What is Restaurant Environmental Branding?

What’s for Lunch? Restaurant Environmental Branding

When the clock strikes noon, your stomach whimpers “feed me,” and your mind rapidly cycles through options for soul-satisfying sustenance. Where do you go for lunch?

Although your initial thoughts may gravitate toward a specific menu item, your ultimate decision incorporates many other factors. Dining preferences come down to experience. The feelings that settle in you when you walk through the door — that sense of belonging and familiarity, the fevered anticipation for your first bite, the deep sigh of relief as you sip ice water to wash down the spice or savor the house-made soda… It’s more than lunch. It’s nourishment that will affect your mood and activities for the rest of the day. And it’s all influenced by branding.

interior branding agency

By now, you probably know branding is more than a logo and signage. It’s about the perceptions your first-time guests, diehard regulars, employees, investors, and the general public generate about your business. So if branding is about emotion and perception, how can you intentionally evoke positive feelings from every audience? The key is in restaurant environmental branding.

Control the Crave with Environmental Branding Elements

restaurant environmental branding

Restaurant environmental branding is the strategic placement of every element inside your restaurant’s physical space, and it can make or break a customer’s feelings about your restaurant. As a visitor moves throughout your restaurant, their energy will be carelessly pulled in various directions or carefully organized toward one cohesive purpose. The surfaces, artwork, footpaths, and furniture a patron encounters are major players in your brand narrative. 

Every restaurant owner cares about his or her logo, signage, and menus; the best restaurant owners consider brand alignment for all interior touchpoints.

For a fully immersive (and positive!) eating experience, restaurant environmental branding decisions should include everything from the window art to the restroom signage. Instead of simply choosing what looks good, you’ll want to invite your branding team to select wall wraps, light fixtures, merch displays, bathroom wallpaper, countertops, and seating arrangements that keep customers coming back for more. Furthermore, an effective restaurant branding team can speak to the chairs and tables, the ordering line procedures, to-go packaging, trash receptacles, interior doors, storage units, music selection, and menu boards. 

To put it simply, the right branding team will assign purpose and value to every element a customer experiences through one of their five senses. Imagine the resulting impact when all of these items work together to tell one consistent brand story. 

environmental restaurant branding
restaurant mural wall

While there are ingredients in this process that could be handled by an interior designer, it’s the thoughtful combinations and customer journey created by an environmental branding expert that really make the difference. Both roles are equipped to create a pleasing space, but one will ensure your customers return again and again.

When you are intentional about branding a restaurant’s environment instead of merely hiring an interior designer to style your space, you create a deeper connection with customers — one that is essential to success in today’s economy.

Customers are demanding to be immersed in a dining experience. Restaurant environmental branding answers that demand.

Hand Over the Chef’s Hat & Trust the Branding Recipe

Just as a successful restaurant can rise or fall with the head chef, the success of environmental branding depends on your restaurant branding agency. Once you select which firm to partner with, you’ll need to hand over the chef’s hat and let the brand masters work their magic.

restaurant interior design plan
restaurant environmental branding design
restaurant interior design

Here’s how your environmental branding experience would then play out:

1. Your brand experts start with the floor plan, analyzing everything from the seat arrangement to the ordering process and every path in between. Ultimately, they will outline the customer’s journey on the in-store eating adventure.  

2. As your brand experts follow this path, they identify barriers that need to be removed and figure out the areas of highest impact. These high-impact areas are then branded and designed. Ultimately, they determine the best locations for taglines, menu features, decor, and finishes that leave customers emotionally tied to your space. 

3. At this point, you re-enter the picture. Your brand experts present their findings and recommendations for your approval. You’ll learn the whys behind the whats before the changes are official.

4. Once you’ve taste-tested and approved the plan, you can relax while the brand experts move the project along. They will provide the details to your architect, work with the construction manager on bringing the elements to life, and serve as a consultant through the remainder of the build-out. This is another essential role, as some recommendations may need to be altered for budget or unique needs revealed later in the process.  

If you’re already working with an established restaurant interior, as opposed to starting a fresh build-out, be sure to read our article on the how-tos related to refreshing your restaurant brand and updating your environmental branding.

In a competitive and ever-changing industry, the restaurant owners who are purposeful in crafting a consistent brand experience will see the greatest success. The deeper your customers are immersed in one big brand story, the more likely your restaurant will be imprinted in their memory and preferences. 

restaurant focal wall

Order’s Up: Dig Your Teeth Into These Restaurant Environmental Branding Samples

If you looked in your pantry right now, you might have the ingredients needed to make a breakfast taco, and you could probably combine them to make something edible. That’s comparable to using an interior designer for your restaurant environment.

However, when you trust the taco truck down the road — run by authentic Mexican cooks who know how to fry and deglaze in all the right ways — well, you turn out a masterpiece of a meal. As you would guess, this is the route that comes with a professional restaurant environmental branding team like Nice Branding Agency

interior restaurant branding
restaurant environmental branding

For practical examples of environmental branding, explore the interiors that drive Dallas eaters to Mr. Wong’s Chicken & Rice, Nashvillians to Hogwood BBQ, and LA elite to Buns & Dums

When you get hungry for a deeper connection with customers, give us a call. Our team of graphic designers, interior experts, and brand strategists is ready to serve you.

Follow along on Instagram for inspiration from our latest project releases.

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