The monthly online
magazine for all
catering professionals
Essentially Catering Magazine

Article Archive - For this month's articles - View magazine »


Ambience and appetite

When starting a restaurant or refurbishing an existing business you have many decisions to make. For a restaurant, obviously the food and menu are very important, but where on your list of priorities do you place your interior decoration? Lucy Grafham, image consultant and digital wall décor specialist, explains how your décor can be just as important as the food you serve

Food is a pleasure enjoyed both by the mind and body. The taste, texture and presentation of the food itself are obviously crucial, but the overall enjoyment of a meal can either be enhanced or lessened by the surroundings in which it is eaten. How does your décor ‘speak’ to your customers? What does it say? Is it inviting, offering the promise of a wonderful experience? Remember: your establishment communicates many things to your clientele before the first morsel has even passed their lips.

Marketing your restaurant

As more and more people choose to dine out, their tastes grow more sophisticated and their choice of establishment more refined. Your ambience has to be spot on. Everything counts. Your interior plays a very large role in the marketing of your restaurant. It is like a menu of what’s to come: something that whets the appetite, reassuring the customer that the food, like the surroundings, will be superbly designed, professionally presented and delicious. The whole eating-out experience needs to create good memories that draw your customers back again and again. Your interior design and décor make up what is essentially an environment that sells food.

Ingredients of good restaurant décor

So what makes up a good interior? How do colour and lighting affect appetite? Here are some ideas to help you plan your décor successfully:


Colour is probably more important than you think. A lifetime of perceptions gives us a preordained idea of how things ought to look, taste, smell and feel. We reference and react to colour from our experiences.

When you are planning your menu and have created your speciality, take a look at the colours on the plate. You’ll find that the fantastic combinations you get in taste are great in colour combinations too. Use these colours in your décor and you’ll find your interior starts to work with your menu. While food and décor matching is not an exact science, the following shows that it is not that far off.

Palette: traditional English

traditional English

Colours used:

steak, cream, flame, mustard, wine

Suited to:

public houses, gastro menus

Palette: fresh green ingredients

fresh green ingredients

Colours used:

avacado, black olive, mid neutral, tomato, nacho, sweetcorn, noodle

Suited to:

Mexican food, smoothie bar, vegetarian, salad bar, alternative food

Palette: bright cafe

bright café

Colours used:

orange, yolk, cream, coffee, red pepper, blueberry

Suited to:

cafeterias, breakfast bars, sandwich/patisserie

Palette: warm and exotic

warm and exotic

Colours used:

saffron, orange, dark neutral, tomato, green herb

Suited to:

Indian Restaurant, Chinese, Moroccan, Mexican

Palette: chic and stylish

chic and stylish

Colours used:

light neutral, light salmon, dark neutral, hint of green

Suited to:

sushi bar, fish restaurant, fine dining, minimalist food

Consider putting various dishes in alternative environments and you can imagine how you might expect the food to taste different.

Difficult colour schemes for restaurants


Blue is very tranquil. It is the colour of the sea and sky and reminds us of sunny days. So how is it that blue also happens to be the least appetising colour of the spectrum? Imagine being served blue rice, blue pasta or blue gravy. Marketing companies do not use blue in food promotion. If there is no natural food colour association, do not use it in your décor.

Acceptable uses of blue: use only the real sky or sea that you can see out of the windows.


Green is a harder colour to use in your interior design than you might think. The colour green on a fruit or vegetable is incredibly specific to the variety of fruit or vegetable and its health. Green can be garish if used incorrectly – a bright pea green interior is hardly likely to entice the crowds in.

Acceptable uses of green: olive works well if used correctly. Avocado or lime green can also work, but are to be used carefully. If you are unsure, don’t use green in your furnishings, you can always bring green in by putting flowers on the tables.


Used correctly purple is luxurious, rich and sumptuous. Used incorrectly and it can be dingy or synthetic looking.

Good-looking purples: aubergine, rare steak or lamb colour, wine, purple sprouting broccoli.

Purple colour scheme


Easier colour schemes for restaurants

Red, yellow, orangeRed, yellow, orange

Red is a stimulating colour that has been shown to increase the appetite. Warm colours relax and reassure. Be sure to use the correct proportion of these colours in context with what you are serving. A bright red room with bright red furnishings could come across too bold and overpower the food you serve.


You can always jazz up a neutral scheme with accessories, however neutralising a strong colour scheme is altogether more difficult. If in doubt, decorate using neutral colours and accentuate your interior with accessories such as artwork, flowers or napkins in your main food colours. Cool colours are calming and peaceful and are a classy safe bet.


As someone who works in a restaurant, you have a completely different perspective of the place from that of your customers. When considering the interior design for your restaurant, remember to look at it from a seated rather than a standing level. Try the perspective from different tables. What do you see? Do you feel enclosed? Exposed? Do you feel special or do you feel like an obstacle? View the space with both practicality and intuition.

Now you have a better perspective of your space, is there room for improvement? Large open spaces, narrow or small rooms and interiors lacking character are common hurdles in dining design. Use cunning wall décor items and partitioning to minimise problems.

Small interiors

Consider clever lighting, artworks that reflect light and – of course – mirrors to give an illusion of space. Dark, cramped, small rooms can be opened up with light, detailed art. Hang a large painting or print with a faraway horizon/focal point to create an illusion of expanse within the room.

Large roomNarrow spaces

To visually widen your narrow space, paint one wall in a rich dark colour and hang an interesting print/painting on it. Then hang a large mirror on the opposite wall – the reflection will return light and open up the space.

Large rooms

Large rooms can be a bit overwhelming. A more intimate environment can be created by installing partitions. Try using acrylic or glass panels, which let the light pass through, or hang light, net or beaded curtains for a similar effect.

Low ceilings

Choose light coloured walls and ceiling to draw the eye upward. Tall prints and paintings with strong vertical lines will emphasise height perspective.


The combination of your clientele and menu should form a good guide to the style of décor you need. Décor affects turnover, customer satisfaction and profit margin – don’t leave it as an afterthought.

For further information visit Image Shed Corporate Art or phone 0845 430 8757

Your feedback is important to us – please comment any time. Leave feedback »

Previous issues - For latest news & articles view this month's magazine »

Inside this issue

Sign up for more

Sign up today and get Essentially
Catering Magazine delivered every
month to your inbox.

You’ll also get:

  • Weekly news updates
  • Exclusive catering product offers
Sign up »
Advertisement BB Foodservice
Follow Essentially Catering Magazine on Twitter

Essentially Catering @MagazineEC 19 MAY

RT @ChefGruel: When the shutdown ends, I’m inviting everyone who retweets this to my chicken concept Two Birds. Double birds on me. https:/…

Essentially Catering @MagazineEC 28 APR

NEWS!! After 13 years EC magazine is closing on the 30th April, it’s a decision from the top, nothing to do with CO…

Follow Essentially Catering Magazine on Facebook

Article Archive

Mental Health

Christmas may be heralded as a time for customers to be jolly and let their hair down, but the extra pressure on hospitality workers can take its toll. This year has witnessed an unprecedented amount of media attention being given to mental health. Read more >


Back in the day, the availability of cocktails out of home was very much limited to eponymous bars where your drinks were served by expert mixologists with a flair for spinning and twirling bottles as they created their offer. Read more >

View previous articles > 191
Advertisement Cooking oil offer