Why Ambience is Important in Food Business
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Food Drink

Why Ambience is Important in Food Business


The food and hospitality business is often perceived as a tough one, with many new restaurants and cafes moving into your local area, only to be gone within a matter of years, months in some cases.

Different cities have different cultures, and this definitely has an effect on the kind of cuisine that customers will favor and support, the local produce arguably has a large effect on what kinds of food businesses will exist and how much or what kind of marketing goes on also plays an integral factor.

Most will agree, from an outsider-looking-in perspective, that those circumstances weigh heavily into a restaurant's success or failure, however, when you interact with a business person, they normally don't enter your mind nearly as much as the overall atmosphere and ambiance of the establishment.

First Impressions Last

From the moment a customer enters the door as a willing and paying patron, the initial perception they have can make or break their relationship with the establishment. How a customer is initially greeted and how quickly, whether they have to book in or can simply walk straight to a table, whether they are forced to wait at the counter to order or things such as if the waiter helpfully showed them to their table or not.

These things mentioned all add up to make a massive impact on how that customer feels and their initial impression of the business and how people are treated by it. This importance of first impressions is existent whether the business is a fast food style establishment, a high-end restaurant, or even a local café. How well a customer is welcomed into the environment is more than enough to make them invest emotionally in a business or quickly disregard its value.

Making a good impression on a customer can lead to them ordering that extra bottle of wine/coffee and staying a little longer, whereas on the flip side, making a bad first impression can have them thinking about leaving or what they are going to write their negative google review about. The better they feel from the start, the more likely they are to stay longer, order more and most importantly, tell their friends.


The topic of hygiene relates to first impressions in a sense, this is because it is one of the ranking factors when someone is having their initial experience with a venue. How hygienic an establishment is will be one of the first things that will spring to a new customer's attention, in most cases, without the customer even consciously thinking about it. It can make a customer feel comfortable and at ease, or it can make them feel uncomfortable and let down. For example, let's say that a new customer enters a local restaurant, they are at this point, in the first stages of deciding what they think about the business.

Whilst the customer is being led to the table, they notice food scraps and a couple of half-eaten plates on the table where they are being led to sit, how do you think they felt about that? Even if the staff member quickly rushed to clean up the plates, it isn't a good look for the restaurant, and the customer has probably already associated them as of a lower status establishment as a result. This is why it is extremely important to make sure that hygiene is taken care of in every possible manner. Ensuring tables are cleaned often, preferably before customers sit, toilets are cleaned regularly, and floors are mopped whenever possible. Whether a food business is a fast food style restaurant or a high-class dining establishment, the implications hygiene has on a customer's first impression are paramount.


The design is another integral part of the customer experience and important ranking factor in the ambiance of a food business. Design is all that can be seen and touched within the establishment and is the eyes of the customer journey. It's quite common that a customer has not even judged the taste of the food yet, but they have definitely already judged the design and architecture of the business. Tim Reibling from VegaDirect.ca explains that creating the right ambiance in your new restaurant can make all the difference between success and failure in your first year.

Things such as the colors used, the décor, the texture of the floor and walls, these are all things that will trigger an emotional response within the customer. There are many ways to make sure that the emotional effect the design has on a customer is a positive one, and it all comes down to what demographic the business wants to appeal to. Colors that have warm and welcoming positive associations will do better in most circumstances, wherein other restaurants, perhaps marketing to a different crowd, darker or more unusual colors may be appropriate eg. With a younger or more alternative demographic.

The same level of importance can be imposed for the décor and architecture of the store, as they all visually show what the company represents and how they operate. Whatever kind of food business it may be, it is important that the décor is taken into consideration after determining what kind of customer demographic you want to attract, as it will be a big factor for making the customers that come to feel comfortable and at home, or out of place and weary.


The artwork is also symbolic of what a business represents, and the demographic they are appealing towards. Similar to the colors on the wall affecting the customer's emotions, the Artwork that is displayed can resonate with a business demographic and make them feel much more at home. Artwork tells a story, and by using it in businesses you can speak to the story of your customers.

An example of this could be an alternative café displaying edgy rock icons or rappers of the past to further imply to their younger demographic that they are on the same page. This kind of signaling lets a customer feel like the business represents them and they are a lot more likely to come back as a result.


As with the overall design of the business, lighting is also very important. Atmospheres are brought to life through lighting, and it is through lighting that moods are set. If the business wants customers to get into the right mood for the overall vibe of their establishment, it's important to take the lighting into consideration.

