Highlighting the food is obviously central to marketing any restaurant. But food is just the entry point for a restaurant’s guest experience.
We recently fielded research to understand how restaurant guests act and feel, and what they look for in their restaurant experience. When looking at diners of polished casual restaurants (e.g. Cheesecake Factory, Houston’s, PF Changs) we found out that a “comfortable atmosphere” is a key driver for consideration of which restaurant to choose for 83% of respondents.
Guests Are Looking For Relaxation
So what goes into “comfortable atmosphere”? It can be everything from being made to feel welcome as soon as a guest walks through the doors, the literal comfort of the seating, music and noise levels, their interaction with the servers, the energy the staff exudes, and many other elements of the dining out experience. Ultimately, however, a comfortable atmosphere is about how all these elements make the guests feel. And the feeling that guests want is to be relaxed. Similar to our findings around a comfortable atmosphere, our research shows that feeling “relaxed” is how 84% of guests expect to feel when they dine out at polished casual restaurants.
Comfort Is Communicated In Many Ways
Because dining is such a multi-sensory experience, comfort is also communicated in many forms, including what people are seeing. If the pace of the staff feels frenetic, then those feelings are going to transfer to guests and they’re going to feel anything but relaxed. For many guests, relaxation starts with a drink so the time it takes from drink order to delivery factors into comfort.
“Relaxed” is how 84% of guests expect to feel when they dine out at polished casual restaurants.
Service can create a comfortable atmosphere, but hospitality can make a guest feel relaxed. They want to be social and unwind from the stresses of work or home. The lines between home and work continue to blur for many people and the ability to disconnect while dining out gives guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in an escape for a short time period.
Sound plays an important role in a guest’s level of comfort. From ambient noise to music, it is important to think about how the sound impacts the feeling of relaxation at a restaurant. 56% of our survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that music was a key contributor to atmosphere. Sound can also affect people’s consumption.One study found that when music was played at 72 decibels, people consumed an average of one drink per 14.5 minutes, but when it was raised to 88 decibels their consumption increased to one every 11.4 minutes. Of course there is a sweet spot for volume and also the type of music that is played that factors into a guest’s comfort. The music used in marketing also creates expectations for guests. Does the soundtrack they may hear in a video give them an idea of what to expect from the atmosphere of a restaurant? Do they hear something that is energetic that implies a bustling atmosphere or something that feels specific to a type of cuisine? Music and the guest experience is not just about what happens inside the restaurant.
56% of our survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that music is a key contributor to atmosphere.
Waiting in Comfort
Whether you have a reservation or not, you often have to wait for your table. What can be one of the most uncomfortable part of dining out is often overlooked. For guests it’s not always the wait that they don’t like, but rather the unknown of how long their wait actually will be. 66% of the people we surveyed said that “accurate wait times” were important factors in their decision of where to eat out. A study done at the University of Missouri explored how restaurants can make their waiting areas more comfortable to customers, increasing their willingness to wait. Maybe its drink service in the waiting area, a nice fire pit to sit around, or enough space to feel like you’re not in the way of others, but a good or bad waiting experience can predispose people to how much they enjoy their meal.
How Are You Addressing Relaxation In Your Marketing?
Comfort and relaxation means many things to different people. But it often means the difference in choosing one restaurant over another. It’s every restaurant’s goal to get guests to return. And familiarity breeds comfort. You should consider how you communicate comfort and relaxation. Shots of the atmosphere and decor should make their way into your marketing video imagery. Language should reinforce how you welcome guests to experience comfort and relaxation. The website should help guests understand what to expect.
As marketers, we often think about the user experience and customer journeys only in the digital space, but brand marketers shouldn’t abdicate responsibility once a guest comes into the restaurant. It’s there that the experience happens in real life and has the most impact on whether or not a guest decides to come back.