10 Ways You Can Give Back To Your Customers This Holiday Season

The holiday season is all about what you can do for others, and that includes your customers.

If you can provide your customers with a memorable, personal experience during the holidays that other brands just aren’t providing, you’ll be top of mind next time they seek out your business.

Here are 10 ways you can give back to your customers during this holiday season.

1. Offer A Sale

A sale is an easy way to give customers something without taking a loss. The sale can be targeted at returning customers to encourage them to return to your business, or target new customers as an effort to draw in new business.

When offering a sale, make sure it’s on a product that provides real value to your customers. Discounting certain menu items or offering a free drink with the purchase of another can work well for a restaurant. At the same time, you want to keep an eye on your margins. It could be a good idea to offer something completely for free, but only if this has a high probability of pulling in additional sales.

Whatever the case, make sure you run the sale in a way that doesn’t kill your profits.

2. Run Conditional Promotions

Similar to running a sale on an individual product, you can offer conditional promotions that encourage your customers to purchase more overall.

You want to position these promotions in a way that provide your business with a profitable sale while providing value to your customer. Here are some examples of how you can do that:

  • Buy one get onethis can work well if you have a product with margins over 50%. Do you sell merchandise or “swag”? The holidays are a perfect time of year to offer discounts on current inventory – and you’ll make room for new products!

  • Spend X amount and get a % off For this one, make sure you choose a price point that’s positioned to get customers to order additional items to increase the dollar amount of their purchase.

  • Buy a specific item to save a % If there’s a specific product that provides you with the majority of your profits, this can help encourage sales of that product.

3. Host A Contest With Rewards

This requires creativity, but it can be worth the extra time spent preparing. Running contests can also help you collect email addresses to be used in email and online marketing efforts.

Social Contest

On your own Instagram account, ask patrons to take a photo either in your restaurant location or with a branded item (like a to-go coffee cup or branded t-shirt) and tag your Instagram handle along with the contest hashtag (for example: #HolidaysAtHansens). To enter the contest, they’ll also have to follow your Instagram page (to boost your organic following).

Then, choose your favorite photos, either based on different categories, or simply on creativity. Award the winner with a prize, like a $50 gift card to dine with you. This encourages repeat business and inspires guests to get involved.

Bonus: You can use this user-generated content in your future social marketing campaigns!

In-Store Giveaway

The contest can also be in the form of a raffle. If you’re trying to get people to stay in your business longer, a raffle is a great way to accomplish that. Ask people to write their email address and name on a piece of paper to be entered. Put together a gift basket, or simply raffle off gift cards to your restaurant or merchandise. It’s that simple! Pull a name from a hat and inform them of their winnings.

If you’re feeling extra generous, do this for 12 days to align with the 12 Days of Christmas.

4. Display Products

Have a bunch of products displayed within your place of business for people to see, and offer guests a way to win select items. Similar to the idea above, you can use this as a way to gather emails.

The products can be anything tailored to the image of your brand. If you’re a coffee shop, for example, maybe choose music and art products to give away to your customers. You can find acoustic guitars for under $500, artwork from local artists, or albums from musicians in a relevant genre to give away to your customers.

If you’ve ever dined at the Cracker Barrel chain, you know they have a store attached to their dining room filled with novelty items, holiday decorations, and even old-fashioned candy. It turns an entire visit to their restaurant into an experience and inspires people to buy more than just food. Consider how you can incorporate this concept into your restaurant strategy, even if just for the holidays.

If you need some inspiration, you can find a good amount of Christmas gift ideas here.

5. Make A Holiday Album

Music is a great way to connect with your audience. If you’re playing holiday music in your business, maybe create an album of those songs that you can sell at a discount to your customers as a way to fully embrace the holiday season.

Another option is to create remixes of holiday songs that fit your businesses style. With the proper licenses in place, you can easily accomplish this with an online mixing and mastering service.

If you need artwork for your businesses holiday album, check out 99 designs for some inexpensive, but high quality, design work.

6. Design Holiday-Specific Items

Another great way to embrace the holiday season is to create a product specifically for the holidays.

Many businesses do this, and it can work for any holiday. Starbucks, for example, consistently releases seasonal flavors of coffee, along with merchandise like mugs, cups, and keepsakes.

Whatever your product, design something specific to the time of year that will appeal to your customers. We talk about seasonal menus and how they boost profits in another blog; these tips can apply to any season!

7. Host An Event

Events are a great way to create chatter among your target customers. You can have an open mic, holiday themed trivia, or another type of event that fits within the interests of your customers. We discuss some December Marketing Ideas in our recent blog post.

When running events, plan them a few weeks in advance so you have time to build buzz around them through your email list and social media following. The earlier the better and the more the merrier!

8. Surprise Them

What better way to create an amazing customer experience than with something great they didn’t expect?

Part of the enjoyment of opening a gift is that you have no idea what it is. You can replicate this type of experience for your customers. Throw something personal in their bag, like a $5 gift card with a note about why they’re awesome.

You can even set limits on this type of gift. For example, you can throw the surprise gift cards into bags only after they meet a certain dollar amount on their bill to protect your margins.

