what makes a good restaurant atmosphere
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

When thinking of ways to improve your restaurant that don’t include the menu and service, consider the restaurant ambiance. Dining out is a holistic experience, so let’s see what makes a good restaurant atmosphere and how you can achieve it.

What Is Ambiance in a Restaurant?

Dining in a restaurant is much more than just eating a good meal. While the quality of the food is crucial, people enjoy going out to eat because of the overall experience, which includes the kind of music they can hear in the background or how the food is plated.

Restaurant ambiance or atmosphere refers to elements like décor, lighting, colors, seating, and such, that make up the dining experience besides the food.

Please note that we are using the words “ambiance” and “atmosphere” interchangeably in this article.

What Is the Importance of Good Ambiance in a Restaurant?

Before we look at what makes a good restaurant atmosphere, let’s see why you should invest time and resources into crafting a unique, pleasant ambiance.

Strengthen your branding

What makes a restaurant successful, among other things, is how cohesive its branding is. Restaurant branding is more than just a logo and brand colors. It comprises the entire restaurant experience, including the atmosphere.

Depending on the type of restaurant you own, your décor will change, as will the music, dining room layout, and all other elements of the restaurant ambiance.

For example, a funky bistro in Brooklyn will probably have booth seating and eclectic music while a high-end restaurant on the Upper East Side will go for classic table setting and understated background music.

Attract new customers on social media

We live in an age where what makes a great dining experience also involves how Instagrammable and shareable the meal and décor is.

If you invest in good lighting, cute décor elements, plants, and attractive food plating, customers are more likely to want to snap photos and post them on social media while they’re at your restaurant.

This will lead to other people seeing the photos and adding your restaurant to your must-visit list. Bonus points if you encourage customers to tag you on social media whenever they post a photo.

Make customers want to come back

If you visited a nice ambiance restaurant where the food was good, the service was impeccable, and the atmosphere was top-notch, wouldn’t you want to come back? Exactly.

A good restaurant atmosphere increases the chances of turning one-time visitors into regulars and unofficial promoters of your restaurant.

Set the mood and help customers enjoy the experience

A good ambiance restaurant is going to make customers feel comfortable and at ease, so they can enjoy the time spent there, whether that is alone, on a date, with co-workers, or with friends and family.

If customers have a good time at your restaurant, they will undoubtedly return and bring other people with them too.

What Makes a Good Restaurant Atmosphere?

1. Cohesive design and décor

The way you choose to design and decorate your restaurant will say a lot about your brand identity, and it’s what will draw customers through the doors again and again.

From an eye-catching entrance to an interior that reflects your brand, it’s good to stick to a theme when decorating your restaurant.

The furniture, color of the walls, artwork, greenery, and such should all be in tune with the theme you choose to create a cohesive look.

Materials and colors that mix well together will create a sense of harmony that is pleasant to the human eye. As such, customers will love to spend time at your restaurant.

For example, if you want your restaurant to be a place where people come to destress and feel closer to nature in the middle of the city, use natural wood for the furniture and decorations, include comfortable seating like hammocks and bean bags, and add a lot of plants.

2. Seating and layout

The way you structure your dining room layout also contributes to the qualities of a good restaurant. Allow enough room between tables so customers don’t feel stifled, and you don’t accidentally run into a table while you’re carrying food.

Think of the type of seating you want to offer. Booths create a more intimate dining experience, while counter seating is more casual and suitable for bars and pubs, and communal seating encourages a shared experience.

A mix of multiple seating types gives you more flexibility to be able to accommodate a variety of customers, from singles looking for a quick bite to eat to large groups.

3. The right music

As much as you might think that customers don’t pay attention to restaurant ambiance sounds, the truth is the right type of music is going to get noticed by most.

Instead of settling for generic music, choose a playlist that complements the food and your cuisine. For example, if you own a Mexican restaurant, traditional Mexican music is going to work much better than a generic pop playlist.

Believe it or not, your choice of music can also influence how much time customers spend in the restaurant.

Louder, faster music will make them eat faster, which will increase table turnover, while quieter, slower music will encourage them to spend more time at your restaurant, which might increase the check value.

4. Lighting

Lighting is a big part of what makes a good restaurant atmosphere. Your lighting should be consistent with the décor and music to contribute to the overall ambiance that you’re trying to put forward.

Just as with music, bright lights will favor faster eating while darker, orange lights create a cozy atmosphere that encourages people to stay longer.

Bright lights also go well with minimalist furniture and a more modern-looking restaurant, while metallic, dark lights fit pubs or bars.

5. Food presentation

You could serve the most delicious food in your area, but if you don’t put some thought into how you plate and present it, customers won’t be enticed to try it.

As we’ve mentioned above, today’s foodie enjoys taking photos of their food, so give them something to photograph by experimenting with food plating types and techniques.

Play around with color, textures, height, and garnishes to create a dish that will make customers fall in love at first glance.

If you also deliver food, make sure your online menu contains plenty of photos of your dishes, to help customers decide faster.

10 things that make a good restaurant: photos in menu

Check out this video tutorial to learn how easy it is to create an online menu featuring mouthwatering photos and attractive descriptions:

6. Quality service

Customer service is a crucial part of the dining experience. To ensure nothing slips through the cracks, follow the 12 steps of service:

  1. Greeting
  2. Bringing the menus
  3. Serving beverages
  4. Answering questions and making suggestions
  5. Taking the order
  6. Checking in
  7. Clearing the table
  8. Offering coffee and dessert
  9. Bringing the check
  10. Thanking the guests
  11. Asking for a review (optional)
  12. Bussing the table for the next party

Train your employees to be friendly, polite, and knowledgeable, and insist on problem-solving and dealing with rude guests to be prepared for any kind of situation.

7. Handy technology

What makes a good restaurant atmosphere goes beyond music and décor. It gets into the nitty gritty of what customers hate the most in restaurants: waiting and getting the wrong order.

You can prevent both of those things by offering a robust set of tools such as the ones included for free in the GloriaFood online ordering system:

  • Table reservation system, so customers won’t have to wait for a free table.
  • Food pre-order system, so busy guests can order their food in advance when booking a table.
  • QR code menu, so people can order and pay for their food the moment they sit down at the table, without waiting for a server.

Get started with all of these features and more by setting up online ordering in just 10 minutes:

Improve the restaurant atmosphere with robust restaurant technology Enable table reservations, pre-orders, and QR code ordering with GloriaFood

8. Events and live entertainment

Spice up your restaurant’s ambiance and give customers a fun night by organizing an event, party, or hiring live entertainers.

From costume parties to quiz nights, karaoke, cooking shows or classes, stand-up, or sports viewing parties, anything that can break the routine will contribute to your restaurant’s atmosphere.

Prepare a bunch of fun surprises for the attendees, such as contests and giveaways where they can win gift baskets or discount coupons at your restaurant.

Closing Thoughts

What makes a good restaurant atmosphere will ultimately depend on your restaurant type, concept, and theme. With that in mind, there are a few key factors that you should work on to improve the ambiance: décor, layout, music, lighting, food presentation, service, technology, and entertainment.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She creates guides and resources designed to help restaurants grow their presence online and boost sales.

She has been featured on the Oracle Food and Beverage Blog and wrote for Search Engine Journal, Clutch, Sender, Venngage, Quickbooks, and many more.

Find me on LinkedIn.