How Restaurant Color Schemes Affect Your Customers

Restaurant color schemes

The colors that you use to decorate your foodservice establishment have a huge impact on your customers, how long they spend in your operation, and how they feel.

Colors can make your customers happy, boost their appetite, increase table turnover, and make your dining space seem more spacious. But, they can also have a negative affect on your customers, so it's important to understand how your interior color choices affect your restaurant's message. To do this, you first need to understand the psychology of colors and then learn how colors go together into a pleasing and complementary color scheme.

5 Color Scheme Ideas

Now that you know how colors will affect your customers, you need to understand which colors go together and how to make a pleasing color scheme. For readers that don't have much interior decorating experience, we created a list of some versatile and popular color schemes to give you an idea of what colors go together. Here are five interior color scheme ideas:

1. Light Color Scheme

Colors: Ivory, beige, white, pale yellow, light gray

A light color scheme is often used a make a smaller room look bigger than it is. Additionally, light colors evoke a leisurely and relaxing atmosphere, which makes them an excellent choice for upscale restaurants and bistros. But, due to the relaxed and comfortable nature of this color scheme, it's not ideal for restaurants that want a high turnover rate.

Light Color Scheme

2. Dark Color Scheme

Colors: Crimson, brown, purple, navy, dark green

A dark color scheme is excellent for creating intimate and romantic settings, which is perfect for some bars, trendy restaurants, and romantic bistros. But, if you use too many dark colors or very dark shades, it can make your space feel cramped and claustrophobic.

Dark Color Scheme

3. Warm Color Scheme

Colors: Yellow, terracotta, orange, red, gold

Warm colors are very exciting and bright, and they provide a lot of visual stimulation for your guests. But, because these colors are so bright, they can become irritating after a long period of time. This helps to increase your turnover rate, which makes warm color schemes ideal for high-volume establishments like fast causal eateries, buffets, or fast food restaurants. But, because warm color schemes can be overwhelming, you don't want to overdo it.

Warm Color Scheme

4. Earthy Color Scheme

Colors: Brown, olive green, beige, umber, dark orange

This color scheme is supposed to reflect colors that are found commonly in nature, and it features lots of browns and greens as well as some neutral colors. An earthy color scheme is ideal for relaxed and welcoming environments, like cafes. This color scheme has also grown in popularity recently, so you can find it in many trendy restaurants as well. Additionally, color schemes that prominently feature green and brown are excellent choices for establishments that are focused on healthy foods.

Earthy Color Scheme

5. Pastel Color Scheme

Colors: Sky blue, pink, light yellow, lavender, pale green

The pastel color scheme is very light and soft, and it is most often used in settings like bistros, cafes, and casual eateries. But, because these colors are very light, they have an almost neutral tone to them that can fit in with most types of decor. This color scheme was very popular in the 1980s, and it is becoming popular again in trendy restaurants and bistros in major cities across the U.S.

Pastel Color Scheme

The Psychology of Colors

Because various colors can affect your guests in different ways, they are powerful tools for shaping how your customers behave in your restaurant. It also means that you can't just choose colors for your walls and decorations arbitrarily, and you'll have to use thought when choosing your restaurant's color scheme. Here is a brief summary of how common colors affect your customers and which types of establishments might utilize them:

Red

Effect: Red increases your guests' heart rates and can make them hungry. It can also make your guests eat quickly and leave, which is useful for increasing your table turnover rate.

Establishments that should use this color:

  • Fast food restaurants
  • Fast casual restaurants
  • Establishments that want a high table turnover

Orange

Effect: Orange makes people feel happy and cheerful. It's also excellent for establishments that serve desserts or unhealthy food because it makes people content and less likely to feel guilty for eating poorly.

Establishments that should use the color orange:

  • Fast food restaurants
  • Ice cream shops
  • Casual eateries

Yellow

Effect: Some shades of bright yellow have a similar impact as orange, making people happy and content. Generally, yellow is very vibrant and exciting, so it's not an ideal choice for relaxed environments.

Establishments that should use yellow:

  • Fast casual restaurants
  • Ethnic eateries
  • Bistros
  • Cafes

Green

Effect: Earthy tones like green are very relaxing and comforting. Green is found commonly in nature, making it an excellent choice for establishments that serve healthy and natural foods.

Establishments that should use the color green:

  • Health food stores
  • Salad bars
  • Vegetarian and vegan restaurants

Brown

Effect: Brown is an earthy color that helps guests relax and feel comfortable. It can also give customers a sense of support and stability, and it can even convince guests to come back as repeat customers.

Establishments that should use the brown in their decor:

  • Coffee shops
  • Bistros
  • Contemporary restaurants
  • Bars

Blue

Effect: Blue is a color that most restaurants should avoid. It's not commonly found naturally in food, and it can cause your customers to lose their appetites. Additionally, if you have bright blue walls, the shade of blue can reflect onto your food and make it look less appetizing. Blue reduces customers' appetites, but it makes them thirsty.

Establishments that should use the blue for their interior design:

  • Coffee shops
  • Bars
  • Cafes
  • Nightclubs
  • Seaside restaurants

White

Effect: This color gives your space a relaxed and leisurely feel. White can also make your dining area look clean, and it can make a small space seem larger. But, too much white can make your dining area look sterile.

Establishments that should incorporate green into their decor:

  • Small restaurants and bistros
  • Upscale eateries
  • Banquet halls
  • Wedding venues

Black

Effect: You can use black strategically to make the other colors in your restaurant pop and look more vibrant, but too much black can make your space look cramped and dark.

Establishments that should use black accents in their interior:

  • Nightclubs
  • Bars
  • Contemporary restaurants

Menu Color Schemes

Your restaurant's interior isn't the only place where you need to be conscious about your color choice, because the colors on your menu can also affect your customers. So, when you're creating a menu for your restaurant, you should be aware of which colors you're using and how they interact with your customers and affect their appetite and choices.

When it comes to menu colors, a lot of the same rules as interior design apply. You will want to avoid unnatural colors like blue and purple and instead choose bright and vibrant colors like red and orange, depending on your restaurant's concept and style.

You will also want to be aware of how the colors on your menu interact with each other and ensure that they don't clash. Another consideration is how your menu colors interact with the colors in your dining space. For example, you wouldn't want to use a lot of bright colors on your menu if your interior uses a lot of earthy colors like brown and dark green.


Choosing a restaurant color scheme is very important because the shades you use to decorate your business can have a big effect on your customers. To choose the ideal color scheme, you should think about what kind of experience you want your customers to have in your restaurant. Additionally, for modern establishments, you may want to consider the types of decor and color schemes that are popular. But, regardless of what colors you use in your operation, you should make sure that they are true to your purpose.

Posted in: Facility Design & Decor | By Richard Traylor
Linda Moore Says:

Was very knowledgeable. Learned the concept of narrowing down the color I need for my commercial kitchen. Thanks!

Leave a Comment

A WebstaurantStore account is required to comment. Already have an account? Log In Here or Create an account.

Webstaurant TVProduct demonstrations, how-to's, & descriptions ArticlesIn-depth information and tips for running a successful restaurant Buying GuidesTools to help you find the perfect product for your business