being current and in touch with how the industry is evolving based on the needs and behavior of customers is more important than following trends.

7- How many square feet does the kitchen require?

Kitchens on average are 30% of the total space.

8- How big should a space be for a restaurant use?

A good healthy size for a restaurant where efficiency is maximized is 150-160 seats.  This would require a space of approximately 3,500 SF. 

9- Do you do residential design as well as restaurant design?

We have loved the residences we have designed.  We were lucky in that those projects came from restaurant clients of ours, who happened to like our style.  It’s important for us, when it comes to residential design, that the clients are in tune with our tendencies.  It makes for an enjoyable process, and usually results in pleasant surprises for our clients, and their friends. 

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Back to Barcelona

This Conde Nast article has me missing one of our favorite destinations, Barcelona.  While there in 2017, we walked our feet off in typical fashion, dipping in and out of countless shops and cafes, making new friends along the way.  The people were so warm and welcoming, and always interesting.  The ingenuity of the people through their design of the simplest of mechanisms, was omnipresent throughout the city.  Suddenly a gate hinge was something to marvel at and take a photo of.  We saw many modern interiors that held a distinctive character through the clever use of natural materials.  They have a great design sense, overall. 

Inigo Bujedo-Aguirre

Having failed miserably at enjoying the tapas scene, lucky for me, our hotel happened to be behind one of the best veg-centered restaurants we have ever experienced, anywhere.  Not included in the list below is Teresa Carles’s restaurants.  We spent each morning at her light and airy Flax and Kale, where the atmosphere was stimulating and the healthy food was undeniably delicious.  Her namesake, Teresa Carles, was equally as fantastic for dinner.  The vibe was right, the service was friendly and attentive, and the food makes me wish that I could be transported back.  Wherever I have traveled since, and even throughout NYC, I have not experienced anything close to what they delivered.

Hoping to revisit sometime soon, here are some other restaurants we’ll be sure to hit:

The 34 Best Restaurants in Barcelona: 

https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/best-restaurants-in-barcelona

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The view in Miami

It was a quick trip to Miami, but very informative.  Brickell is a developing area flush with high rises and relatively new businesses.  It's VERY different from South Beach.  Home to Cipriani, Sexy Fish, and LPM to name a few, restaurant owners are investing in making this a worthy destination.  Based on what we saw while there, we know that Mamo will be a welcomed addition, and it's exciting to be a part of.  Here are a couple shots of the place, as demo has definitely begun...more to come....


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Construction Begins in Miami!

Tomorrow we head down to Brickell Miami, for our first on-site meeting with the contractor who will be responsible for creating, in real-life, what we have been designing during the past year; Mamo NYC's future sister restaurant, Mamo Miami.  It's been a long process, full of challenges from all sides, so we're really happy to finally kick this off, in person.  Brickell is a popular and fast developing area of Miami's mainland, filled with well-known restaurants like Cipriani and LPM, so we know we'll be in good company...  stay tuned for progress pics as construction continues!...  



  
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A welcomed addition to the neighborhood...

When Sogno Toscano opened around the corner last year, the value of their presence in our neighborhood was felt immediately.  It was a reminder of how important local shops and restaurants are to a community.  They are often reflective of the culture of the immediate area, but also reflect back upon it.  Without them, the entire area can dull, as we witnessed during the first months of the pandemic.  Sogno Toscano's bright, cheerful storefront filled with authentic Italian specialties is a nice introduction to a glowing interior, where friendly faces welcome you in to shop or dine.  Throughout the winter, they maintained a vibrant outdoor setting to enjoy a sip and a bite, many times with live music that could be heard blocks away.  We were so happy to see that they were included in the Shopkeeper’s best shops for 2021, and wish them all the luck!

https://www.theshopkeepers.com/2021-best-shops/

Sogno Toscano

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The Psychology of Restaurant Interior Design, Part 5, Architecture

A gorgeous, breathtaking space that diners flock to is every restaurant owner's dream.  As an architect or interior designer, however, it falls upon you to explain that a pretty interior (and exterior, for that matter) is only the tip of the iceberg.  Some of the most important elements of restaurant interior architecture, in fact, are meant to go unnoticed.  

