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.

Touch

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.

Gnat’s Landing, Statesboro, GA

a’Verde, Cary, NC


Created by Top Chef alum Katsuji Tanabe, this upscale Mexican restaurant brings fresh, vibrant, delicious, and fun flavors to the table. Leaning into North Carolina ingredients, a’Verde wants to be “your downtown restaurant closer to home.” As you listen to a lively music playlist, consider menu hits like Grandma’s Cornbread with honey truffle butter, guac with optional crickets (yes, really!) to add crunch, the lobster ceviche tostada, the famed brussels sprouts, mojo chicken, and more. Active in the community, their giving focus includes everything from youth organizations to fighting hunger and cancer research.

Chef Tanabe has the energy and passion to bring the WOW factor. That includes turning a
covered patio into a patio enclosure for 45 guests, plus furry friends. Our exterior enclosure drop
curtains for this space extend the a’ Verde patio season to be up to 12 months long. Everything
was carefully measured to work around the angled beams of the existing structure. And, the
brown vinyl was chosen to match the beam color, welcoming in the daylight in style.

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Restaurants that Feed Imagination


Some restaurants add a big helping of awe to a meal, taking normal dining to fantastical. Eat at any one of them and you’re part of the action.

Eat-u-tainment

Talk about Instagram worthy, some restaurants come with servers dressed as Robin Hood and
Spiderman. They get their tiki on, or they freeze the 50’s and 60’s forever. Disney offers movie-
themed restaurants based on favorites like Star Wars and the Cars. And in Colorado Springs,
you can eat inside a real airplane. One-of-a-kind experiences like these create stories about
food and fun that last for a lifetime.

Immersive Sizzle in the U.S.

Travel around the country to check out the weird, wild, and wonderful.

North Dakota and Minnesota — Space Aliens Grill and Bar surrounds diners with alien
sculptures and a 30-foot dome that offers a view of space.

Nevada — At Heart Attack Grill, servers dress up as nurses — your first inkling that the menu
here isn’t doctor approved. Fries are cooked in lard. And as you can imagine, the burgers have
quite a lot of bacon piled on top.

Colorado — Casa Bonita, called the “Greatest Show in Denver,” is home to 30 attractions that
include gorillas, a cave, a 30-foot waterfall, and pirates.

California —The Stinking Rose is themed around one ingredient — garlic. Here, they serve
more than 3,000 pounds a month. Try 40 Clove Garlic Chicken and garlic ice cream with
chocolate sauce.

Tennessee, Texas, Colorado — The Aquarium Restaurant is a seafood restaurant with a
200,000-gallon aquarium. “Mystic Mermaid” shows during the month feature mermaids
swimming to music in the tanks.

Texas — How about a laundromat that doubles as a burger joint? You’ll find that at Harvey
Washbanger’s in College Station.

Missouri — Since the 1960’s, a train theme has delighted guests in Kansas City at Fritz’s
Railroad Restaurant with a train that delivers your order right to the table.

Florida — In EPCOT’s World Nature area, the Garden Grill dining room slowly rotates to offer a
special look at the Living with the Land attraction below. All Ears says, “This restaurant is also a
character dining meal, so

Global Experiences

Sublimotion in Spain is a high-end Mediterranean dining concept located in the Hard Rock
Hotel. Guests wear VR headsets to take virtual tours of the world while they eat. By the way,
entrance tickets are edible.

Eatily is a chain of Italian fantasy destinations inspired by the great bazaars of Istanbul. This
Disneyland for foodies offers between 50,000 and 170,000 square feet of Italian immersion at each location. You can buy an espresso, shop for cookbooks, and an endless number of food
items. Then, twirl your fork around a pasta lunch and grab more delicacies to take home.

Cat people, rejoice! Believe it or not, there are 16 cat cafes in Tokyo where you can pet furry
friends while you nosh on your meal.

Inspired?

You may not want to add swimming mermaids or cats to your restaurant, but what if you:

  • Add some kind of live show monthly?
  • Come up with a one-ingredient menu for an evening?
  • Have your servers dress for a holiday?
  • Invite a sculptor to display work around your outdoor patio for a week?

A Down to Earth Idea

Remember that adding awe to a meal can sometimes be as easy as offering your guests a clear
view of a beautiful sunset. If you’d thinking about an outdoor patio enclosure, our experts love
being a sounding board. For a perfect sunset view, ask about the largest clear window for
motorized shades, MaxView.

Magerks Pub, Horsham PA

John Dolaway set out to offer the best cheesesteak outside of Philly when he opened Magerks. According to John, the secret is balancing the steak and cheese with a roll that has a crusty outside and a soft center. He’s done exactly that at every Magerks Pub. You’ll feel the Philadelphia brotherly love whenever you eat here. That’s especially true on Eagles Sundays with live DJs and at watch parties for big home team games. Besides the cheesesteak, crave-able eats include the Mediterranean board, maple bacon and dry rub wings, fried pickles, and firecracker nachos.