They’ll love it, and will definitely tell their friends about this experience. Not only that, but giving away a surprise gift card will encourage them to come back to use it.

9. Put The Spotlight On Customers

If your customers are generally creative, a great way to show your appreciation for them is to put the spotlight on their creations.

Invite local musicians to submit their songs to be considered for your playlists, or have paper and crayons for kids to draw a picture of Santa Claus to be put on your wall for everyone to see.

Making things about your customers will convince them that you care about them on a personal level and not just for the profits they may bring.

10. Send Snail Mail

If you have your customers’ addresses, sending them a gift card, coupon, or a special, personalized offer in the mail can be a great display of appreciation.

If you don’t have access to your customers’ contact information, you can make an attempt at reaching new customers with a direct mail campaign targeting households in your area.

Whatever the case, you want to make sure you run your campaign effectively. Here’s a resource that can help you with that.

Wrapping It Up

The holiday season is all about giving and it’s the perfect time of year to show your customers you care and appreciate their patronage.

Use these ideas to go the extra mile to give back to your guests this season – and all year!

About the Author: Nicholas Rubright is the founder of Dozmia and lead guitarist in the band Days Gone By. He has a passion for writing, marketing, and collecting some of the best acoustic guitars out there.

5 Ways to Create the Perfect Restaurant Holiday Playlist

Music is part of what makes for an enjoyable vibe in a restaurant. During the holidays, changing things up a little can help your restaurant fit in with the festivity and can help increase sales of seasonal items.

Many restaurant owners have a variety of questions about restaurant holiday music; do customers like holiday music? How early should it start? What type of holiday music is best?

Whatever the case, my aim with this article is to answer all of these questions for you and provide you with the information you need to make a more informed decision.

1. Start With the Basics of Restaurant Music

Restaurant music in general can be a complicated topic. We’ve discussed how to build a playlist for your restaurant before, but we’ll go over some of the basics here.

In restaurants, music can be used to influence consumer behavior in many ways. Here are a few examples:

  • Making the music louder and choosing faster songs causes people to eat faster, which leads to higher table turnover.

  • Soft, slow music can get people to stay in your restaurant longer, which can lead to higher revenue per customer in some situations.

  • Customers spend more with the presence of classical music.

  • Depending on the genre, customers may perceive taste differently.

These are some general guidelines you can use to help curate your holiday playlist. If your goal is high table turnover, choose higher tempo songs. For a high-class restaurant where the goal is to increase alcohol sales, piano covers of holiday songs would be a great pick.

Finally, before you play music in your restaurant, make sure it’s properly licensed.

2. Keep Your Brand in Mind to Choose the Right Genre

Even when choosing holiday music, it’s important to choose songs that reflect your brand’s style and the preferences of your target audience.

You can find many different versions of the same song. For example, if you search Jingle Bells, on Spotify, you’ll find that there are hundreds of different versions.

These different versions offer enough variety for you to be selective of genre and tempo for any holiday song, making it easy to create a playlist that fulfills your song preferences, the genre requirements of your brand, and the tempo requirements based on your restaurant’s business objectives.

If you have a coffee shop designed to embrace a culture of carefree relaxation, a playlist of slow acoustic and indie rock holiday songs might do the trick.

For high-end restaurants, low-tempo piano covers can be your go-to.

3. Don’t Play Holiday Music Too Early

Starting holiday music too early, like before Thanksgiving, can frustrate many customers. In fact, many people believe that anytime before Thanksgiving is too early for holiday shopping to start.

However, people do enjoy holiday music. According to a study conducted by SOCAN, a Canadian performance rights organization, 58% of participants thought holiday music improved their shopping experience – but only if played in December.

Employees like holiday music too. 43% of participants in the SOCAN study said they would like to hear holiday music in their workplace, provided the timing is right.

Starting your holiday playlist at the end of November or beginning of December is ideal. For best results, start layering holiday songs in with your existing playlist so they play every three or four songs, then increase the frequency as you approach the end of the month.

4. Don’t be Repetitive
Starting holiday music too early is one thing that can annoy guests, but another is too much repetition.

Not only will it frustrate your customers, but your employees can also grow frustrated from hearing the same songs all week. As you hopefully know, unhappy employees can result in a poor experience for your customers. And customer experience is a topic we talk about often because of its importance.

Choosing the top 100 holiday songs isn’t enough to keep your customers and employees happy. If you’re frequently playing the same songs that every other restaurant and retail store in town is playing, customers may perceive this as repetitive and will grow frustrated. Employees will easily get tired of hearing the same songs in their workplace that are played everywhere else as well.

It’s okay to play popular songs, but to combat the perception of repetition, make sure your playlist includes plenty of variety. Include less popular holiday songs, cover versions of classic ones, or a mix of these in addition to the top 100 holiday songs you hear every day on the radio.

5. Be Festive in Other Ways, Too

It’s not enough to simply put on a playlist full of holiday songs. To truly capture the feel of the holiday season, you need to be festive in other ways too.

Try decorating your restaurant. Maybe have some hanging garland, a miniature tree, or even some simple lights to create an ambiance. The holiday music you’re going to play still needs to fit the atmosphere of your restaurant, and decorating can help accomplish this.

