Sensory Marketing: How Restaurants Can Engage Guests With All 5 Senses

You’ve nailed down your menu with amazing dishes that are sure to please. But if that’s all your restaurant is offering, it’s time to consider something more. It’s time to create an entire guest experience that turns newcomers into regulars and keeps them coming back, time after time. 

You can achieve this by engaging every sense your guests have. All five senses can and should come together in a pleasurable way to associate your brand with positive emotions that your customers remember. 

Let’s break down how each sense plays a unique part in creating the right ambiance for your business.  

1. Taste

We’ll start with the obvious, but let’s dig a little deeper. For most, if not all restaurant owners, the food is the focus. The menu selection and flavors served up are key elements of your brand, and they should all conform to the vision you want to convey. A menu that’s all over the place with choices and add-ons can be confusing and even stressful for your guests to deal with. 

Guests enter your place with certain expectations. Claim to be the best Italian food in the city? Then why are you hyping up “Taco Tuesdays” each week? That’s a bit of an extreme example, but the idea here is to create a unified taste experience that has people knowing what to expect when they walk in. This relates directly to brand consistency, which provides a sense of comfort and trust in customers.  

Once your patrons are accustomed to and loving the menu, you can start to surprise them and exceed their expectations with wonderful specials and any newly added selections.

2. Smell 

If your food is good, it most likely smells good as well—this shouldn’t be the main concern. What is the main concern is everything else that can potentially affect a guest. Air quality, cleanliness, and yes, bathroom location, are all very important to consider. 

Think about the layout of your venue and see if there are ways to make your food a driving force in the ambiance you’ve created. Some places use open-concept kitchens in order to easily allow for this effect. Others use custom scents from companies that offer such products. You might want a combination of both but remember not to have too many conflicting smells—even if they’re each pleasant in their own way. 

3. Sight

 Strategic lighting and engaging visuals are a key factor in effectively creating ambiance in your bar or restaurant. 

One element of lighting that can be easily overlooked is color temperature—not the physical heat of your light bulbs, but the cold-to-hot spectrum of colors. Blues and greens fall in the cold temperature spectrum and should be avoided in areas that are presenting food, as they tend to give an unflattering tint to your dishes. Warmer colors like yellow, orange, and red are far more suited to culinary presentation. 

Using TV screens in bars and restaurants is commonplace in this modern age, but it’s shocking to see how many places simply toss on ESPN or any basic network TV station and call it a day. This may meet your guests’ expectations, but it definitely won’t engage them. Some places may even have fantastic digital signage on display, but if people aren’t looking at the screens in the first place, it’s all for nothing.

Music videos, for example, are great differentiators because they’re so cinematic these days, and they grab your guests’ attention by connecting the music they’re hearing with stunning, HD visuals. They provide a sensory anchor that joins the senses of Sight and Sound, killing two birds with one stone. And while guests' eyes are on the screens, you can promote your daily specials or upcoming events to them with digital signage. For a service that provides all of that, check out our Control Play software.

4. Touch

Comfort and cleanliness is the key to creating a welcoming feeling. Try to maintain space for staff and guests to move around comfortably—the only sardines you have should be served as food, not packed-together guests. 

If a large bar area is your focus, you’ve got to find the right height for your bar stools. Your counter/table height determines the right stool height—on average, you’ll want about a 10” difference from the stool to the bar. You may even want to consider using bar stool with backs. A small detail like this can mean the difference between popping in for a quick drink or staying for a few drinks and a bite to eat. 

And, of course, keep it clean! From the floor to the tables and walls, the only sticky thing in your dining area should be the desserts. Set yourself up with a checklist and keep yourself and your staff accountable for the overall cleanliness of your space. 

5. Sound

A busy restaurant can turn into a noisy space quickly. The best way to counteract this is with some great music that fits your patrons’ demographic. It’s common to have music playing in restaurants and bars, but if your aim is to exceed your guests’ expectations, you need to have more personalized playlists at your bar or restaurant—the right music for the right people at the right time. 

For example, you might want to have a more mellow sound during the lunch rush, but an energy-fueled playlist in the evening. With access to Control Play’s team of expert playlist curators, this can be done quickly and efficiently. Tell us what vibe you want to create at what time of day, and we can schedule it for you. Want to be more hands-on? We get that! Which is why the Control Play software is designed to easily schedule the music and volume you need for your venue’s ambiance at any time—lunch, happy hour, or whatever your dayparts are.

Combine the power of your playlists with the visual stimulation of music videos, and you’ve got an easy way to engage guests on two sensory levels. 

Stop settling for meeting guest expectations and start exceeding them. We’re confident that Control Play’s music video playlist system can help do exactly that. We’ll leave the great tasting food to you 😉.

Click the button below to find out exactly how the system works and start engaging your guests through all their senses!

See how it works!

Info graphic on Engage Guests With All 5 Senses for Control Play

Kevin Avram

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