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How to appeal to all senses

07 June 2011
How to appeal to all senses

In the world of restaurant and F&B experience design, we have to appeal more to the senses and less to the intellect. The eating experience is much more than just a simple physical response to hunger… even the most desperate pang wants to be appeased by something interesting.

The intellect and rationale are now enemies of the designer. Creating emotional responses in customers - understanding their effects and influencing the design is our guiding force.

Today, the design of the space and the overall ambience is as important as the food offering, maybe more so.

We know the emotions associated with eating are multi-sensory - sight, smell, taste, touch, sound, all play a part - so the design needs to connect to each of the senses throughout the experience. The overall design of the restaurant in many cases is the initial trigger to the customer. How many times have we heard customer responses in research groups, or indeed customers peering into the restaurants - "that looks nice let's try it out".

The first point of customer interface with a high street outlet is usually the initial emotional visual response to the overall mood, feel and look, so getting this right will affect and enhance the other senses and, therefore, the overall experience. Hence, subliminally, the food could taste better.

Aroma is another important attribute to the complete design - in so many cases the smells are all wrong, either too much or not enough. This component can really let the offer down and is as disappointing as bad service for the customer.

Moving on to the feel of the material and fabrics. From the smoothness of the marble on the bar to the crispness of the napkin, feel is an equally fundamental element to the character of the offer. And we must not forget sound - the sound of the foot on the floor and the resonance of the chatter of the guests are also critical components.

The comprehension of these emotional senses and the skill in making them salient constituents, perhaps even abstract features to the overall experience - a memory and stimulation - can make the difference.

five ways to make sure you stimulate all senses

1. Establish the ambience Getting an understanding of your customer and the market as we all know is key. Getting a feel for this will determine the look and set the tone and flavour of the other key emotional prompts.

Exploit your location - bring the inside out. The majority of customers want to see out or be seen in.

Make sure that any merchandise displayed is considered - it's not a case of having a few bottles on shelves - look at colour blocking or unique and alternative methods. Again, and above, all research your customer.

2. Manage aromas The management of smells is integral to the success of the environment and even the bottom line. Burning coffee grinds and too powerful kitchen smells can be really off putting. Good ventilation and air handling is as essential as the oven.

Make sure the aromas are relevant to the experience and the offer and that they don't overpower.

3. Materials matter The feel of materials are all too often overlooked. The touch of the fabrics and finishes are key anchors to the ambience. They are a major aspect of the offer and express the qualities of experience. The feel of the silverware, crockery and glassware is critical to the overall concept and as crucial as the food on the plate - it is paramount to the enjoyment.

We often make selection on the style, more so on functionality and comfort.

4. Listen up Acoustics have become a significant element of the overall design. In endeavouring to create the correct look and feel we sometimes choose completely the wrong materials and finishes, creating restaurants that are too loud and uncomfortable for customers. A full restaurant or bar can be intimate if the correct acoustic materials are utilised.

5. Care for the components It's not just a case of being tasteful with the design that enhances the taste of the food, but care and consideration of the components that make up the experience can directly affect our emotions. A light fitting can impact the flavour of the food or a badly considered artwork can influence the taste of the wine!

Gabriel Murray, founder, Studio 48 Londonwww.studio48london.co.uk

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