The second-story upstairs loft stands at the ready for parties and groups. We’re partial to their enclosed patio too. The materials we used for their custom patio enclosure are the toughest available. They’re manufactured and welded together to stand up to temperature variance between the cold outside and any warmth Magerks dials up inside. In this photo, you’ll notice the fire pit and portable patio heaters. Winter tip: you’ll want to keep portable heaters on solid, level ground at least 3 feet away from any combustible materials. Stay safe and warm this January! Let us know how we can help. 

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Taking the Short, Sweet Menu Plunge

Menu length can be a hotly debated topic. Some bigger restaurant chains, for instance, would say go large. That way, there’s something for everyone from kale nibblers to steak lovers. Regulars may also feel like there’s something new to try. 

It’s Tempting to Edit

There’s a case to be made for a streamlined menu though. Starting with labor. Prep time goes down, as well as the chance for kitchen staff errors. There’s also less food waste for you and the planet with a tighter menu that can be tracked more easily. 

Table turnarounds also happen faster. Not only do guests choose their orders more quickly, but kitchen and wait staff get into a faster rhythm as well. What’s more, this leaner menu approach helps you source more fresh, local ingredients vs. keeping food frozen.

Reducing Customer Overwhelm 

According to The Restaurant Times, “Customers spend an average of 109 seconds looking at the menu before deciding what to eat. This is the window you have to sell your most profitable dish to your customers. Doing so is very hard when there are too many options.” When the menu overwhelms, customers often choose something safe and less profitable. A less focused menu may also make it harder for your restaurant to leave a clear, lasting impression. You want to make it easy for guests to tell friends why they should try you. 

Short & Sweet Menu Design

Work with a designer to place your most profitable offerings on the most visible parts of your menu. Think about the golden triangle, which BookMyOrder says is to go where your customers’ eyes go first, “People first tend to focus on the center of the page, then move their eyes to the top right, and lastly to the top left in a triangle pattern.” In other words, keep what you want guests to order most at the center or top of the menu. Also remember, fewer choices leave you room to add photography of your best dishes for both paper and online menus. 

Small Can Be Exciting

A short menu doesn’t have to be boring. Some restaurants with smaller menus rotate their offerings daily or weekly. And why not incorporate key specials to spice things up? Adding a variety of toppings for main courses and sides is another way to add zip to a pared-down menu. 

Not Everything Should Shrink

Guests come to your restaurant for a delicious breakfast or a big night out. That means thinking through everything from ambiance to al fresco possibilities. 

Some of our clients double their footprint by adding a patio enclosure for three-season or year-round patio dining. More weather-proofed tables mean more profits. And when a sudden rain shower causes mischief, you’re no longer scrambling to move people indoors to tables that are already taken. Ask one of our experts for a free consultation to learn more, including how to keep a custom patio enclosure affordable.

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CHUY’S LONGVIEW TX

As they like to say here, hangry is temporary and tacos are forever y’all. So are the good times served up at every Chuy’s, including this east Texas outpost. With enchiladas in tinga sauce, your taste buds get so happy your eyes tear up. Limited editions like the Elvis Presley Memorial Combo and the fried stuffed avocado make special appearances to the delight of Facebook followers. At Chuy’s, kids are always welcome. So are adults who just want to feel like a kid again. 

Here, you can choose either indoor or outdoor dining. We recently helped with their high-quality patio enclosure. You can see how our clear vinyl curtains feel so much like glass that everything looks colorful and welcoming inside, even when the moon is out. Chuy’s has become what restaurants like to call a regular at Southern Patio Enclosures — the ultimate honor. We’re humbled to have worked with sister locations from Texas to Tennessee and North Carolina. Every element in a patio enclosure is designed so that everything fits each space perfectly. Which means, each Chuy’s design is unique.

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Restaurants Make 2023 Holidays Bright

It’s the most wonderful time of the year as people gather for holiday parties and meals with family and friends. According to an OpenTable diner survey, 80% of people will dine out this holiday. It’s a busy time for everyone and going out makes life easier. Here are some tips to stay on the restaurant list they’re checking twice.

Ambiance Counts

Get your holiday playlist together to keep the season jingling. It’s time for seasonal lights and decorations. You can even consider a theme like Ugly Sweater Night to draw folks in. Your festive touches become snap-worthy moments for social media posts. You’ll want to add some holiday sparkle to your website too. That’s often one of the first places people see your holiday cheer.

A Seasonal Menu

Does a festive menu matter? You bet your eggnog.  And you don’t have to turn everything upside down to do it. Changes can be as simple as adding pecans and cranberries to a side dish. And how about a pomegranate glaze? Or why not get ambitious at the meal’s finale with a treat like a yule log? Think about sips too. Hot beverages are always a hit at this time of year. 

