Interior Design - Key to Success

Today, a person goes to a restaurant not merely to satiate his appetite but also for its ambience. A restaurant is no more about the cuisines and the chefs but also about its atmosphere and vibes. Interior decoration, besides good food and service, plays significant role, today, in attracting customers. The restaurant interior impacts customer psychology and the duration of their stay, which prompts them to order more or less. Ashok Malkani views the restaurant scenario and finds that the F&B outlets’ exteriors and interiors play a magnetic role in beguiling the customer to visit the place. Seating options, light, music and architecture, which constitute the restaurants’ décor, plays a big part in the success of the eating out place.  

Planning an appetizing menu does not necessarily ensure popularity of a restaurant. The looks of the F&B outlet also plays a significant role in the popularity of the place. While most of the entrepreneurs planning to start a restaurant, or even those who are already in the business, compete with others in terms of location, menu planning, prices and promotions, very little attention is paid to interior design for increasing clientele. They don’t seem to realise that restaurant interior design impacts customer psychology which not only prompts them to order more or less but also influences the duration of their stay in the restaurant. 
The general concept of the connoisseurs is that interiors affect the flow of the customers. Architecture and design are important for the success of a restaurant.
Sunaina Manerker, General Manager- Grand Mercure Mysore, elicits, “Interior design & the ambience of the restaurant play a huge role in the customer flow in the current market where a new outlet emerges everyday with unique & modern interiors. Along with food, beverage & service, ambience is something a guest looks for in the social media age. The restaurant needs to look as good as the food.

“The architecture & design are the first elements that catch the guest’s eye. The design consists of various accessories like – proper lights, tableware, napkins & table centerpiece. The guest can take a decision of dining in that particular restaurant just by looking at the décor & ambience. How do you convince the guest you serve great food if he has never dinned at your restaurant? The ambience helps you drive guests into your restaurant. Once he feels comfortable sitting in that particular restaurant & orders, it’s the food & service which make the restaurant a success.”

Shail Barot, Director - Vie Hospitality, says, “Owning a restaurant and attracting customers not only requires good food but also a well thought out interior design. They say you should not judge a book by its covers, but people do exactly that. The initial reason someone decides to enter your restaurant could be due to the fact it looks interesting as they walk by it. It is thus incredibly important to put in the time to choose an interior design that will make an impact on customers. After all, you want people to post about it on their social media handles and going back more than once.”

 He adds, “In order to attract customers for your restaurant, its interior design must be top notch to provide the experience that people crave. If your interior design is boring, the chances of a customer coming back will decrease, even if the food served is delicious.”
Sapnil Kalkar- General Manager, Howard Johnson by Wyndham Bengaluru Hebbal, opines, “The design and architecture may not directly influence in the success of the restaurant, but will certainly add value to its success.  A good design coupled with great service and quality will certainly lead to success.” 

He further says, “The interiors of any dining location may it be theme based or part of a large food court – set up of for that matter as an open air venue – all add to the entire dining experience. Since food is largely a sensory experience, the interiors which add to the ambience, increase your dining pleasure. This, in turn, increases the appeal of the restaurant resulting in the guests revisiting the place.”   

Cuisine or Interiors?

Since the first thing that your customer notices as he/she walks in, the importance of interiors cannot be ignored. To stand out in an already overcrowded industry you have to provide not only good food but also several other things. So what, according to the industry, is more important – cuisine or interiors?

Shail avers, “The two are actually linked to each other and both aspects are equally important towards the success of a restaurant. Interior design plays a big part in the customers’ behaviors, such as slow-tempo music, dim lights, and warm colours, which invite customers to relax and linger, making them order a dessert, coffee, or an extra glass of wine post their meal. Your interior designing theme will decide your customer's mood, that mood will decide their selection of cuisine presented in your menu. The atmosphere and interior décor is just as important as the food.”

Sunaina states, “When you consider a 5-star or luxury hotel, cuisine, service & décor are some of the things that cannot be ignored. Food is always the top priority for any restaurant but to pull the guest into the restaurant, ambience plays a major role. For a person having lower spending power wouldn’t give much importance to the décor but every now and then even he/she would like to dine at a fancy place.” 

Sapnil, however, is of the opinion that cuisine is the core of any dining experience “and that fact will rarely change. As far as my experience is concerned, I have never heard of a location where crowds have visited to see interiors and not paid attention to cuisine. Yes no one can debate that if the interiors are well done the feedback improves and adds to the experience.”

Basics of Interior Designing 

In this age of instagram, the interior design acts as a silent salesman for your outlet. Today, everyone wants to post where they have dined and if the images of your restaurant are pleasing to the eye it will entice their followers to your restaurant. So what are the basics that should be followed in designing the interiors to attract customers?   
Shail elaborates “There are several aspects to interior décor. Some of them are:
Photo-friendly design – It is a well-known fact that we live in an era where people love to Instagram their food and social media is incredibly important. This popularity can be used to your advantage when considering the interior design of your restaurant. Think about your interior wisely, and consider if the setup and décor chosen will induce people to take photos of the restaurant. When one person posts a photo of your restaurant, all of their followers will see it, which in turn can influence others to visit the restaurant, thereby attracting customers.

