Branding, Lighting, and Menu Design: Creating a Restaurant Experience

Branding, Lighting, and Menu Design: Creating a Restaurant Experience

In this day and age, running a successful restaurant calls for far more than just excellent food. Yes, you’ll need appealing, well-made dishes and drinks to bring customers through your door, but, thanks to online directories and review sites, you’ll need a lot more than that to grab attention and to keep people coming back for repeat visits. Every little detail of your restaurant could be a make-or-break moment for your guests. One of the biggest deal breakers might surprise you. Here’s how the lighting throughout your space can impact your branding and overall customer experience — and what you should do about it!

How Lighting Can Impact Business

Lighting may seem like a simple thing. After all, at home you just flip on lights when you need them, then turn them off when you’re done in a space. Shouldn’t it be the same at your restaurant? 

Nope! Years ago, some enterprising individual realized that, while lights are needed to brighten a restaurant space at night, they can be so much more than just basic illumination. Back in the days before electric wiring became widespread, a dim dining room generally implied that a restaurant was unsavory or unsuccessful. A dim interior said they either couldn’t afford candles, or their quality was so poor that they didn’t want to brighten the space too much. So it stands to reason that electrical wiring brought about a lighting revolution for restaurants. It became a status symbol of a sort to brighten a space so everything could be seen clearly. Bright spaces were a way to say, “Look, our quality is great and we have nothing to hide!”

Fast forward a couple of decades, and that mindset slowly slipped away. While lighting is still necessary, many restaurants made the shift to thinking about their lighting as “mood lighting,” or a way to create a specific ambiance. Bright lighting became a marker of restaurants that were seen as “cheap” or “garish.” Funny how trends work, isn’t it? 

Modern restaurant lighting has made a shift toward dimly lit dining room spaces after sundown. The idea is that it creates an ambiance of relaxation, something that says, “Come, hang out, stay awhile.” And, when diners feel comfortable and welcomed, it creates a subconscious desire to return and enjoy that experience again. If you want an environment that keeps your customers coming back for more, one of the single most impactful changes you can make is to update your lighting. 

Lighting and Branding

In past blogs, we’ve talked about the importance of creating a brand story as a way to market your business more effectively. Lighting can be a big way to enhance your branding throughout your space. First, consider what sort of overall atmosphere you want to create. If yours is a fast-casual restaurant and you care more about turning tables, a brighter space will encourage that. If you want customers to settle in, order a bottle of wine, and linger over dessert, consider lighting that allows you to dim the space and set a more relaxed mood. 

Next, use lighting as an accessory of a sort to build that mood further. A dim space accented with pendant lights can help shape an ambiance of coziness that still supports conversation. This is also the time to consider what types of lighting will support your branding. If your brand centers on being sleek, modern, and minimalist, you won’t want to use ornate chandeliers or mix-and-match shabby chic pendants. Also consider how fairy lights, candles, or small oil lamps can provide lighting and add to the ambiance, while also supporting your branding. 

Menu Printing/Design and Lighting

We’ve talked about this aspect of branding, too, but here’s a reminder: your menu is your single most effective sales tool. With that in mind, it is important to be sure that all menu design and printing works well with your lighting concept. After all, your menu can’t do much to sell your dishes if the text is too small to be read in dim lighting! As you go through the menu design and printing process, be cognizant of the brand story you want to tell, but also consider how your restaurant’s lighting will impact legibility. If you know you’ll keep your dining area dim and use things like candlelight or soft lamps for accent lighting, your menu design will need to have larger type and a bolder contrast so it can still be read easily. If you’re going through the menu design process, be sure to share that information with your designer so it can be accounted for. 

The other thing to consider in terms of menu design and lighting is what sorts of foods you want to sell — and how your menu and lighting will both play a role in that decision. A study performed by the University of South Florida found that dining spaces that were well-lit encouraged patrons to make healthier choices like fresh vegetables, white meat poultry, and grilled or baked items. Conversely, patrons ordering in a darker space more often skewed toward less-healthy foods, including fried items and desserts. 

So, on top of supporting your branding, your lighting should also support your menu offerings, and what you want to guide patrons to choose more frequently. The second portion of this is — especially for restaurants with dimmer lighting — the importance of highlighting your big-ticket foods in some way. As we discuss in more detail in a past blog, the eye naturally gravitates to certain spots on the menu. If there are certain dishes you want to emphasize, make sure they go to those prime spots. This will help your most profitable items sell well, even (especially) in a dimmer restaurant space. 

Better Branding: the Balance Between Lighting and Menu Design

When it comes down to it, there are many factors that can affect how each customer perceives your restaurant. Building a brand story and creating a welcoming atmosphere will play a big role which is why both lighting and menu design are so important — and why the two elements should work together seamlessly. Here at TerraSlate, we want to help you create the right menu design for your brand story and your space, no matter what that looks like. 

Start with our complete menu design package, which includes options like a multi-page menu as well as separate drink and dessert menus to help you with better upsells! Then, ask about menu printing using our waterproof paper. If you’re looking for restaurant menus that can hold up to heavy handling, heat, spills, and more, our waterproof paper is the ideal solution. Every sheet of TerraSlate waterproof paper is heat-resistant up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also rip-proof, colorfast, and works easily with any laser printer or copy machine — so you can easily print off new menus whenever you need them, without worrying about lead times or costs!

Explore the full benefits here to learn more about what our waterproof menus can do. Connect with the TerraSlate team to learn more about how we can help you find the ideal balance between branding, lighting, and your business concept!

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