A restaurateur is charged with the difficult task of creating a space that simultaneously pleases the guest and maximizes revenue streams. The three easiest ways to toe this line are through light, sound and temperature.
It’s Dark in Here!
You can safely assume that your restaurant owner has paid his or her electricity bill, and that the light—or lack thereof—in their restaurant is so adjusted intentionally. A dark room full of lit candles is universally recognized in the hospitality world as an area of relaxation, luxury and romance. Candlelight and dramatically dim mood lighting make guests and staff look tanner, thinner and sexier. As a guest, you are meant to pick up on this association. When people feel sexy in a restaurant, they naturally add to its atmosphere, and act more freely than they might in a more brightly lit venue. A dark restaurant has an air of mystique and exoticism; it’s harder to discern what everyone else is doing, eating or drinking. In the nightlife world, a well-lit restaurant is bland, boring and out of vogue.
Can You Turn the Music Down?
A restaurant’s music plays a big part in how the guest feels within it. While most restaurant managers will acquiesce to a guest’s request to turn down blaring music, the music level is typically placed just above the level of conversation in the dining room. This makes it hard to hear what the guests at the next table are talking about, and it forces you to speak louder to be heard at your own table. A loud restaurant is a busy one. In a competitive industry where a guest’s perception determines the business’s success, turning the music up makes everyone laugh just a bit louder, and a restaurant appears even busier than it is. Clubgoers are used to this. A loud, packed nightclub is far more apt to be fun than a quiet, empty one.
It’s Freezing in Here!
Restaurants that mimic nightclubs are frequently kept at subzero temperatures. After you eat or drink alcohol, your blood flow increases to digest and process what you’ve consumed. For most of us, this causes the sensation of feeling warmer or being flushed. A nice, cool room is refreshing to those who’ve begun drinking and an invitation for sober individuals to have a cocktail to warm up. And since it takes twenty minutes or more to feel the effects of turning the thermostat down, it’s a nuisance to hastily turn the air conditioning on after it’s already become too warm. A restaurant is kept a few degrees too cool for another important reason. No restaurateur—or server, for that matter—wants to have just one table turn per evening. A nice cool room entices chilly guests to get up from their tables and leave once the meal is over, improving turn times and increasing the opportunities for revenue.
As a guest, it’s easy to feel like a restaurant was designed especially for your comfort. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t the complete picture. While restaurateurs and restaurants do aim to please their guests, their business involves either shuttling as many people in and out of the restaurant as possible, getting people to spend as much money as they can, or both. Making these endeavors look natural is the fine line that separates good restaurateurs from great ones.