Offering special holiday deals or introducing a special, time-sensitive holiday menu can also be a great way to reinforce a festive vibe, and can get potential customers to choose your restaurant over another due to fear of missing out.

There are tons of ways to promote your restaurant during this time of year. Just get creative.

Nick Rubright is the founder and editor at Dozmia and the lead guitarist for the band Days Gone By. He has a passion for playing the guitar, writing new songs, and creating awesome blog posts like this one.

Are You Using These 3 Restaurant Customer Service Tips to Delight Customers?

We’ve spoken about customer service efforts outside of your actual restaurant, but let’s discuss the strides you should be taking when a customer comes in to dine with you. You’ve made an awesome impression online, done a great job of responding to online reviews, and have an appetizing menu that draws diners in. Now, you have to make the experience match up to the expectations.

According to New Voice Media, U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service! Don’t let business opportunity slip through your fingers because of insufficient customer care.

We discuss 3 restaurant customer service tips to make a positive impression on your guests.

Be Quick to Greet

No one wants to wait. It doesn’t matter if you’re waiting for a train or a subway, are on line at the supermarket, or are anticipating the season premiere of your favorite show – waiting isn’t fun! And guests don’t like waiting at your restaurant either. I’m not talking about the wait time for a vacant table on a busy Friday night, that’s bound to happen and is understandable. I’m talking about the time it takes for an employee to greet a new customer once they walk in the door.

When a guest enters your door, you should be there to greet them and let them know of next steps, whether it be to follow a hostess to their seat or take a number in line for a free table.

Your greeting is quite literally the first in-person impression someone will have of your restaurant. It comes before the food and drinks, the entertainment, and the rest of the service. And it matters for your profits.

After one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again.

I once entered a restaurant that wasn’t at all crowded. I stood at the hostess table waiting for someone to greet or seat me, and well, nothing. A few minutes passed by and I watched servers walk back and forth to tables, bartenders look at me and continue on their way, and other staff meander in the rear of the restaurant with no intentions of making a move. After those minutes passed by and I wasn’t greeted, I left. They lost a customer just because they weren’t forthcoming or friendly.

Your staff should be trained to greet customers whether it is their main job function or not. In that situation, the unbusy bartender could have said hello and let me know that someone would help me in a moment.

Depending on your restaurant concept, you may have a host or hostess that is always available to welcome new customers. If not, you should still have a staff that is friendly and attentive at all times. Don’t let a single guest go unnoticed or else you could lose what could have been a valuable loyal customer.

Be Attentive, Not Annoying

There’s a fine line that exists between being diligent and overbearing. People are dining out to enjoy great food and the company of each other. Your waitstaff shouldn’t become a part of the party, but instead an observant asset that is aware of guests’ needs.

We’ve all had experiences with both scenarios. On one hand, you have an overly-involved waiter who checks up on you every few minutes, asks if there is anything else you need, and hands you the check as soon as you’ve dropped your fork. Their helicopter ways are so intrusive that you feel like you should just invite them to join the dinner.

Then, you experience a server that makes you question whether they were in the flesh or just a figment of your imagination. You saw them briefly once you sat down, but they went off in the distance to cater to other guests. So much time passes that you have to call them over yourself in order to place your order. They bring you your food and disappear before you can ask for extra napkins. By the end of the meal, you’re considering asking the restaurant owner himself for the bill.

Both situations are not ideal and ones you should strive to avoid in your own restaurant. Being a restaurant waiter is all about timing (and of course, some patience). Know your cues and don’t overstep your boundaries.

Make a Lasting Impression Through the End

Your customer gave you their credit card to pay for the meal and are getting ready to leave. This doesn’t mean you can forget about the customer service you provide. Your impression lasts until a diner walks out the door (and of course, extends beyond that as well).

Just as you greeted them on the way in, you should send guests off with the same effort. Let them know you were happy they dined with you and are anticipating their return.

Offer up something extra, like after dinner mints, toothpicks, or an espresso to finish the dinner. Even up the door for them if possible. Every little detail counts when it comes to customer service. And believe me, they’ll notice.

In Closing

Lauren Freedman, President of E-tailing Group, was quoted saying, “Always keep in mind the old retail adage: Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.”

Don’t miss out on more customers and higher profits because your restaurant failed to provide a positive customer experience.

American Express studies reveal that 7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service.  Putting in the extra effort to be attentive and accommodating will go a long way.

Dining Out Isn’t Just About Eating & Exiting, It’s About the Dining Experience

With the influence of technology and trends, a memorable experience is becoming more of a necessity than a nicety. In fact, an EventBrite survey revealed 75% of people believe unique dining experiences are worth paying more for.

Has your restaurant considered how your dining experience is impressing your guests? Below, we discuss different experiential concepts, both restaurant related and not, to give you ideas to apply to your own business.

Simple Experiential Elements

With the technology available today, it’s easy for people to choose to order delivery and stay in the comfort of their own home, which is why we believe restaurants need to make it more about the overall dining experience than ever before.

