Restaurant Design Psychology

Satisfying growling stomachs is just the beginning. The more emotionally fulfilling a restaurant is, the more we crave a return visit. Guests want to feel in control and comfortable as they walk into your space. In just a few seconds, your guests will interpret the kind of experience they’ll have.

Start with the Overall Feeling

Find three adjectives to describe how the dining experience should feel. A Mexican restaurant might go for “spicy”, “exciting”, and “fun”. This could lead guests toward feeling like adventurous travelers. A refined establishment may go for “intimate”, “elevated”, and “romantic”. This concept nudges guests toward date night ambience. Everything that flows from a clear starting point informs diners why they’re there.

Engage All Five Senses

You’re the food expert. So yes, taste needs to lead. Yet every other sense you engage can either make a guest happy and comfortable or disconnected and even (yikes!) annoyed.

The Eyes

In one scan,  guests should feel like they belong – that this was a great choice! What’s visible as they travel through your restaurant or sit down? Every table should look like the best one in the house.

Pleasant, uniform lighting that’s not too bright or too dark keeps things pleasing. Make it appropriate for the mood you’re creating. Low lighting creates a feeling of intimacy. A spotlight at a table defines a guest’s territory, inspiring a sense of control and belonging.

The psychology of color is also important. Golds and blacks add sophistication. Browns make a space feel comfortable and natural. Reds and yellows add warmth and stimulate the appetite.

The Ears

Watch out for extremes. A space that’s too quiet or too loud creates discomfort. When people can talk comfortably and hear one another, they stay longer to socialize and spend more. If it’s too quiet, guests feel a lack of privacy when talking at their table.

Think about kitchen noise – is it a good thing? Do you want people to feel part of the action or is it merely a distraction?

Music helps regulate our mood and encourages the brain to release dopamine. Tempo and volumes can be adjusted to change the pace of service, dining, and the vibe of the room. Instrumental tones can be a good choice as some diners get distracted by lyrics.

The Nose

Smell is often the sense linked closely to memory – from the psychological comfort of a relative’s homemade desserts to exotic spices that remind us of a travel adventure.

Adding positive smells to your environment can make people feel calm and content. You’ll want to neutralize odor by adding filters and venting. Clean citrus scents can help with those that linger, like seafood, cheese, and garlic. For total control, scents can now be purchased to adjust the mood.


How do the glassware, linens, menu, and even the bill feel in the hand? Is a guest’s shoulder brushing someone else’s at a communal table? The closer people are to one another, the more energy there is. That can be good if you want guests to socialize.

Temperature comes into play too. When you eat in a place without air conditioning, you know that the way our skin feels has a huge impact on how we feel overall.

Green Things Up

According to Naturalist Interiors, “Plants can help with mental and physical health, calming emotions and reducing stress. There is a growing movement around biophilic design – designing environments around nature that benefit people’s health and well-being.” So, add plants, natural textures, or even a beautiful wall garden.

Having an outdoor space relaxes guests, offering a feeling of being at one with nature. Why not guide guests’ eyes to the best views on your property? For a patio enclosure, this can be accomplished with a solid vinyl wall to block out a less-appealing parking lot. Then window views can be created with large sections of clear vinyl on other enclosure walls. Feel free to ask one of our experts about catering to every sense. Because feeding a sense of overall well-being from food to an enclosed patio enclosure is what true hospitality is all about.