Many people depend on restaurants the same way they would a home-cooked meal. Their favorite meals must taste the same every time they visit yet unlike anything else out there, like an old family recipe measured in handfuls and pinches instead of cups and tablespoons. Couple a reliable menu with inviting decor and a friendly wait staff and it's no surprise Americans dine out in some capacity an average of more than 5 times a week, according to the United States Healthful Food Council.
But even the most successful restaurants – chain or independently owned – require a facelift every now and again. Revitalizing an eatery's appearance can not only boost patronage, but integrating new equipment or furniture can serve practical purposes as well as aesthetic ones.
Promoting a 'fresh' identity
Freezing ingredients was once a necessary evil in the food service industry. It allowed restaurants to order in bulk and minimize overhead costs while meeting customer demands. Moreover, freezing expensive products like meat lengthens its shelf life.
But over the last few years, the food service industry has spun toward a campaign for "freshness," defined in a few different ways. Customers want to know that the specials they order aren't made with freezer-burned ingredients thawed in a microwave, but authentic high-quality meals made with fresh components. Some, like chain restaurant Five Guys Burgers and Fries, have ditched freezers altogether, opting to only use coolers to store their food.
Restaurant owners might cringe at the idea of taking such drastic measures. Committing to this prospect would mean retooling delivery times and other logistical factors. But consider this added benefit: Not only will customers flock to the added freshness, but freezing can account for between 10 and 16 percent of a restaurant's operating costs, according to National Grid. Additionally, expended energy directly correlates to temperature – the colder, the more expensive overall. Changing from freezers to cooling cabinets might allow restaurants to allocate money away from paying electricity bills and into the business itself.
"A dimmer switch and light jazz can subconsciously encourage people to eat slower."
An appetite for ambience
The old line of thinking in restaurants used to focus on turnover. The quicker customers ate their meals and left, the sooner managers and wait staff could reset the table and get other customers in, thus generating revenue. Again, while this is a very business-savvy notion, it doesn't necessarily reflect the interests of patrons. To accommodate, many restaurants have begun to remodel their decor to promote a homier, relaxed setting. The days of the "greasy spoon" have long passed.
A 2012 study published by Ammons Scientific found changes in how a restaurant lights its dining area and entertains its customers directly affects how they partake in a meal. A dimmer switch and light jazz playing at a soft volume can actually subconsciously encourage people to eat slower. This might not free up a table any sooner, but a more enjoyable experience overall could turn a first-time muncher into a lifelong patron. After all, no one wants to return to a restaurant that left them feeling rushed and bloated.
Restaurant owners would never make a decision about their menus without considering the customer, and the same rule should apply to the interior design of their establishments. Creating a loungier, more comfortable vibe by adding cushioned armchairs or tables made from reclaimed wood might seem frivolous, but shrewd business leaders know the right atmosphere can make the meals taste even better.
Hospitality and restaurant industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.