Experience doesn’t have to mean marveling your guests with fire-flame throwers or hiring a Mariachi band. It can be as simple as providing the right lighting, music, and decor to really make it memorable.

Maybe you installed a display worthy of an Instagram photo-op or make the dinner interactive by allowing the chef to cook before guests’ eyes. Diners want to feel like they’re getting more than a meal, so create an atmosphere that impresses them.

Take a look at these examples of restaurants who have considered and executed upon the experience factor.

Tokyo Record Bar

 Via nycgo Via nycgo

This Greenwich Village hideout is an 18-seat establishment with the focus on the full experience. They urge guests to make and stick to their reservations, as a full house is what makes the trip worthwhile. Upon arrival (if you find the entrance), diners are asked to pick a song or two for the meal’s playlist. All choices are then combined and become the soundtrack of the night. Once the vinyl starts spinning, guests are treated to a seven-course tasting menu. The focal point here isn’t necessarily the food, but the combination of the senses that create something unique.


 The Clear Pumpkin Pie via ABC News The Clear Pumpkin Pie via ABC News

Aside from being a three star Michelin restaurant, this Chicago outpost is known for its inventive creations and prolonged (up to four hours) dining sessions. Testing the limits of science, guests may enjoy a clear pumpkin pie or edible balloon. You’ll engage your senses throughout the edible journey and enjoy reputable food and wine pairings. Plus, things will be glowing and there will probably be dry ice at some point. The restaurant describes itself as unconventional, which is safe to say is true.



Experiential dining exists across the globe. In Shanghai, Ultraviolet brings immersive dining to life with the influence of technology. The establishment only has one ten-seat table and is hidden away in a nondescript location (diners meet at an external meeting point before entering). Once there, guests enter into a controlled atmosphere of sight, scent, and sound. Plus, there’s a 20-course menu to coincide with the sensory elements.

Ask yourself if you have a concept that’s unique enough to inspire people to want to spend a day or evening with you. Will it be memorable? Will it be worthwhile?

Experience is Popping Up Everywhere

Restaurants and bar concepts have capitalized on the pop-up experience popularity. Creating a “pop-up” or limited time event is a great marketing tactic. It encourages people to purchase tickets (if necessary) before the rest of the crowd and creates a sense of urgency. If it’s the hot new thing, people will jump on the chance to experience it before it’s gone.

The same Eventbrite data we mentioned above revealed that after having a positive pop-up dining experience, 90% of respondents would recommend the restaurant or chef to loved ones, and 87% say they’d return to the restaurant with friends.

Many times, restaurant and bar pop-up endeavors are inspired by popular television shows and movies. Washington D.C. welcomed a Game of Thrones bar in 2017, a 3,000 square foot space that spared no details when it came to recreating the most popular elements of the show. Drinks were all GoT inspired elixirs and although they were arguably pricey, fanatic fans waited on line for hours just to get inside.

 Game of Thrones pop-up via Thrillst Game of Thrones pop-up via Thrillst

Similar concepts have been produced based on shows like Stranger Things, Golden Girls, and Saved By the Bell.

However, pop-up doesn’t just mean it has to be based on a cult-favorite film or series. It can simply mean a limited timeframe for an event. The Magnum ice cream brand hosted a summer pop-up in New York City, where they invited guests to create their own edible concoctions. It closed down when summer was over, which makes sense since the fall isn’t exactly a high season for ice cream.

 Magnum pop-up via amny Magnum pop-up via amny

A pop-up can also mean a featured chef or bartender making a pit-stop at another location. Emily, a popular pizza joint in Brooklyn, hosts the pop-up Margot’s Pizza right within their own turf. Guests have to purchase a ticket to the event (which has already been sold out for each spot in 2018) to experience the culinary creations of Adam Kuban, not of the Emily owners. The purpose? To help Adam gain more exposure within the community. Soon, he will piggyback off the success of this series and open his own pizza parlor.

Pop-ups are great exposure for up-and-coming chefs and bartenders because they let people who have previously flown under the radar to gain more notariety without having to open a full establishment of their own. This concept has created a sense of community and camaraderie between restaurateurs, as opposed to competition. Plus, it gives the guests a unique experience to enjoy as well.

Outside of Restaurants, Experience is Still Key

 Museum of Ice Cream via sf.curbed Museum of Ice Cream via sf.curbed

An experiential focus doesn’t just apply to restaurants. Companies and brands are creating pop-up events and exhibits focused on interaction and documentation on social media.

Take the Museum of Ice Cream for example. Founder Maryellis Bunn created a pop-up wonderland out of sweets, sorbets, and sprinkles. The museum came to New York in 2016, but has since traveled to places like San Francisco and Miami for limited stints. While at the museum, ice cream fanatics dive into pools of rainbow sprinkles and pose for photos with larger-than-life Maraschino cherries.

The museum has amassed over 450k followers on Instagram and if you search the hashtag #museumoficecream, you’ll find 171k related posts. The brand recently launched an ice cream brand and has worked on collaborations with large names like Sephora and American Express.

