Today, we are going to look at 3 often overlooked parts of restaurant science all related to comfort: Sound, Temperature, and Lighting. All of these factors play into guest satisfaction and the speed of table turnover.
There are many different sounds in the restaurant and you can play up or play down any of them. Aside from music, there are
the natural sounds of people talking and working, you can control this sound with your choice of flooring, wall type, sound panels, seat padding, lighting (which we will discuss below) and more. Typically, more formal restaurants are quieter, and less formal are louder, but you probably knew most of that already. Where we really want to focus is how sound can affect guest satisfaction and profitability.
It’s important to have some music playing, without it, the restaurant will be so quiet that people will avoid having conversations for fear of other people listening in. I once was at a restaurant without music where everyone in the section got to be included on a first date conversation. It was pretty uncomfortable for everyone involved.
Your music selection should be deliberate though. Find a selection of music that really fits the atmosphere of your restaurant. It may be mellower for lunch and classy for dinner, and upbeat and lively in the bar area. Either way, make sure it is deliberate. Play music that suits the atmosphere and clientele not just music you or the bartender like. Additionally, do not play music from the same artist twice in a row. If a guest hates that artist, they just had to sit there uncomfortably for the last ten minutes. Diversify your list or station.
Keep your music at a respectable volume. Too loud and people can’t hear each others conversation and too quiet and they are afraid to have one.
Except for a very select few bars, I would avoid a TouchTunes system, especially in restaurant settings. The allure of the extra money may make you want to install a machine, however, this is a very quick way to clear out a bar losing you all of the money you hoped to get. With their new app, you don’t even need to be at a bar to play music there, meaning people can maliciously play terrible music just to clear out your bar without even having to enter it. Even without that, this type of system encourages people to play a bunch of their own style of music, so you can switch from top 40 to death metal to country to blues and each person gets angry with the other persons’ music. It’s better to just play music that fits the mood you want your bar or restaurant to have.
Depending on your concept you may want to keep your volume lower or higher. Higher volumes typically turns tables over faster as long, deep conversations are less frequent. Lower volumes create more intimate spaces and encourage people to sit, talk, and have one more drink. You can vary volumes to control table turnover speed more effectively.
Finally for sound, if you have an open kitchen concept, lower music volume allows customers to hear the sounds of the kitchen adding to the ambience and may help get them hungrier. Hearing the chopping of chefs’ knives, the sizzle of the grill, and the hiss of the fryers adds to a more enjoyable experience.
Temperature can also play into the comfortability of your restaurant. Keeping your temperatures in the 68-72 degree range encourages customers to sit longer, as they will be warm and comfortable. Temperatures outside of this range will hurry people along especially the farther you get from it as customers will be too cold or too hot and will want to get out of the area faster. Go too far in either direction and people will stop dining at your restaurant because they will be too uncomfortable while eating.
Lighting also plays into the comfort of your guests. Dimmer spaces feel more intimate while brighter spaces are more lively and fun. Too bright though and people will feel like they need to leave. This is a common tactic used for last call in bar atmospheres due to its effectiveness at clearing out spaces. Too dim is not good either, as guests will have a hard time reading their menu, won’t be able to see and enjoy their food as well, and may struggle to properly communicate with their other guests or the server.
Keep you lights lower if you want guests to sit longer, possibly order a bottle of wine and have a slower-paced meal with more courses. If you are trying to turn tables over faster, brightening the lights a bit should speed up your service.
Your sound, temperature, and lighting in your restaurant each play an important role in the comfort of your guests. By actively controlling each factor, you’ll be able to turn as many or as few tables as you want.