The psychology behind restaurant layout and QSR sales


“Mmm… That looks amazing!”

Believe it or not, the first way we “taste” food is with our eyes. Whether we see a restaurant’s commercial on TV or a dish being served to the table beside us, we set our sights on a certain entrée long before taking the first bite. However, it’s not just the sight of food alone that triggers our desire. A QSR operator that delights all his guests’ senses can both improve customer experience and lead to increased sales.

This goes beyond your food offering, too. Your restaurant layout has a lot to do with the way your customers perceive your business, how much they buy, and how satisfied they are when they leave.

Here are some restaurant layout tips to attract the hungriest customers and provide the best dining experience.


"Clean" always smells better than "dirty.” Is there anything worse than the smell of dirty restrooms? Many guests believe, rightly so, that the cleanliness, maintenance, and odor in the restrooms is a direct reflection of the kitchen. So it’s very important that you maintain the cleanliness of your restaurant. And the sense of smell is our most emotional sense. Even subtle scents can cause a reaction.

Have you ever walked by a person wearing a certain perfume or cologne that instantly reminds you of your high school sweetheart? That’s because humans can quickly remember more than 10,000 distinct smells that trigger important memories from years passed.

Use that to your advantage in your QSR by adding an aroma that appeals to your guests. Are you known for homemade chocolate chip cookies or fresh bread? Bake some right before your store opens.


Lighting is very important in restaurant layout, and it can affect your customers’ behaviors. Here are a few tips when it comes to lighting:

  1. Adjust lights to suit different times of the day and dim them as the night progresses.
  2. Use ambient lighting to make guests more comfortable and to set a mood. You can also use task lighting to illuminate the restricted staff area, and accent lighting to draw more attention.
  3. Avoid using bright downlights over tables because they may cast shadows over your guest’s faces.

Color is equally important when it comes to eliciting specific emotions and actions from your guests. For example, red and yellow subconsciously induce excitement and trigger hunger. Maybe that’s why successful chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Firehouse Subs, and KFC use that color palette! In fact, combining bold primary colors with bright lighting will encourage a quick turnover at your restaurant.


Customers rarely think about the background music at a restaurant unless they find themselves singing along. But that music is doing more than drowning out the sound from your kitchen, it naturally slows down, speeds up, and gets your guests to spend more money.

Music helps regulate our emotions, affects our mood, and has the ability to increase or decrease our heart rate without us ever moving. It’s not only about the level of noise, but the type of noise. For example, soft music will encourage guests to stay in your restaurant longer while high-energy music will attract younger customers.


OK, we know your mom told you never to play with your food as a child, but we’re talking more about texture than anything. The texture of your food also has a big impact on your customers’ satisfaction. Food can be soft, crispy, creamy, thick, chunky, and a million other things. As long as it’s a texture viewed positively, it will build on the taste of your food. And mixing textures can take your dish to the next level, if done properly, of course.

But touch isn’t limited to only the food we consume. What about the restaurant itself? Ensuring your guests have a smooth, comfortable place to sit and enjoy their meal is crucial to nurturing your relationship with customers.

The more thought you put into the design and ambiance of your restaurant, the more satisfied your customers will be. So, look beyond your food offerings and tap into the five senses of your guests.

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