The Most Important Element of Restaurant Interior Design

Like we discussed in an earlier installment of this series, restaurants worth their salt don't try to cater to everyone.  Instead, they have a very clear picture of who their target customer is.  For Jo Sampson, creative director of restaurant design studio Blacksheep, the customer is the most important factor in designing a bar or restaurant.  "How are we going to attract them, how are we going to give them an amazing experience and what's going to make them come back?"

The Pink Room, Gallery Restaurant at London's Sketch complex. Image: Via Tolila
With this firmly in mind, you can now start building your brand around customers' perception and the experience it will create for them. 

The Restaurant Design Narrative

Tom Strother is the co-founder and creative director of interior design firm Fabled Studio.  According to him, there are two things he initially considers when starting to design a restaurant. 

The first is the concept and story behind the design.  "This is important to us to make sure that there is a strong narrative that is carried through the details of the design, ensuring each detail plays its part but without feeling contrived or superfluous to the design."

In designing Margot in Covent Garden, for example, Strother echoed the fine Italian cuisine through fine Italian crafts and traditions, such as Palladian flooring.  Warm copper accents were also reminiscent of the copper pans "Nonna" (Italian for "grandma") used cooking pasta.

Copper accents at Margot are reminiscent of Nonna's pans.  Image: The Spaces
An important thing to do in order to crystallize and strengthen the narrative is to ask your client: "What do you do?" "Who are you?" and "Why are you doing it?"

Pearl Group's Jim Sullivan emphasizes how important it is to the restaurant's success to know yourself. "Restaurants fail because they have an identity crisis.  They don't know who they are."

What about trends?  Sampson prefers not to follow them, but to define them instead.  What does this mean?  "Research for concepts isn't based on what is out there now or what's current, as this will be dated by the time our work comes to fruition.  We stay one step ahead so our work has longevity."

The Other Side of Restaurant Interior Design: Operations

The second element, and equally important to diners' experience, is operations.  Strother asks important questions: "How do guests arrive at the restaurant?  What route does the food take from the kitchen to the guests' table and how is it delivered?

"If a restaurant doesn't work properly from a functionality point of view - it doesn't matter how beautiful it is, it will never be a success."

Sampson agrees: "The location of all the elements, from circulation spaces, to seating areas to the bar, all contribute to the operations of a space.  If people can't get a drink or the food is stone-cold, then the space fails, and that affects the business."

Here are some practical points to consider:

  • The general rule for space allotment is that the dining area takes up 60% of the space, while the kitchen, storage, and restrooms take up the remaining 40%. 
  • Spacing between tables should be enough to make it comfortable to move around.  However, this has different meanings depending on the type of restaurant.  If you're opening a fine dining establishment, 20 square feet per person is a good rule.  For fast-food restaurants, you'll only need 10 square feet per person.
Ruya Restaurant, Dubai. Fine dining restaurants require more space than fast-food establishments.  Image: Conran and Partners
  • Diners need to see and be seen by the staff, for obvious reasons: Diners should feel that their every need can be attended to at the soonest possible time, while staff need to be able to anticipate diners' needs.  This is an important consideration when balancing privacy and the openness of the layout. 
  • The current trend is to not have several stations and hostess desks, making for a more inclusive experience and smoother-flowing traffic.  However, there are undeniable benefits to having those tools at your staff's disposal - so if you're including them, make sure they're in areas that have the least customer traffic.  For example, don't put server stations near restrooms.  The center of the dining area is the ideal place for it. 
The server station at Eleven Madison Park is right in the center of the dining area. Image: Forbes
  • Speaking of restrooms: They must be easily locatable as asking for directions might be uncomfortable for diners.  If they are located behind walls or hallways, signs that are easy to see will be a big help.  Don't put them right beside the kitchen, either: Your operations might be extremely sanitary, but patrons will still think that the food might be dirty if the kitchen is right beside the restrooms.
  • Lighting, of course, also has several practical considerations aside from aesthetics.  They must be safe and low-maintenance, easy to control throughout the day, and must meet the highest energy standards possible. 
  • Traffic is one of the trickiest elements of restaurant interior design.  "We have to get you in quickly and serve you quickly, so flow for customer and staff is crucial," says Sullivan.  Unless you have a really large entrance, the hostess desk should always be to the side.  This allows customers to leave unhampered while you're assisting the ones that just arrived. 
Ambience 
Architecture also plays a big part in the ambience of restaurant interior design, and therefor diners' behaviors. 
  • Because all restaurants want to make a good first impression, the design of the restaurant's entrance is of course all-important.  However, it's also interesting to note how some establishments with multiple entrances create different, but similarly inviting experiences.  Diners at Mount Kisco's Winston who enter through the rear entrance are led past the glass-walled pastry kitchen, which offers an intimate invitation to the goodies that await. 
  • Low-tempo music, dim lights, and warm colors all invite customers to relax, linger, and order dessert, coffee, or an extra glass of wine.  You can encourage this behavior even further with seats that will keep patrons supported and comfortable over a long period of sitting.
The seats at Faith and Flower are very cozy. Image: LoveLuxeLife