Setting the atmosphere – One of the reasons you choose a particular restaurant is due to the atmosphere it provides. Perhaps you enjoy the colours used, or simply the theme. A good restaurant atmosphere requires the appropriate tables, artwork, and centerpiece décor, among other design aspects to be fine-tuned and matching with the theme of the restaurant. This also means that the restaurant is well maintained and looked after. There isn’t even the slightest chance of pests due to neglecting the cleanliness. 

The unique little details – A one-of-a-kind restaurant is far more likely to attract a customer than one that looks like any others. Do not settle for ordinary and think out of the box with how you want your restaurant to look. The more unique you choose to be, the more people will appreciate and remember it in the future. Simply put, do not be afraid to experiment with your interior design.

Location of elements - The location of all the elements, f r o m 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. 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. Diners need to be seen by the staff so that their needs can be attended to in the soonest possible time. This is an important consideration when balancing privacy and the openness of the layout.”
Sapnil says, “No matter what the size of the restaurant is, some basics have to be kept in mind to ensure that intended impression is created in the minds of guests. Some of the aspects that are vital in restaurant designing are:

Entrance - no matter how large or small the location, the entrance will define the path forward. As they say- you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Waiting Area - this space will decide how we attend to our customers, while they are waiting for a seat or want to have a look at our menu. We can say this space defines the core of how we will provide for the services expected by our guests and has to be designed in a way that guests are comfortable waiting for their queries being answered.

The Bar - they are the modern theatres- adding to the “spirits “of your dining space. The design element of bar area has evolved and come a long way and, in some cases, occupy more importance then the kitchen of a restaurant. A well designed bar, with right effects, can elevate the look of the restaurant to a different level.

Kitchen - the soul & heart- in today’s time, the kitchens have moved inside the restaurant and they have become the nerve center of attraction. Modern kitchens are part of restaurant design and add to the ambience and design element of the restaurant

Wash Rooms - they define the standard of any operation, a well-designed one is always appreciated and even if not spoken about.

Dining Area - the mood setter- this area will define the entire visual experience. A WOW effect here and our guests remember it for a life time.”

Sunaina says, “The first rule would be, décor should match the food you serve. For instance, La Uppu, a multi cuisine restaurant at Grand Mercure Mysore has elements f r o m around the world. The restaurant also has various authentic local dishes & Mysore Thali. Thus it has a wall dedicated for local arts & elements which indicate the local culture. Other parts of the restaurant have, in complete contrast, have a very modern & different look, like the colours used in the interior & the international concept of Al Fresco dining area.

“The second rule would be, décor should not overpower the food. The intention is to strengthen the sense of taste. When the colours of the restaurant are too strong, the visual sense becomes stronger & though the food might be great, the guest would not be able to taste the flavours completely.
“The next rule is comfort. The guest needs to feel as comfortable as possible, not just through the ambience, lights, food & service but also ergonomically. The seating arrangements in the restaurant should definitely look good but should also be comfortable for the guest so that he/she feels like staying back longer & ordering more.”

Furniture and Accessories 

Since the objective of a restaurateur is that the guest should feel comfortable and linger longer it is necessary to pay attention to furniture and accessories too. 

Sapnil states, “A comfortable chair, table of right height and size, the lighting, lamp shades, installations, murals are part of the design aspect. One should keep in mind the comfort aspect first and then the design element. An odd size table, uncomfortable chair or any such aspect will certainly ruin the experience.”

Sunaina too is of a similar view. She adds, “Comfortable furniture & accessories like table centerpieces, tableware & napkins have a significant impact on a guest’s perception of comfort at a restaurant. Our restaurants at Grand Mercure Mysore boast of different elements depending on the outlet. The Al Fresco dining area has a very relaxed furniture & look to it. Whereas the covered area of the restaurant has more of fine dining furniture & sofas. The poolside restaurant has very comfortable & relaxed furniture along with sunbeds for a much more casual experience”

Shail avers, “A restaurant needs to be mindful and not pack tables into its dining area. When designing the floor plan of a restaurant on paper, a restaurateur may think you can fit a certain number of tables into the dining room. However, what works on paper doesn’t work as well in reality. Granted, having plenty of seats to accommodate customers is one of the main aims of a successful restaurant, but people’s comfort should be kept at the forefront.

“An aspect that is often overlooked because it’s generally taken for granted, a restaurant’s furniture setup is something that should be taken into account because ultimately it forms part of a customer’s dining experience.”

Music and Aroma

Sound and fragrance play a significant role in human psychology. Thus attention has also to be paid to music and the aroma. 

