When fresh looks are everything: nailing your venue’s decor by Sara Mariani

When fresh looks are everything: nailing your venue’s decor

“In today’s restaurant market an entrepreneur has to be innovative and stand out from what the market has to offer, and to be able to do so you have to provide not only good products and service, but also a unique dining environment to contribute to the overall customer satisfaction.”

This was the opening line in a study that reviewed the importance of venue decor in the overall customer experience. Their findings were clear: the food, drink, service, and atmosphere can be fantastic – but unless the venue reflects innovative and welcoming design, the customer will never truly relax.

The Australian hospitality scene has always been proud of its eclectic nature. Formal restaurants with white tablecloths stand alongside suburban eateries with exposed brick walls in the line-up of our nation’s finest venues. Alleyway coffee shops with milk-crate seating are just as popular as the glossy cafes on tree lined streets. However, when it comes down to creating a ‘unique dining environment’, what are the necessary elements that you need to contemplate?

In this blog we review the importance of well-considered hospitality decor, as well as list some simple steps to giving your venue a makeover.

First impressions last – and so do the second, third, and fourth!

Customer experience of a hospitality venue can be traced back to all five of the human senses. How loud is the restaurant, and is there music playing that contributes to the atmosphere? Is the food delicious? Does the setting and the seating feel comfortable? Does is smell inviting? And, of course, how does it look?

Having a standout appearance will make a lasting impression on your customer.

“You want your customers to walk in your door and be met with the sights and sounds appropriate to your type of restaurant,” writes Restaurant Engine.

“Consider your restaurant’s theme when designing or re-designing your space. As you work on your concept, remember to match the look and feel of your restaurant to your branding. Your customers will tie the two together, so it’s important that your interiors, packaging, menu, advertisements, website and even the exterior blend well together.”

Port DarlingHarbour

Every small detail will be noticed by your customer, and stored away for future reference. For example, they might remember your restaurant for its quirky drink coasters, or its beautiful artwork, or the interesting lighting. Don’t be fooled into thinking your food or service are the only elements making an impression.

A holistic customer experience

Having a beautiful venue will enhance the overall experience for your diner. In a truly practical sense, uncomfortable seating or difficult lighting will only prompt your customers to leave as soon as possible. In a more sensory approach, having a beautiful setting will make your customers feel happy, excited, inspired – and will encourage them to stay on, and return at another time.

Jo Sampson is the Creative Director of London-based design firm Blacksheep, who specialises in creating spaces for hotels, bars, restaurants, retail environments, workplaces and residential spaces. Sampson notes that much of the success of a venue comes down to a beautiful but also practical space.

“The location of all the elements from circulation spaces, to seating areas to the bar all contributes to the operations of a space,” says Sampson. “If people can’t get a drink or the food is stone cold then the space fails, and that affects the business.”

Your design therefore needs to make your customer AND team feel comfortable.

Key elements of good design

There are four key elements that go into the décor of a venue:

#1: Interior Design:

The design of a venue is best considered an homage to your narrative or theme. Without being tacky or too obvious, look to your venue’s name or cuisine to inspire your design in regards to artwork, furniture choice, colour scheme, and decorations. Whatever you choose, be consistent: no one likes to feel they are dining somewhere ‘unfinished’ or disorganised.

#2: Ambience:

The ‘mood’ or tone of a venue can be instantly recognisable by tweaking a few factors that establish ambiance: lighting, colour, and sound. A colourfully painted venue with bright lighting would indicate fun and frivolity, whereas something darker and more subdued creates a sombre and sophisticated ambiance.

#3: Space and Layout:

Think big and small – big decals, centrepieces, or artworks, and small decorations and details like napkins or cutlery. Every part of your venue will be scrutinised, so don’t skip the small details – they will be noticed.

#4: Furniture:

Great furniture needs to be considered from both an aesthetic and practical perspective. Ask yourself, is it comfortable? Would I sit here for a long period of time? Would someone with an injury or disability be able comfortable? Will these date or age quickly?

When considering your venue design, it will be the finer details (such as tableware, branding, menus) that will tie everything together, give a feeling of class and luxe – and ultimately help first impressions last in such a crowded marketplace.

How venue design can choose your customers for you

What type of customer does your venue design attract?

“The customer chooses which venue is better suited for their particular mood or requirements,” explains Jo Sampson. “Are they going somewhere to hopefully meet someone or are they going for an intimate dinner? This decides the choice of venue.”

If you have been struggling with your customer demographic – that is, too much of the wrong type and not enough of the right type – you should look critically at your venue design. Customers are intuitive when it comes to selecting the right venue for their needs, and regardless of what you say in your marketing, will always go with their gut instinct.

When in doubt, talk to your customers. Ask what they are looking for in a certain type of venue, and take on some of their suggestions. You may inadvertently be turning your ideal customers away and have no idea.

Fine food, excellent drinks, and great service are three essential factors to a great customer experience: but when was the last time you considered your venue’s decor? It is a major deciding factor in the success of your restaurant, cafe, bar, pub, or club – so take the time to critically review the image and narrative your venue is communicating to the public.

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