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Walls help create eating mood for customers

January 23, 2011
By ANITA HANABURGH, For The Leader-Herald

As I entered the restaurant's dimly lit main dining room, I felt something. Like leaf spinach in boiling water, my insides folded together and began to shrink. To steady my wobbly knees, I grabbed the scattered chairs as I followed the hostess to our booth. Something was very wrong.

Quickly, I slid onto a deep red, plush velvet seat. I gathered myself into the corner of the booth. I dared to look around. It was then that I saw the source of my anxiety. Hanging on the wall over my booth was a large grinning face. It had lips outlined in white and a long thin nose. Sitting proudly on its red curly hair was the multi-colored, multi-pointed hat, so indicative of the court jester. The eyes were bordered with large black diamonds and looking right at me. I looked away only to see that every booth and wall space held a grimacing portrait of a 14th-century clown. Oh, busboy.

I wanted to enjoy my time at this Tudor village but I could not. I know I love to eat out but, thanks to Steven King's "It," clowns make me uneasy. I did not enjoy that dinner.

Walls can create the wrong mood. Avoid items that could be considered "turn-offs" or are controversial. I'm sure the designers of this dining room never thought the elegant painting of the jesters would be a problem.

I can hear the restaurants now. "Walls? Anita, really? We have to worry about customer service, making a profit, preparing great food ... now we have to worry about our walls?" Well, yes, you do.

I love this quote by Peter De Vries , the novelist, "The murals in restaurants are on par with the food in museums." With a little thought, this does not have to be true.

The walls can sell your food menu. They can actually show or create a mood for your food.

I love the walls of Bruegger Bagel restaurants. They are bright with big bagels. I look at those walls and I want what Bruegger's offers - a bagel. The walls of the Gloversville McDonald's have pictures of actual local kids in sport activities. The walls say, "This is your McDonald's" and "We like you." Customers come to see their friends, themselves and their relatives.

Walls can bring customers to your restaurant and increase business. A beautiful hotel in the Catskills has a large oil painting of Rip Van Winkle - an icon of the area. I have told many friends to stop just to see the painting. They stop, then stay and eat.

Taking my college students to the Olde Bryan Inn in Saratoga, I always warned them not to look at the picture in the bar. Of course, the first thing everyone did was go to that room to view the life size oil painting of the lovely lady lounging in her birthday suit.

Walls can increase the customers' experience. They can entertain.

Applebee's has pictures of local artifacts. The walls are interesting. Customers tell others what they read on the walls and more customers come to see what is on the walls. If customers have to wait, the wait feels shorter, almost enjoyable, because of the bevy of neighborhood news bits to read.

Visiting a local caf this morning, walls were on my mind. I looked around and saw nothing on the walls but a picture of a flower about 8 inches by 11 inches hanging loosely from high over my table. What a waste of great merchandising space.

The walls of a dining establishment are very important. Restaurants should use them. Just think about it. Different than a store, in a restaurant the customer sits and looks at the same wall for up to three hours.

Of course, walls create a mood.

I was a child in the '50s. I love a rock and roll theme. Pictures of Frankie Avalon, the Mouskeeters and Howdie Doodie are as much a part of the experience as the food. People flock to restaurants like Hard Rock Caf to check out the memorabilia on the walls and maybe eat some food.

Walls can create interest and add to the customer's visit.

One of my favorite local restaurant has its walls covered with beautiful paintings by local artists and they are for sale. I remember one evening while enjoying a boring dinner with one of my husband's business associates, I counted the tulips in a large painting over and over.

Paintings do have a purpose. I bought the painting and now those tulips hang over my fireplace.

Restaurant watch: When visiting your favorite restaurant, check out how often you look at the walls.




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