Tickets often sell out quickly because of the urgency factor and the fact that it’s the perfect setting for high-quality Instagram content. Similar endeavors have popped up recently including the Color Factory and Rose Mansion.

 via Rose Mansion via Rose Mansion

The popularity of these events goes to show that people are looking for something memorable, so consider taking these ideas and apply them to your restaurant!

Food Trucks & Markets

 via Pinterest via Pinterest


Food trucks have been on the up for a while now and have given diners at grab-and-go experience that may have been unexpected. The mobility allows owners to get up and move to a new location at their discretion to reach a wider audience. Trucks are also a more cost-efficient way for newcomers to gain exposure before opening a permanent location.

While the restaurant industry has grown at a yearly rate of 2% recently, food trucks are growing rapidly at 7.9%! This goes to show that the mobile meal-makers are a hit with people across America. Trucks offer all different cuisines ranging from tacos and burgers to kebabs and yes, even lobster. Plus, many of them serve as perfect backdrops for a photo or two.


Market halls have also been on trend in metropolitan areas. Popular restaurants that already have physical locations are also scoring space in halls comprised of multiple different vendors. You can find multiple food halls in New York City, including Chelsea Market and Gansevoort Market, that boast some of the best eats from around the Big Apple.

Boston has big plans for the market scene as well; a recent article by Eater states that one day a food hall will be present on every Boston corner, even referring to them as “the new food truck.”

Food halls give people a different kind of dining experience. Besides a plethora of food options and cuisine types, they take us back to our grammar school cafeteria days. Suddenly, we’re eating among people we haven’t even met before, brought together by a meal.

Plus, food halls take your typical mall food court up a notch, typically offering items from sought-after chefs and hyper-local establishments rather than conglomerate chains.

In Closing

Dining out is no longer comprised of grabbing a bite and going. Today, people want more out of their time at a bar or restaurant; they want a full-on unforgettable experience.

There are plenty of ways you can create an extraordinary encounter for your guests, with something as simple as lighting and music or as complex as creative elements involving technology and innovation.

Whatever you choose, keep the expectations of your diners in mind and let your business’ personality speak for itself.

Does Your Restaurant Location Matter as Much Anymore?

Location has long been known as the primary consideration for many of life’s biggest decisions. Where you choose to live is determined by various outlying factors. Is it close to work? Is the school system good? Are there plenty of things to do nearby? It’s all about location, location, location.

The same has been true about opening a business. You’re told that choosing the right restaurant location t heavily influences its success. If you’re too much off the beaten path, you might not get any customers. If you’re in a bustling part of town, there could be too much competition. But, with the prevalence of technology today, does your restaurant location really matter that much?

Below, I explore the reasons why location isn’t as much of a deciding factor for your business as it once was.

If You Instagram It, They Will Come

According to WordStream, 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram per day. Let’s face it, your restaurant’s social media presence matters. Tons of foodies, influencers, and restaurants themselves are posting drool-worthy photos of bison burgers oozing with cheese and colorful scoops nested in sugar cones. The goal? To attract social scrollers to get up off the couch and get that trendy treat before it goes out of style.

The point is, if someone is tempted by an item they see from your restaurant, they’ll put in the extra effort to pay you a visit. Of course, if you’re serving up a lemon meringue cronut in Manhattan, someone from Utah probably won’t trek 2,000 miles just for a fix. But, if they’re living in the Upper East Side and you’re located on Wall Street, they might just hop on the 4 train to get there.

I must admit I myself have fallen victim to the influence of Instagram. I scrolled by photos of one restaurant’s delicious looking dessert pizza for months before I finally caved. I had to taste the cannoli cream atop the crispy crust for myself. So, I drove about thirty miles out of my way for my own little slice of heaven. It was well worth it. And of course, I Instagrammed it too.

The moral of the story here is that people aren’t finding your restaurant by chance as they may have years ago. Hungry diners are discovering new places on social media, on travel, review, and search sites. If your online presence is strong, they might just make the trip, no matter how near or far you are.

It’s A Piece of Cake to Get Anywhere These Days

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember unfolding the paper map and rambling off directions to the driver. I can recall firing up the dial-up Internet and printing out paper directions for my dad before a major trip. Today, all of that sounds about as archaic as dinosaurs.

With the use of advanced GPS navigation, available with a few taps on a smartphone, anyone can get virtually anywhere. Simply type in the address or name of where you’re headed and you’ll get a route with step-by-step directions. Because of this convenience, it’s not such a hassle for people to find your business. Tucked in the woods? Waze will get you there. On the other side of the highway? Use AppleMaps to find a way.

As echoed above, if you have something a hungry customer wants, they’ll make an effort to get there. Of course, we’re not telling you to choose the most obscure place to set up shop, but if you’re not in the most convenient of locations, it shouldn’t matter as much as it once did.

However, you should start thinking about the accuracy of your online information on these navigation platforms. 70% of listings are wrong on navigation sites. If your address or business name is wrong on a major navigation site, you’ll send diners off in another direction. Not only will you have made someone angry, you most likely lost a customer for good.

The roadtrip to you starts with your online presence, so make sure it’s accurate. SinglePlatform has now added a powerboost to our offerings by getting your accurate business information on the most used navigation tools today. To learn more, visit this page.