Sources: 
Modern Restaurant Management
Westchester Magazine
Independent UK
Specifi
Freshome

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The Psychology of Restaurant Interior Design, Part 4: Acoustics

Of all the elements of restaurant interior design, acoustics probably needs the most delicate balancing.  Too loud and you'll irk diners who can't hear each other over their hors d'oeuvres; too quiet and guests will be uneasy worrying that the next table can hear everything they're saying.  What is the right level of restaurant acoustics?

When Restaurant Acoustics are Too Loud
In 2011, a Zagat survey of over 47,000 readers showed that restaurant noise is customers' second most common complaint, coming only after poor service.  

There are many causes of excessive noise:
  • Poorly planned architecture and interior design where noise generators and amplifiers face each other.
  • Using too many hard surfaces which amplify sound.
  • Open kitchens.
  • Live music
  • Crowded spaces in which patrons are too tightly packed together.
Untitled, New York.  Hard surfaces, open kitchens, and lack of tablecloths contribute to noise.  Image: Pablo Enriquez for The New York Times
Of course, if diners can't hear each other over the din, they resort to raising their voices, which in turn raises noise levels even further - this is called the Lombard Effect.  Sabato Sagaria, the chief restaurant officer for Union Square Hospitality Group, says that the art of conversation cannot be overvalued.  "People dine out to socialize."

Perhaps even more important: Loud noises actually distract diners from smelling and tasting their food to its full effect.  
The Lombard Effect is when people have to shout to be heard above the noise, making it even louder.  Image: Colorado Springs Gazette/Getty Images
Meyer Sound acoustic engineer Pierre Germain has the solution.  "You want to be able to have a pleasant dinner, where no one is shouting, but at the same time you want to feel like you're in a social environment.  It should sound like there's stuff happening around you, but you're not bombarded by it."

The perfect environment, therefore, should be similar to a gathering at home: There's carpeting, drapes, and table linen, all of which absorb some of the sounds, so you don't have to shout to be heard across the table.  If you're designing a more upscale restaurant, this shouldn't be a problem, as nice linen is the norm. 
W.A. Frost is one of Minnesota's most romantic restaurants.  Chair cushions and rugs help mute sound.  Image: CBS Minnesota
What else can be done? 
  • Consider whether you want an open kitchen or not.  If you do, have contingency plans for when it gets too loud. 
  • Booths with high walls can mute sound, especially if the backs are padded. 
  • Look into high ceilings, beams and porous acoustic plaster that absorb sound.
  • If you can afford it, consider investing in a microphone and speaker system that samples room noise and adjust sound levels accordingly. 
  • If road noise is a concern, you may need soundproof paneling for your walls and doors.
Slats of cedar help to reduce noise at the Four Horsemen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Image: Hiroko Masuike for the New York Times
Live music in the form of a piano player is also a simple, obvious solution.  Its elegant and sparse sound, coupled with a lower volume and slower tempo, are relaxing and encourage modulated tones.  Positioning the piano near the entrance will help set the tone immediately.

