Recently I was out for dinner with some of my European friends who are in the middle of a world-wide tour. As we were leaving the restaurant one of them commented that they had noticed that a large number of Australian restaurants and attractions have a very polished look. More so than in a lot of other countries they had visited. Having travelled a lot myself I had to agree with this but it got me thinking about what is a polished look and why it is really important.

To me a polished look is about not one thing but all of them. It is about how every little element adds together to create a whole – the image that is your business.

Creating a look and feel in any place visited by the public is an important extension of your brand. In the case of a restaurant it is the brand. The atmosphere created in a restaurant not only helps to create a memorable experience for your customers once they are in but also gives an impression to anyone walking by. Everything from your signage to your menu design and even the pictures you hang on the wall contribute to the first impression on your customer.

All of these elements need to work together to create a singular message about who you are and what you do. For instance, plastic stackable chairs aren’t going to cut it in a restaurant serving fine cuisine but might be just perfect for a casual lunchtime cafe. Similarly graffiti style paintings could work great in a trendy bar but will probably look out of place in a silver
service restaurant.

Your name and logo are another huge consideration. A name can say a lot about a restaurant and should be chosen accordingly. As for your logo it is the starting point for your overall look and it will often appear in listings by itself so it is important that it is well designed and gives the right message in isolation. Items such as menus, wine lists, signage, packaging and other printed material need to follow a corporate style to maintain consistency.

Most importantly your style should reflect the type of food you serve, the dining style and your price point. There is no point trying to be something you’re not. If you are a cafe that offers a quick bite to eat at a reasonable price make your image reflect that. Don’t fill your floor with plush sofas, dim lighting and dark colour schemes just because it’s your style. This sort of look will deter the in-and-out customers you really want from stopping in the first place and the ones you do get will be inclined to lounge around for an extended lunch and coffee break but will be bitterly disappointed when they realise this is not what you really offer and probably won’t come back.

The same goes for staff. Choose people that are in tune with the character you are trying to create. The service they give plays a very important role in your image.

These points don’t just apply to restaurants. They are applicable to any business and at any scale.

Remember, don’t be afraid to let your business be who it really is. Just make sure everything you do adds another small part to the polish.