Competition is Fierce, But You Can Win

Sure, there are a lot of restaurants here in America (we clearly like to eat). Although there are over 650,000 spots to dine in the US, you’ve got something that makes you special. You’ll probably have a few competing restaurants in your area, but you should focus on what helps you stand out.

Hone in on your menu, establish your social presence, and make sure your business is accurately represented online.

A recent survey by TripAdvisor found that 94% of US diners are influenced by online reviews & 60% are influenced by a restaurant’s photos when choosing where to eat.

It’s clear that the experience with your restaurant begins before the food is served, so make sure your business is represented in the best way it can be. A well-executed website and strong marketing strategy should also be considered as part of your overall plan.

If you go above and beyond the basics to ensure your restaurant has an impressive online presence and provides a memorable in-house experience, it’ll be easy to conquer the competition. It’ll also be easy to attract new and returning diners regardless of your location.

In Closing

Choosing a location has long been known as an important element of opening a business. But, the technology available today makes it less of a concern for business owners than it once was.

Diners are no longer finding you by chance as they travel along a highway; instead, they’re researching places to eat online, finding restaurant menus, and reading reviews before making a decision.

Instagram influencers are tempting followers with trendy treats, and navigations apps are getting people anywhere they want to go at any time. Although you should still consider location as a factor in your restaurant decisions, it simply doesn’t have as much of an impact as it used to.

If you have delicious food, an outstanding staff, and the online presence to match, hungry diners, with the help of GPS, will travel near and far to join you for a meal.

How Significantly Does Restaurant Lighting Affect the Meal?

Restaurant ambiance is key to setting the mood for your diners’ experience. Ambiance encompasses everything from color palette to furniture, wall decor to music. Restaurant lighting is an important element of your restaurant’s overall design, but does it also influence what and how we eat? Today, we’re putting a spotlight on restaurant lighting and how it affects the dining experience.

Setting the Mood

 Blacktail Blacktail

Of course, restaurant lighting plays a part in setting the mood. Depending on your restaurant concept, the lighting should reflect it. A romantic steakhouse usually has dim mood lighting enhanced with tabletop candles or lanterns. This emits a come and stay a while aura, which can encourage people to have the dessert and another glass of wine. Conversely, a fast-casual establishment is focused on getting people in and out the door, so bright lights encourage fast-paced feasting. Order your food on the assembly line, eat it, and move on.

Your ideal lighting can be achieved in a number of ways. Pendant lights, recessed lighting, and even wall lamps or ceiling fans can help bring vibrancy to your space. If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly and natural look, natural lighting from large windows will bring the outside in.

We love the lighting strategy that Westville Dumbo uses. They combine natural light, pendant fixtures, and sconces to create a friendly, open environment perfect for Sunday brunch or a laid-back lunch.

Another example of bright and beautiful light? ATX Cocina, a modern Mexican establishment in Austin, screams inviting, light, and breezy.

 ATX Cocina Via Dwell ATX Cocina Via Dwell

“Underlight” vs. “Overlight”

The placement of your lighting also sets a tone. Underlighting, such as candles on a table, are more flattering than overlights, like fixtures above your head. Underlights illuminate your face in a way that makes it look more attractive, whereas overhead lights can cast shadows and make you appear tired. If you’re on a first date, you want to be seen in your best light (pun intended). So, romantic restaurants should take advantage of table lighting and even consider placing lighting closer to the ground.

The Globe and Mail wrote a piece on how lighting can make you more attractive. Zebulon Perron, designer and design firm owner, noted:

[“You try to conceal lighting so people don’t really understand where the source is. They just kind of feel the glow. People look a lot better when they’re lit from underneath. If you’re going on a date and there’s candlelight from underneath, human features are enhanced by that. It’s the campfire phenomenon.”]

One if by Land, Two if by Sea is a NYC West Village staple that was voted #5 Most Romantic Restaurant in the World by Architectural Digest. They utilize large, rustic chandeliers and tall candlesticks, along with natural light, to create an unforgettable ambiance.

 Via Architectural Digest Via Architectural Digest

It’s wise to consider the lighting of your restaurant heavily when working on the overall design. Lights are very important features that set the stage for the rest of the layout, so choose wisely.

Influencing Dining Decisions

 Cecconi's of Miami Beach Via Architectural Digest Cecconi’s of Miami Beach Via Architectural Digest

Sure, lights can impact the mood, but they also influence what we decide to eat. And there’s research to prove it!

Food & Wine published an article on how light influences eating including research done by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab:

[Data published in the Journal of Marketing Research shows that patrons dining in well-lit spaces are 16-24 percent more likely to order healthy dishes than those in dimly lit rooms, due to a higher level of alertness.]

This makes sense, right? Think about it – dim lighting evokes a sense of comfort, which in turn can make us a little more lenient about our dining habits for the night. But, if the light is bright, we’re more likely to think more strategically about what we order, in turn resulting in healthier decision making.

During the study, half of the focus group was placed in a dim room while the other half was in a bright room. When ordering, the dimly lit crowd ordered 39% more calories!