Keeping the lights on the warmer, dimmer side is another way of creating an atmosphere of intimacy and relaxation.  Like we mentioned in a previous article about restaurant lighting, relaxed patrons will tend to linger and order more food and drinks. 

Loud Isn't Always Bad
If you agree with the general consensus that most restaurants are too loud, then it may seem counterintuitive that some restaurant owners and chefs actually seek out the noise.  Why is this?  They believe that it signals that the establishment is popular, and that it produces a sense of conviviality and hospitality.

Although this is up for debate, there's evidence that a loud environment is actually profitable.  Hard Rock Cafe, for example, has the practice down to a science.  Just like bright lights, loud, fast music cause patrons to talk less, consume more, and leave sooner.  
Hard Rock Cafe isn't exactly conducive to intimate conversations.  Image: Wedding Wire
This strategy seems even more beneficial for bars.  A study on music in bars (McCarron and Tierney) found that people drink soft drinks faster when popular music is played at 88 decibels, significantly more than when it's played at a more reasonable 72 dB.  A study in France observed that patrons ordered more drinks when music is at 88-91 dB instead of the normal 72-75 dB.  

When Restaurant Acoustics are Too Quiet
On the other side of the spectrum, we can see why restaurant owners are partly justified for gravitating toward noise.  A too-quiet restaurant gives off the sense that nobody likes to go there.  If guests do come in, too little noise can actually be distracting, in that they can become hyper-aware of the sound of other diners' silverware and conversation. 

The right amount of noise also helps fill up lulls in conversation - again, because dining out is a social activity, anything a restaurant can do to keep interactions comfortable helps.  Background noise also creates a sense of privacy: If guests are unable to make out what other diners are talking about, they'll feel relaxed enough to carry on their own conversations. 

Here are some ideas to try: 
  • Install a fully open or partially open kitchen (the addition of delicious smells wafting into the dining area is a bonus).
  • Consider a piano player, especially in the evenings. 
  • Strategically place sneakers in walls of ceiling beams to provide just the right amount of background noise.

Sources:
Acoustic Sciences
Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association 
Popular Science
The New York Times
ScienceDirect
Bloomberg
Food52
BioMed Central
Industville

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The Psychology of Restaurant Interior Design, Part 3: Lighting

Le Corbusier, patron saint of architecture, design, and urban planning, has this lesson to impart to restaurant interior design projects (any design project, actually) “Light creates ambience and feel of a place, as well as the expression of a structure.”

There’s much to be said about how a space is constructed and what color paint is on its walls, and how both these things lend to creating a restaurant’s atmosphere. However, it’s also important to note that without light to see them, these things are essentially useless.

However, according to Raimundo Gaby, associate professor of business management at the Culinary Institute of America, lighting is the first thing that restaurant interior design gets wrong: Think about all the times you’ve walked into a dimly lit establishment and have had to hold up your phone to read your menu.


Besito in Chestnut Hill actually provides mini flashlights to their guests so they can read the menu. Image: The Boston Globe
Stephen Zagor, dean of business and management studies t the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, would go so far as to say that lighting is the most important element of interior design.

Types of Restaurant Lighting
There are three main types of lighting, divided according to their purpose:

Ambient Lighting – This is the general illumination of an environment. As its name suggests, it’s also responsible for a restaurant’s overall mood. Low lighting creates an intimate, upscale atmosphere, especially in a restaurant’s bar and lounge areas, where patrons are more apt at to lean close together.


ZONA Wine Bar and Restaurant, Budapest. Image: Remodelista
Bright lighting, on the other hand, produces a more brisk and lively mood. This type of lighting is well suited for more casual establishments like a pizza joint.

Task Lighting – This helps customers and employees perform tasks, like reading the menu, being able to clearly see the table setting and food, and cooking in the kitchen. In a place that’s generally low-lighted, a salad bar or buffet station needs task lighting to help it stand out; this is also helpful for illuminating pathways. It also helps with seeing reflections clearly in the restrooms’ mirrors.


