Going out to eat is a lot of fun! It’s an experience that fulfills a basic need. When diners form opinions of restaurants they think of the whole experience of eating out. But what makes up the whole experience? It is the food, service, AND atmosphere.
The general “feel” you get from a restaurant, bar, hotel, etc… is the atmosphere. How much does the atmosphere matter? If you want to find out, simply remove the decor, turn off the music and turn on the house lights. What’s left is a cafeteria. There are plenty of cafeterias, diners, greasy spoons and the like that have excellent food and service but little to no atmosphere. They usually have a bargain menu and are known as great places to go for lunch.
Having a great atmosphere allows for higher pricing and generates more business to boot. It really is THAT important. Here’s a breakdown of what comprises atmosphere:
Music – Even grocery stores play music. Music adds fun, helps alleviate awkwardness and is crucial.
Lighting – Almost as important as music, lighting should be adequate yet cozy. Again, no music + bright lights = cafeteria.
Staff Morale – This one is often overlooked. Unhappy or unprofessional service staff will be detected by the general public. Even if guests can’t quite put their finger on it, they will sense something is awry.
Decor – This one is fun and necessary, but less important than the previous three.
Having ambiance and having it yanked out from under you is much worse that having no atmosphere at all. Closing time is a prime example. Unless you’re running a bar or club, you will lop off a full third of a guests perceived value by purposely stopping the ambiance. Everyone wants to get out of work and go home at the end of a shift. However, turning on house lights, running the vacuum, and putting up chairs will offend late night guests. Remember, restaurants are dinner theaters. Don’t stop the performance until end of the final act.
It is easy to see that lots of money and effort goes into creating the right atmosphere. And, when used properly, the ambiance will dramatically add to your guests’ experience. Atmosphere is part of your secret sauce that you don’t want to neglect. It helps add to the magic and the bottom line.
Good Luck and Good Atmosphere!