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Restaurant Design

By Aaron Allen

Create a memorable experience

For millions of Americans, dining is more than eating out - it's a form of entertainment. That means guests don't want to "feel at home." They want a memorable experience away from home. Savvy eateries understand that restaurant interior design is part of that memorable experience.

Concepts like the Rainforest Café, Planet Hollywood and Mars 2112 have made their mark through innovative interior design. Of course, it's not necessary to create a space-aged theme to provide a pleasant atmosphere for guests. The point is that your restaurant's design should cater to the tastes of its target market.

Well-planned interior design contributes to the success - and the profits - of any dining establishment. It begins with market research, continues with understanding market trends and concludes with strategic execution.

Restaurant interior design has a dramatic impact on the type of guests that restaurants attract. The Rain Forest Café's interior design appeals to environmentally-minded guests who enjoy a nature-made experience, for example, while the 50's Prime Time Café at Disney MGM Studios appeals to guests who get a kick out of a blast from the past.

Creative restaurant interior design, however, does not require a million-dollar investment - if you understand the nuances of consumer marketing. Restaurant design experts are equipped with the knowledge and skill to create a dining experience that fosters word of mouth marketing long after the meal is over.

Fruition, a smoothie concept in Miami, has generated a buzz with its resourceful restaurant interior design. With national smoothie chains grabbing the lion's share of the market, Fruition needed to stand apart from the major brands. Since Fruition bills itself as an "exotic" smoothie shop that only uses fresh, unusual fruit ingredients, the interior design strategy had to be just as exotic.

The strategy is at once exotic and practical. Fruition's interior incorporates the exotic fresh fruit concept through and through. In fact, walking into Fruition is like walking into a third world fresh fruit market with passionfruit, lychee and canistels proudly displayed for guest inspection.

The restaurant's interior design also communicates the smoothie concept throughout the store with swirling designs and a custom color palate drawn from the exotic fruits. Fruition invokes a contemporary and upscale feel with customer booth designs and minimal linear architecture. The concept is designed to give larger brands a run for their money, thanks to a restaurant interior design that corresponds with its unique selling point: exotic fruit.

To be sure, restaurant interior design requires an in-depth understanding of how restaurants flow, how employees will interact with the design, and how site architecture could impact the design. The most successful restaurant interior design, blended with irresistible food and impeccable service, breeds repeat guests, spirited employees and greater profitability.

Build the brand into your design

Every restaurant requires a different flavor, a different flare - and different experience. That's why it is important to build your restaurant's brand into its design.

Building the brand into your design multiplies the value of your interior investment because it communicates your message while guests are waiting in the lobby, on their way to the restrooms, during the meal, and as they pay the bill. Marketing through your restaurant design is not merely a matter of tossing up some signage with clever messages here and there; rather, it requires a top to bottom approach that includes relevant messaging in relevant places.

Your brand should be apparent through your interior design as soon as guests walk in the door. The lobby can speak volumes about the experience awaiting them in the dining room. Is the lobby seating rugged or posh? Is the hostess station a simple podium or does it have a concierge, full-service feel? Do the restrooms offer comfort with accessories appropriate to the theme of your eatery? Building the brand into your restaurant design is as much about subliminal cues as it is about blatant messaging.

Leaving guests with an unforgettable experience is one way to build the brand into your interior design. That's just what Señor Frog's did at its first U.S. location in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The restaurant set out on a re-branding strategy as it developed a restaurant prototype. That prototype centered on a beach theme through and through. But to really make the brand shine through the design meant more than just laying tile to create the look of water and sand on the floor.

Señor Frog's Cancun incorporated unforgettable elements that would send guests away with a good word in their mouths, along with good food in their bellies. Señor Frog's boasts miniature put-put with a $100 bar tab prize, inner tubes in the ceiling, a hot tub in the middle of the restaurant, and a slide that dumps people into the lagoon outside.

Building your brand into your restaurant design is a fun challenge to overcome - and one that can ultimately help justify the cost of restaurant renovations or extra comforts in a restaurant prototype. It demands a strong background in marketing and branding because flooding the guests with too many overt messages could make them feel uncomfortable. The goal is to build your brand into the design and let the vision speak for itself.

Aaron Allen Aaron Allen is the Founder of Aaron Allen & Associates, an Orlando based strategic marketing consultancy that specializes in the foodservice and hospitality industry.

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