The task lighting right above the tables is very apparent in ABC Kitchen Restaurant. Image: Style Junkies
Accent Lighting – More decorative than functional, accent lighting is used to draw attention to specific areas and objects to create visual interest. Paintings, sculptures, fountains, and bars are typically illuminated by accent lighting.

Accent lighting bring focus to the tree in the center of Fera in London, and the alcoves on either side. Image: Restaurant and Bar Design
How to Create Atmosphere and Perception with Restaurant Lighting
An upscale restaurant during dinner time should have warm-colored, low-intensity lighting. This creates a leisurely, intimate, and relaxed atmosphere. A pleasant mood is created using wall lighting, instead of light coming down directly from the ceiling. To make a space seem spacious, evenly distribute high-intensity lights.

Use color, but sparingly. Lighting can help reinforce branding, but using too many colors will put your restaurant at risk of looking like a nightclub or circus.

How Restaurant Lighting Affects Diners’ Behavior
Besides branding and targeting consistency, there are important distinctions between fast-food and upscale restaurants: influencing diners’ behavior.

During lunch hour at quick-service restaurants, for example, bright lighting helps increase customer turnover and facilitates traffic. This is especially helpful if you want to maximize the midday rush.


Hunter Gatherer, Shanghai. Image: Retail Design Blog
In general, bright lighting at fast food restaurants can also overstimulate guests and create a tendency to eat much more than they intended.

On the other hand, low, warm lighting in an upscale establishment creates a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere, inducing patrons to linger and increasing the chances that they’ll order dessert, coffee, or an extra glass of wine.


Low, warm lights create an intimate, relaxed atmosphere at Le Coucou. Image: TimeOut
Dinnertime is also rush hour — therefore, creating a relaxing mood through lighting is important to convincing guests to stay.

Another good example is the difference in restaurant interior design between McDonalds and Starbucks. The two chains serve demographics that have huge overlap, but you can see how the lighting reflects the intent of each: McDonalds is brightly lighted to stimulate customers and facilitate turnover, while Starbucks encourages guests to linger over coffee and pastry.


McDonalds restaurants are sleeker and more thoughtfully designed than before, but they still retain the same brightly lit interiors. Image: McDonalds EU

Starbucks cafes are always softly lit. Image: ARE Design Awards

Sources:  
Industville
Westchester Magazine
Webstaurant Store
LumaStream
Ledvance
POS Sector



The Psychology of Restaurant Interior Design, Part 2: Scent

You may have heard it said somewhere that you never really know the smell of your own kitchen. That’s fine if you’re a homeowner, but it’s a very different case if you run and/or manage a dining establishment. Scent, as a component of restaurant interior design, can influence not just diners’ opinions of your business, but also their spending habits.

Why Scent is Important
Smell is the most primal of our five senses; that is, smell is the most basic and primitive method of collecting information from our surroundings. As soon as your nose detects a smell, it triggers the olfactory neurons in the upper part of your nose, sending electrical impulses to a part of the brain called the olfactory bulb. These impulses are then passed along to surrounding areas, collectively known as the limbic system. The limbic system plays a major role in regulating mood, memory, behavior, and emotion. It’s also widely regarded as the primitive part of the brain, because it has been found in the brains of the very first mammals.

Scent, Memory, and Emotion
The sense of smell is very closely linked to memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. Think of certain foods you’ve eaten a lot as a child. If your mother often baked a lot of bread, passing a bakery may bring you back to afternoons spent in the kitchen of your childhood home, triggering happy, comfortable memories. On the other hand, you may hate broccoli today because its smell reminds you of all those battles of will waged at the dinner table. Any bakery owner worth their salt knows this: It’s why many bakeries are laid out similar to retail stores, with bread lining the walls and propped up on tables. Not only will the loaves tempt you with their beautiful, burnished surfaces, their aroma will also surround you. Many bakeries will even have burlap sacks of flour lying around for that homey effect.

The advantage of a bakery over a mere bread store, of course, is the smell of bread as it bakes in the oven.

Freshly baked bread evokes feelings of warmth and comfort. Image: Bourke Street Bakery

There are many scents that trigger similar responses in most people. Lavender, for example, relaxes the brain. Vanilla and chamomile reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Citrus and peppermint increase alertness.