Sapnil states, “Aroma/smell add to the sensory experience and food being one of them, hence the pleasant aroma will lead to one’s feel good factor. Ideally the aroma/smell should not be over powering otherwise it will interfere with the sensory notes of food, but a mild one or in some case citrus/coffee will add to the experience of the area. Nowadays most of the places use electrical diffusers which are fixed on the walls/AHU’s or we still have the stick diffusers which can be placed in the corners of the location and they keep on spreading the aroma in the area. We currently use a tailor made aroma for our public areas and restaurant which derives its inferences f r o m spices.

“As far as music is concerned, it adds to the experience. The only factor to remember is that it should not be over powering unless, if the establishment is a pub/bar or music is essential part of the experience. Live music has been known to add value to the dining experience. At Howard Johnson by Wyndham Bengaluru Hebbal we play theme based music which adds value to our ambience and experience.”

Sunaina declares, “Restaurant music not only lightens up the mood but also covers the noise f r o m other tables. A fine dining restaurant will always have soft music playing. The genre of the music depends on the time of the day. Breakfast time generally has calming or uplifting music, lively music during lunch/ brunch or happy hours & a dynamic mix or jazz during dinner. This is the same format our restaurants at Grand Mercure Mysore follow.
“Smell or scent of the restaurant has been identified as one of the subtle marketing tactics for increasing footfall in the outlet. Scent marketing has been used in various product outlets for promotion like perfume, cookie shops, candles etc. We have seen a similar usage of scent marketing in restaurants which has worked out well for creating brand identity. We are yet to start this technique in our restaurants.”

Shail cautions, “Before you turn on that restaurant background music, familiarise yourself with the rules surrounding PPL license (Phonographic Performance Ltd.). You can’t just play your own playlist, turn on satellite radio, or even hire a live cover band. You may need to first pay licensing fees. Once this is done, the fun part begins: Planning the type of music. When you set a relaxing mood with soft restaurant background music, you’ll also increase guest satisfaction. Your restaurant background music should stay in the background if food is your main focus.
“A study revealed that when music is too loud, guests can’t perceive sweetness and saltiness very well. Their overall enjoyment of eating and drinking is literally drowned out by too-loud restaurant background music. Music choice is a personal thing. But the best advice for restaurant background music is to ignore your personal tastes and play to the preferences of your guests. That way, they’ll be singing your praises while they order more.

“Smell is the most primal of our five senses. The sense of smell is very closely linked to memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. There are smells that can change a person’s perspective of a room. Apple and cucumber scents, for example, make a room feel bigger and more airy. Barbecue smoke, on the other hand, makes a room stuffy and feel smaller than it actually is.”

Diverse Interiors 

It is believed that the clientele for different restaurants like fine dine, casual and QSRs differ, hence the concept of interiors for each of them has to be different It would depend on factors like your audience, your price range and the type of food that you intend to build your brand around. 
Shail elaborates, “Just as every artist finds a different path for each project, developing a restaurant concept is very personal to each restaurateur. While there’s never any clear cut strategy that works for everyone every time, there are a handful of basic guidelines you can use to keep you on track. Certain service styles are often accompanied by specific etiquette, such as dress code. Most importantly, you need to make sure that customers know what to expect when they arrive at your restaurant in order to help avoid awkwardness.
“Your restaurant’s identity should be consistent and harmonious to create a comfortable atmosphere. Restaurant concept consistency is twofold: it needs to be cohesive, and it needs to remain constant. This means that all the different aspects of your establishment need to have some common thread. And once you’ve established a menu and style you’re happy with, it’s important to stick with it. While seasonal changes can be a great way to keep things fresh, the overall tone of your restaurant should stay the same, so that returning customers can know what to expect, give accurate recommendations to their friends, and enjoy the experience again and again.”

Sunaina iterates, “Different type of restaurants need different formats of interior design. Though design plays a very important role either way, a fast food joint can’t look like a fine dine restaurant. It will drive your right customers away. A coffee shop should look more like a place where you hang out with friends, work on your laptop or just have casual coffee meetings & nothing formal; whereas fine dining restaurants are for families, business meetings and more formal occasions where you dress up for. A pub on the other hand has loud music & darker interiors.”

Sapnil adds, “The design of the restaurant defines the kind of outlet it is- fine dine, QSR, casual. The design process will define the look and feel and hence it will be decide based on the kind of outlet we intend to open. Any mismatch here and our guests will misinterpret us. It is important that we finalise the details of designing during the conceptual stage, which will ensure that the look and feel of the establishment is in line with its offerings and position.    

Rise of Vegetarianism
Vegans around the world commemorated the creation of the “V” word in November. World Vegan Day was launched on Nov 1, 1994. The day begins the Wor  ... Read More
Food Trends of 2020
In an age when the diner is very conscious of the food he consumes, the ingredients being used and the preparation methods in restaurant kitchens, the  ... Read More
The Delicious Syrup of Substance
Maple syrup is definitely a product of Mother Nature and it has a very unique profile. It is a syrup, which is generally prepared from the xylem sap o  ... Read More
Growing Love for Wines
Changing tastes of Indians in their drinking preferences has resulted in changing fortunes of the Indian wine industry. The indigenous wine industry i  ... Read More