Seeing is deceiving. It's eating that's believing.- James Thurber
I read an article today in Restaurants and Institutions magazine that baffled me. According to research conducted by the magazine, atmosphere is one of the lowest ranking factors in how consumers evaluate their dining experience in a restaurant. I am a person driven by sights, colors, and my surroundings…and the emotions that are evoked from sensory cues affect me intensely, so I’m surprised to learn this isn’t the case on a universal level.
Upon entering a new restaurant for the first time, what is the initial action that occurs? For me, it’s the visual sweep from side to side, top to bottom…the process of soaking up the feel, the ambience, the environment. Sure, it’s also taking in the scents and aromas – but I’m far more inclined to be affected by a bustling (or bumbling) service staff, paint colors, music, even temperature – before I even allow myself to move forward into the culinary aspects of a place.
It’s possible that all consumers are this way as well, and simply don’t realize it – maybe our reactions to atmosphere are so instantaneous that they remain in our subconscious unless we actively draw upon them to help us rate our experience.
Have you ever walked into a restaurant and immediately considered turning around and leaving? Have you had a moment where you look around and think you’ve made a mistake in your choice of where to eat? More importantly, did you stay or did you go? I will never leave a new restaurant based on a first impression, but I will certainly judge it – and until the food arrives to either confirm my initial thoughts or refute them, I soak up my surroundings and put them in a neat little pile for me to come back to after I’ve eaten. Only then can I reevaluate and fully come to my conclusion about what the place holds.
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