There are many scents that trigger similar responses in most people. Lavender, for example, relaxes the brain. Vanilla and chamomile reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Citrus and peppermint increase alertness.
 

Crazy BBQ, Kiev. Image: Homedit

Using Scent in Restaurant Interior Design to Create Mindset and Behavior
Those silver plate domes you often see in movies depicting fine dining restaurants? Not only do they keep the food clean and create a sense of mystery and surprise, they also allow the food’s smell to build up and concentrate. As soon as the waiter lifts that dome, the scent of your food hits you in the face with its full strength. Cinnabon actually strategically places ovens near the front of its stores so the scent of baking cinnamon rolls can lure customers in. There’s also a good reason that Starbucks doesn’t allow people to bring in strong-smelling food. For a while, they even stopped serving sandwiches because they overwhelmed the smell of coffee.

Starbucks, Japan. Design: Kengo Kuma and Associates. Image: Masao Nishikawa

Scent is Worth the Investment
If buying restaurant scents sounds outrageous to you, it’s worth noting that the right smells can increase food sales up to 300%. According to a study by the University of Paderborn, scents increased impulse buying by 6%, buying intention by 14.8%, and the length of a customer’s stay by 15.9%. An open kitchen design is another solution. Because there are no walls that separate the kitchen from the dining area, the smells from the cooking food will waft freely over to the diners. There are other benefits to this, as well: Providing patrons with a behind-the-scenes view makes the atmosphere more personal, and conveys a sense of transparency. Having fewer walls also makes the restaurant appear larger and more airy.


An open kitchen design is another solution, with many benefits besides scent. Image: Anders Husa


Sources:
Modern Restaurant Management
Westchester Magazine
The Wall Street Journal
REIMA AirConcept
Business Insider
Fifth Sense
Psychology Today

The Psychology of Restaurant Interior Design

Part 1: Color

Restaurant interior design is a precise science that aims to tap the diner’s every senses just right. Successful restaurants know exactly who their target clientele are — it’s how they’re able to conceive and build a carefully engineered experience around their needs and desires.

Sight is almost always the first means by which you gather information — and make judgments — on an establishment.

Restaurants know this, and they take great pains to use it to send the right information.

Color, for example, is a powerful tool for influencing customer behavior.

In restaurant interior design, the color wheel can be divided into three sections, according to its effect on appetite: Strong Stimulants, Mild Stimulants, and Suppressants.


1.) Strong Appetite Stimulants


If you’ve ever thought that almost all restaurants use red in some form or shade in their design scheme, well, you’re not imagining things. It’s a well-established fact that red is the most effective color in stimulating the appetite.

Why is this? Red is abundant in nature, and the brain’s reptilian response to it is a carryover from the days when our ancestors were still hunters and gatherers. Red, especially bright reds, would usually signal energy-dense, sugar-packed fruit or vegetables.


That couch, though. Image: Aubrie Pick

Orange and yellow are also appetite stimulants. Yellow is associated with happiness, which is usually associated with a full stomach. When you see yellow, therefore, your brain secretes serotonin in anticipation of the food you’re about to eat.


Orange, on the other hand, elicits feelings of warmth and comfort — emotions that are also tied to the security of an abundant table.

2.) Mild Appetite Stimulants


Green and turquoise are mild stimulants. You might argue that green should be a strong stimulant because many leafy vegetables are green, and you’d be partly correct. Green signals edible, benign, non-poisonous plants. However, these plants are merely fibrous, not sugar-packed like most colorful fruit, which provide a jolt of energy.

These days, green is also associated with health. This is unsurprising, given that, again, most green things are fibrous and don’t have sugar.


3) Appetite Suppressants


Lastly, black, brown, purple, and blue are appetite suppressants. Research suggests that this is because these colors don’t exist in nature — that is, not in the form of food.

Long ago, blue, black, and purple also signaled something that was either rotten or poisonous, which our ancestors learned to avoid by sight. Like our brains’ response to red, orange, and yellow, this is also a carryover from those days.


The Opposite House Hotel, Beijing. Image: Kengo Kuma and Associates