Focus on Your Staff

It’s a great time to let your staff know how much they mean to you. A gift, bonus, or a party can go a long way. You want to help them see their family and friends while making sure that shifts are covered. So, post rules around holiday time off to prevent being short-staffed and avoid merry mix-ups. It’s not an easy balance to strike, but you can do it with positivity and a plan. 

Promote Reservations

Knowing how many people will show up and when helps match staffing numbers to holiday traffic. Think about putting a reserve-now message in your check presenters, on table signage, on social media, and in your newsletter to help your regulars get the holiday reservations they want.  And don’t forget limited-time special offers. According to a Popmenu survey last year, “35% of consumers said that special promotions are one of the top reasons they choose a restaurant.”

More Holiday Tips:

  • Keep restaurant gift cards ready and get the word out through OpenTable gifts. 
  • Update your online ordering presence for guests who prefer home delivery.
  • Help guests keep shopping until a table frees up with an online waitlist.
  • Have holiday mocktails ready for designated drivers, moms-to-be, and others not imbibing.

Stay Updated Online

Most of your customers will see you on Google first. So, think about your Google business profile. You’ll want to keep your restaurant hours and online ordering options updated with any seasonal shifts. 

If your patio is closing for the season, let everyone know that as well. And if you want to extend your patio season, talk with one of our experts. Our patio enclosures help keep guests more comfortable for more days of the year with heaters and the right plan. The warmth of the season really can feel that way for real. Happy holidays to all!

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Café Bomba, Ashville NC

This sweet spot in Ashville is a downtown favorite. It’s a place to hang out and read, catch the sun, or believe you just may be sitting in Paris. Chef Hector offers Latin and French-inspired dishes that let you breakfast or brunch all day long. Don’t miss the Nutella crepes and Bomba Benedict. Their baristas, known as “bomalitas,” brighten the mood while whipping up espressos and lattes for the takeout crowd. No wonder locals keep it hopping and tourists keep it on their let’s-do-this-again list.

Café Bomba’s outdoor patio is a people-watching institution. Since that’s a big draw, we’re pleased to help keep their little European-inspired corner of the world more comfortable for the onlookers. To match Bomba’s charming character, we created a custom patio enclosure that sports vanilla-toned roll-up vinyl shades. This installation sits on a city corner, which means it had to play nicely with neighbors and city regulations while being built. With careful planning, everything went smoothly. A space saver with a dash of engaging personality is the result. Mission accomplished!

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Supporting Veteran-Owned Eateries

Did you know that Taco Bell was invented by a U.S. Marine Corps cook named Glen Bell? Or that Dave Thomas was a mess sergeant in the Army and served during the Korean War before founding Wendy’s? And who knew that the Waffle House was born from a brainstorming session between two veterans who wanted to open a 24-hour, sit-down restaurant? And the Colonel of “finger-licking good chicken” fame was honorably discharged from the Army after being deployed to Cuba. 

Diversity in local economies is and has been enhanced by the veteran community for decades. According to americaworkshere.org, about “58,000 restaurants in the U.S. are at least 50% owned by veterans.” They’re part of the larger group of veteran businesses that generate $1 trillion in the United States. 

Stars and Stripes Meet Plates.

It’s natural for many veterans to think about restaurant entrepreneurship. Many were trained in food service to feed each branch of the military. They know how to manage kitchen staff and understand the rules and regulations needed to keep a restaurant running safely. They’re no stranger to hard work and understand both discipline and teamwork. Which means, jumping in to flip an omelet or delivering food to a table if their staff is overwhelmed is no big deal. After rising through the ranks, they also delegate effectively, empowering their team and managing well. 

Help These Restaurants this November 

Here’s how grateful Americans can support veteran-owned restaurants during the month we honor them.

  • Eat at a veteran-owned restaurant. Opentable.com can help point you toward one near you. 
  • Uplift these restaurants by posting on social media
  • Join groups that support or mentor veteran entrepreneurs
  • Help connect veteran businesses with capital if that’s your expertise

Yummy Deals for Military and Vets

If you’re looking for a discount at a large restaurant chain, here is a link to those offering year-round deals to active military and veterans — from Applebee’s to the Melting Pot, Noodles & Company and nearly 60 others. A note: many franchisees can decide for themselves whether to participate in a promotion. So, there may be exceptions. 

For Veteran’s Day 2023, check out this list of restaurants that will cook up free meals and discounts for veterans and active-duty military, including California Pizza Kitchen, Bob Evans, and a long list of others. Don’t miss the red, white and blueberry pancakes at IHOP, a free Legendary Burger at Hard Rock Café and 10 boneless wings at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Thank You Veterans

We sincerely thank those who have served and their loved ones who make sacrifices while their family members serve our country. Please reach out to us directly to let us know how we can support your restaurant with a complimentary consult for your patio enclosure project.

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