But, the lighting might just be one influence that can be manipulated. Health magazine discussed this research study as well:

[The researchers found that when diners in dimly-lit rooms were given a coffee placebo (or simply asked to be more alert) they were just as likely as their peers in the well-lit rooms to make healthy food choices.]

The state of your mind at the time of consumption may be the influencing factor, but the lighting can help determine your mood, and in turn, your mental state when ordering.

Impacting the Amount of Food Consumed

If you asked me before researching this topic, I would have guessed that dimmer lit rooms would influence people to eat more. As mentioned, a dim-lit room is more comfortable, which in turn would inspire me to stay longer and order more.

However, an interesting study at Hardee’s fast-food revealed a truth that researchers weren’t expecting.

The fast-food chain took one half of the restaurant and transformed into a fine dining atmosphere, complete with low lighting and soft music. Researchers thought that diners there would eat more and stay longer than those in the typical fast-food dining room. However, it was revealed that people did in fact linger, but they didn’t eat more. It’s clear that they enjoyed the atmosphere, but that the ambiance didn’t impact the amount of food consumption.

To top it off, the fine dining room patrons found the food to be more enjoyable than those who ate at the untouched fast-food section. This begs the question – should fast food restaurants test out a fine dining atmosphere?

The Instagram Influence

Restaurants are destinations for food and lifestyle bloggers and influencers, as well as other social media users who just love taking photos of pretty things. With the heavy influence of social media on dining decisions, you always want your restaurant represented positively. People will be checking out not only your restaurant’s social media channels, but those of the food influencers who post irresistible pictures of food, drinks, and restaurant design. You should consider how the lighting in your establishment affects their photoshoots.

A glowing review can do great things for your business’ reputation, but beautiful photos can as well. Test out the lighting in your place to see how snapshots look when taken with an iPhone. The popularity of social channels, Instagram in particular, has changed the way people think about dining out.

Dana Eisenberg of Mediaite explained how social media has impacted her restaurant discovery process:

[“Social media, particularly Instagram, and now Snapchat has completely overhauled the way we eat. Ten years ago, looking for a restaurant meant finding the most recent Zagat edition we had in my parents’ car and scouring the short, pithy reviews for something that looked acceptable. Now, it’s a process that generally takes longer than the actual meal. First, something on Instagram catches my eye. If there’s a geotag on the photo, awesome. If not, I’ll find it. I’ll scroll through the Instagram archives, looking at pictures (often all of the same dish) until I’ve had enough.”]

When dreaming up restaurant designs, you have to consider how your food and drinks will look on smartphone screens. Lighting can make or break the Instagram-worthiness of photos, so take that into account when picking out lamps and fixtures.

Let Your Light Shine

Restaurant lighting is an important element of the overall ambiance. It sets the tone, influences dining decisions, and makes or breaks a social media photo shoot. When considering your restaurant’s overall concept, design, and feel, lighting should be one of your points of focus. Although the food and drinks are your restaurant’s focal points, the lights shining down (or up) on them are just as relevant.

5 Tips for Improving Restaurant Ambiance

Going out to eat is about more than just the food, it’s about the experience. After all, diners take in your restaurant’s ambiance long before they take their first bites. The first thing we all do when entering a restaurant is to scope out the aesthetics. Because of this, it is critical that the restaurant provides a good first impression. Having a great ambiance will encourage patrons to enter, stay longer, eat and drink more and ultimately increase profitability for your restaurant.

So, how do you know what’s right for you? We’ve done the research and compiled a list of helpful tips for creating an atmosphere that will enhance the dining experience at your restaurant to increase profits.

Make a Good First Impression

The old saying tells us to avoid judging a book by its cover. But, we can guarantee people will judge your establishment by how it looks from the outside. Make it attractive! Start with a prominent sign out front. The concept of your restaurant will determine what style you should go with. Maybe you’ll have a custom sign made from old barn wood or maybe you’ll flash some neon.

Let’s face it, today everyone is documenting their every move on social media. If you have an appealing sign introducing your restaurant, people will photograph themselves in front of it.

Consider adding a cool focal piece that they’ll want to have an  “Insta” shoot in front of. Murals, giant Adirondack chairs, even bicycles are all elements that people will want to snap a photo with.

Toro Loco in NYC has a Mexican Day of the Dead theme and incorporates pink as their pop of color. They placed a pink bicycle outside of the front door and it became an attraction for guests.

These easy additions can become your trademark and all those social posts are free advertising for you. If guests geotag your location in their post, followers can easily navigate to your own social account.

Interested in learning more about Geotagging and what it can do for your business? Join our webinar on Wednesday, August 15th. 

Having outdoor seating or a patio is another good way to look attractive from the outside. If people can see and appreciate your concept even before they enter, it will make them more likely to come in and see what you’re all about.

Do you have a bar as part of your restaurant concept? Having a bar inspires people to spend both more money and time at your establishment. If you are an upscale restaurant, having a 10-12 seat bar will allow people to enjoy a drink or two before they sit down for their meal. If your dining floor is busy, having a bar helps patrons pass the time while waiting for a table to become available. The bar area can create an ambiance of its own. It should be attractive, clean, and well-stocked.

