There are many reasons people choose to dine away from home, but after the initial introduction to your restaurant, what will keep them coming back for more? Exquisite entrees, a well-groomed and personable serving staff, and an enticing choice of menu items aren’t enough in this highly competitive industry. Though these variables are crucial for making a great first impression and do contribute to your restaurant’s continued success, there is a powerful connection between your overall atmosphere and your customers that is just as important as the deliciousness of their meal, and how courteously it’s delivered to them.
The menu is a crucial starting point because it determines the style and personality of the restaurant. The food influences every aspect of the restaurant and how it’s perceived by your customers, but appropriately adjusting your atmosphere also enhances a guest’s dining experience. Acceptable levels of stimulation including lighting intensity, color, type and placement, as well as comfortable temperature maintenance of both the dining room and the food, are just a few ways to accomplish this. But what about your aroma strategy?
When it comes to the appeal of food, aroma can have just as much of an impact as flavor, if not more so, because flavor is first perceived through your customer’s sense of smell. Have you ever been offered something to eat that smelled unappealing? You probably weren’t very inclined to try it. Scientific studies heavily suggest that sense of smell directly influences emotions and perceptions, and so in this context, your customers use smell as a way of projecting whether something will taste appetizing or not and if they’ll be ordering it off of the menu.
Smell has the ability to recall memories and associations because the nerves that interpret scent are linked to the emotional center of the brain. Once a scent reaches the brain, it interprets the aromas positively or negatively and influences behavior and decision making accordingly. Aroma strategy capitalizes on this by appealing to our emotional reactions to the surrounding atmosphere. By introducing pleasing aromas like the smell of freshly baked bread to your customers, a connection is made with a series of positive associations and your guests become excited for the opportunity to eat at your restaurant.
If you’re in the planning stage of your restaurant then you’re at an advantage. Design a floor plan that allows the cooking station to be visible to the dining area. Not only will the distinctive smell of entrees being prepared incense the dining atmosphere, but the talents of your kitchen staff will also be on display. This combination will entice patrons to enjoy the wait for the tasty reward they’ll receive upon seating. However, if you’re already up and running, you can still employ these techniques and put the science to work for you. Another alternative if you don’t have an open kitchen is placing an open cooking station, like a small “hibachi” grill, somewhere near the front of the restaurant or even near the bar where customers may be waiting for open tables. This brings your aroma strategy closer to the front, while offering visual stimulation as well.
Another way to implement this strategy is by showcasing your executive chef. Have the chef prepare a signature dish, properly held to lock in its essence, and unveil the entree to the waiting crowd at peak times throughout the evening. The chef may then briefly introduce himself and give a tantalizing description about the ingredients and flavorful preparation of the entree. Or have the chef prepare a handful of complimentary entrees or appetizers cut into small samples to present to patrons waiting to be seated. Not every customer will take a sample, but the delectable smell will still infiltrate their senses and trigger the effects of an effective aroma strategy.
So, aim to make your restaurant truly memorable for your customers and go beyond just making a great first impression. Be sure to make those first-time customers into repeat diners by adding a little science to your design and develop an aroma strategy that caters to their senses.