Something as simple as the lights changing colors at a certain time of the night may make that customers night that little more interesting, or the way the dim mood lighting reflects off of their partner's cheeks makes their Tuesday date that bit more romantic. Lighting should not be the last thought, it should be carefully implemented to make your restaurant's atmosphere.


The space that is set out within a food business also contributes to the atmosphere significantly, how close we are in relation to other humans can cause all kinds of emotions and instincts to rise up, for better or for worse. The overall setup and spacing within a restaurant is another big ranking factor for creating a positive customer experience, or a negative and uncomfortable one.

Nobody likes to feel cramped, trapped or in the way, so a business should never make their customers feel that way. Tightly packed seating arrangements or tables set up too close to a bar or walkway can make a customer feel uncomfortable and make it a lot more likely they won't be staying around after they get their meal, they also might have the thought "oh, I won't be coming back here at this time again it's busy" which usually ends up with them not coming back in at all given a better choice comes up.


Upbeat and social restaurants and quiet, timid ones, both share an equal amount of reliance on the music and sounds in their establishments. In the upbeat restaurant, loud conversation and laughter, upbeat music and clinking and clattering in the kitchen are all acceptable noises and add to the customer's overall experience.

However, in a quaint little café, all of that noise may seriously irritate some customers who simply want to do work on their laptop or read the newspaper while drinking their coffee. Things such as age group, financial status, location and the interests of your target demographic should all come into play when choosing the perfect music to complement an establishment.

Staff Interactions

How could any service-based business thrive without good customer service? The answer is not well. Good employees who represent the business with pride and treat customers with respect will always make for a better ambiance. Proper communication between staff members and customers will add to the customer's experience as if they are part of the design.

Staff members such as waiters and waitresses need to be socially calibrated, meaning if the restaurant is a high class one, the customers expected to be treated as such, similarly, in an upbeat venue where food is shared on tables and lots of drinks are served, customers would likely appreciate a fun and social server.

Relationship Building

Relationships keep people together for years, sometimes lifetimes, so it is no mistake that it is included on this list. Relationship building is related in many aspects to choosing the right staff, but not necessarily. Great staff who can build relationships with customers will ensure a customer keeps coming back, however, it doesn't have to be up to very social staff.

Having it simply be acceptable amongst staff to allow for certain concessions for regular customers can increase retention greatly. If a business doesn't want to allow for discounts, that is fine, even simply reserving a certain table or adding an extra personal touch to the service for regulars can keep them coming back again and again.

The Food

Finally, it's time to talk about food. Now albeit important, we aren't going to talk about how it tastes, more so we are going to talk about how it can add to the experience. Just like the colors, décor, music, and lighting, when organized well, can influence a customer's emotions, so too can the food add to this effect.

The way food is served and presented in some cases is more important than the taste itself. Most people like sushi, but all people love sushi trains, this is an example of how presentation can create a deeper level of enjoyment for the customer. Serving hot food on a sizzling plate in an upbeat restaurant gets everybody excited, so too does having the waiter or waitress explain the intricacies of how an expensive dessert dish was made before the customer digs in. These nuances about how to present and serve food all add up and can have a very large effect on a restaurants customer journey.


Another overlooked component of a restaurants atmosphere and ambiance are what utensils used. Due to the complex nature of our sensory system, what you eat out of also affects how you will perceive a food to taste. Utensils can make food taste better if used appropriately, on the other hand, given the wrong utensils, a meal can seem bland and unappetizing. Utensils add to the atmosphere of a food business as they give customers a personal touch on what the business represents.

Small old English style teapots in a café add class and composure, making customers associate those aspects with the food they are about to be served, and subsequently, how they perceive the food to smell and taste. Another example, could be in an Asian restaurant giving customers chopsticks to eat with, this represents their culture and not only do customers appreciate it, but it will give the food they eat a more authentic' Asian taste, not to mention they will likely find them much more fun to use.

They provide hospitality goods and utensils in what is seen as an example of how many options there are out there for a business to customize what their customers are eating with. Personalizing a business in every aspect is extremely important to add to the customer experience, including everything from design to utensils.

It is clear that there are more factors at play when determining a business's success than just cuisine, location, and marketing. Customers are at the whim of a large array of influences when deciding whether they are having a positive or negative experience in the business. It is made obvious through the points discussed above, that ambiance and all of the nuances that shape it is of paramount importance to the success of a food based business.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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