Let There Be Light

Everyone who has gone out to eat has experienced both restaurants that are too dark or too bright for their liking. Getting the lighting right is important to guests. Just because we all have cell phones doesn’t mean we want to squint over a menu using the flashlight feature.

Like the ideal music, the ideal lighting for your restaurant depends on the style of the restaurant. Low lighting creates a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere that encourages diners to really savor their food while bright lighting helps increase customer turnover (perfect for midday rush).

It is crucial that a restaurant finds the proper lighting to appeal to their customers. Determine the mood or the concept you want to achieve and then match it with the lighting.

A romantic setting should be dimly lit. Try a nice chandelier or incorporate candles. If you run a fast-casual concept, use natural light through big windows (with adjustable shade options), or try a bright, upbeat color scheme. Finding the proper lighting will set the tone for your restaurant.

Lighting isn’t only essential for the guest experience during the meal. As we mentioned above, people want to take photos of their experience!

When it comes to photo lighting, some restaurants are going to great lengths to ensure their customers get the perfect photos. The second branch of steakhouse Boston Chops that opened this year features a special “Instagrammers’ table” complete with moveable, adjustable lights ideal for photos.

 The Instagram Table at Boston Chops via The Daily Meal The Instagram Table at Boston Chops via The Daily Meal

Be Aware of Sound

Listen to the music! Research has shown that diners are willing to spend the least money at restaurants that don’t play music, so a silent or music-less restaurant can be detrimental to sales.

However, not all music is created equal. Different styles of music work best at different types of restaurants, so you probably shouldn’t just play your personal favorites unless they fit well with the vibe of your restaurant.

Studies have shown that people eat at the speed of the music being played. In other words, they spend more time at restaurants (and, as a result, increased the bill) when slow music is being played and less time in restaurants when fast music is being played.

If you’re a sit-down restaurant where customers like to sit and talk and often order additional courses like dessert, slower music is a good choice. If you’re a fast-casual restaurant that prioritizes customer turnover, fast music is probably your best bet.

Just make sure the mood is right for the food! Don’t bring in the Elvis impersonator to your upscale steakhouse. Figure out your concept and demographic and choose your music based upon that.

When it comes to music, live bands are also an option to consider. There are sultry jazz singers, reggae bands, even old school pianists to choose from.

To read more about how to build the perfect restaurant playlist, check out our guest blog post.

A restaurant’s sound doesn’t just come from the music being played. Whether it be music, laughter, noise from the kitchen, or the sound from a television, you want to make sure you’re cognizant of what’s happening in your establishment.

Keep the hustle and bustle of the kitchen confined to that area so you’re not disturbing your guests. Listen to customers’ requests to lower TV volume. Keeping your guests happy is the priority, so keep in mind that there needs to be room for adjustments. Also, remember to consider the ceiling heights and the acoustics of your space.

Color the Experience

The colors in your dining room influence diners more than you might realize. For example, red increases blood pressure and heart rate which in turn increases hunger. This is thought to be evolutionary, as red signaled energy-dense, sugar-packed fruits and vegetables to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Orange and yellow are appetite stimulants too. Orange increases mental activity and gets customers thinking about healthy food and yellow makes customers happy, thereby improving the overall dining experience.

Red, orange, and yellow are all good choices for decor. Be advised though, red plates have been shown to cause diners to eat less.

 24/7 Restaurant via Travel Curator 24/7 Restaurant via Travel Curator

The yellow decor at 24/7 Restaurant at The Standard in Los Angeles creates an upbeat ambiance.

You may want to avoid using a lot of gray, black, brown, purple, and blue because those colors are known appetite suppressants. Gray repels us from the thought of food; black diminishes our appetites; brown reminds us of burnt food; purple is associated with unpopular foods like eggplant and blue makes us sleepy and can slow our metabolisms.

Let the Staff Set the Tone

Having appealing music and lighting is key, but your staff interacts with your guests. They are the ones who bring the energy and excitement to your restaurant. Your servers should be welcoming and helpful. Have them recommend dishes and be open to answering any and all questions about a menu item/drink. Enthusiasm sells! At the same time, they should also avoid the practices diners consider annoying.

Make sure your staff wears proper uniforms or attire to match your restaurant’s concept. They’re a direct reflection of how you want to present your restaurant to diners. Of course, t-shirts and shorts are unacceptable uniforms for a fine dining establishment, but they might work perfectly for a sports bar.

Some restaurant concepts call for a different type of staff behavior. Take Ellen’s Stardust Diner for example. They are known for their Broadway-themed dining experience, so servers entertain guests with renditions of Broadway classics.

This isn’t typical staff behavior, but it works for them. Find what works for your restaurant and run with it!

As a restaurant owner, it is vital to create the proper ambiance of your establishment. Customers who feel comfortable dining with you will want to keep coming back for more.

Having a positive experience will ensure that people recommend your restaurant to others. Create a buzz! Word of mouth and social media combined will be two of your most powerful means of advertising. Capitalize on this by laying the groundwork with factors that extend beyond the meal itself. Look around and make sure you have “set the table” with all the right ingredients.