Have you ever noticed how some slick and modern restaurant sometimes opens in a historical area of your city, just to close within a few months because of a lack of customers?

What causes a restaurant with beautiful interior design, great customer service and an excellent menu to fail so fast? The answer is simple. Despite everything it has going for it, the place itself is not sustainable because of its improper design built for the wrong audience.

One example I want to share is from our local community, where an Afghan restaurant opened its doors in a very small location. The food was excellent, and the restaurant received 5-star ratings within 5-6 months from opening. I was very sad to see it close because it was not making enough money. What was the problem here?

This beautiful restaurant opened in our community, just to close within a few months.

More importantly, what can you learn from it about what brings customers to your door? And what is it that makes them stay longer, and want to come back and spend their money?

Consider this example. If you are opening an ethnic food restaurant (e.g., Mexican, Italian, Moroccan etc.), the right choice in terms of style and interior design may seem clear to you. However, you may miss something very important.

For instance, a Mexican restaurant can be: 1) a small fast taco shop; 2) a Mexican food place with a modern twist, or 3) one where you want to sit down and relax with your family while enjoying a traditional home-cooked meal. These are three very different styles that are appropriate for different audiences, different locations, even different hours of operation. Which one should you choose?

Your restaurant design style will depend on your menu, hours of operation, location and target audience.

As you can see, deciding on your interior design and style is a complex issue, with huge consequences on the success of your restaurant. So how do you do it?

A good start is to consider the following three aspects.

1. Menu

What type of food are you serving? Traditional and authentic meals or dishes with a modern twist? Will your restaurant be a fast-food type or a fancy sit-down dining place?

In a fast-food restaurant, your seating should be a bit uncomfortable and probably hard, since you want to rotate your customers as fast as possible. By contrast, in a sit-down place, you would want to promote conversation and a longer stay with more comfortable, soft and luxurious seating.

For the same reason, in a fast-food place, colors should be bright and cheerful to promote stimulation and fast movement. Only with a larger volume of customers will you make more money in a small place. (I believe this is what happened to the Afghan restaurant in our community.) In sit-down restaurants intended for evening dining, the interior should be more relaxing, with plenty of textures, natural colors and a more sophisticated design. The size of this restaurant should be larger, to accommodate more tables.

2. Hours of operation

What looks good in the daylight may not work at night – and vice versa. For instance, natural materials may lose their charm when lights are dimmed at night. On the other hand, if your restaurant is only open during morning hours, there is no need to spend money on fancy lighting.

In the case of restaurants that operate during the day, the focus should be on bright, cheerful colors, natural materials and an organic design that is best emphasized by natural light. Evening restaurants, depending on their type of food and style, have more options in terms of materials and colors. They should promote relaxation and the leisurely appreciation of the minute details in their interior design. A space that engages the contemplative spirit creates more opportunities for longer conversations over an additional dessert or drink, therefore more opportunities for profit.

Restaurants that are open in the morning should focus on natural materials and bringing in natural light.

3. Location and target audience

The location of the restaurant is very important. If you are inside a shopping mall, don’t open a fancy restaurant and expect to be successful. First, people are in transition and need to be in and out fast. Second, they choose between you and ten other small places to save time and money. Catering to a slow-moving audience that indulges in long conversations over a home-cooked meal is most likely a losing bet.

On the other hand, if you are opening a bar in a small historical community, an expensive high-end modern design is probably not the best option. This style will do better in a more modern area of town or inside an expensive hotel. Remember, context matters. People that will pass your door when walking through a historical area are most likely looking for a taste of the past and some old-world charm.

So, look for a neighborhood where your type of food or drinks is appreciated. If you already found a great location, see how you can accommodate the local audience, whether by readjusting your menu or changing your interior to serve the community better.

If you have already found a great location, see how you can accommodate your local audience.

To sum it up, I would like to offer my thoughts on the Afghan restaurant that closed so fast, despite its excellent food and great reviews. Their menu and interior were trying to promote a sit-down dining experience even though the restaurant size was only about 800 square feet. There was not enough comfortable seating for customers to enjoy a family dinner.

Instead, the owners should have created a type of a fast-serving restaurant with minimum seating and more of a take-out concept. They should have used brighter signage with a street-food feel to it, and not spend all that money on their beautiful, but unnecessarily complex exterior.

I wish restaurant owners consulted their designers before opening a restaurant in a specific location. Professional designers can look at your menu, your area and your goals, and lead you into the right direction. They can recommend the right style, size and design options for what you are trying to accomplish, and use them to awake certain emotions in your customers that you can use to your benefit.

Designers understand the power of detail when it comes to influencing customer behavior, the way your clients consume your products and spend their money. In short, a professional may make the difference between a restaurant that flourishes and one that mysteriously closes its doors after a few torturous months of operation.

As for me, I will just miss the tasty food that the Afghan restaurant used to offer. And I will look for another one that is similar to that, but fitted with a more inspired and appropriate design.

Yummy Afghan restaurant food I will miss.

Please take a look at our Before and After images of selected projects from 2018 HERE.

If you are thinking to open up a new business or in a process of rebranding and remodeling your existing business, contact us to get a free consultation from Mindful Design Consulting. Click HERE to price your project design.

Also, take a look at “Branding By Interior” e-book, the only book written on this subject at this time. It brings insight on how you can turn your business into a market-dominating competitor by using human cognitive responses.

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