A strong restaurant brand is earned by what consumers think and feel about your place, your food and your service team. The mental opinions that customers and prospects form are based on 80% emotional response and 20% logical information, experiences and communications.
Sensory branding for restaurants

As humans, our emotional state is activated by messages the brain gets from our five senses. Brand builders who leverage all five senses significantly increase the odds of connecting to diners with appetites and disposable income.

My good friend and author Martin Lindstrom covers this topic in depth in his best-selling book Brand SenseI highly recommend reading it. Here’s some insight from Martin’s book and some opportunities and ideas to consider as you are creating or improving your brand experience with sensory-infused touch points.

1) Sight is the most seductive sense of them all.
It overrides the other senses and has the power to persuade us against all logic. It has been reported that visual elements can mold 90% of one’s first impression.

Needless to say visual elements matter, especially in branding. Colors, shapes, lines and textures all make up an image in the mind of the consumer. Also, visual associations like: cleanliness, crowds and food presentation all can impact the impressions that customers develop.

2) Sound is connected to mood.
Sound creates feelings, emotions and often memories. It is also considered the second strongest sensory influence in brand building.

Sound in your restaurant can come from many forms including: crowd noise, music, waterfalls and food sizzling. It can also be a familiar jingle that you use in advertising or on your hold message with your phone.

3) Of all the senses, taste is the weakest.
In fact, taste generates the lowest emotional response. Smell generates 10,000 times more emotional stimuli that taste.

4) Scent and smell need to be top sensory opportunities.
Areas of opportunity for smell go beyond the food aromas associated with the meals like: freshly baked breads, flaming sweet deserts and steamed seafood and can include other aromas like: appetizing scents from the parking lot, maybe it’s smoky wood burning, meats grilling or coffee roasting. The restrooms are another opportunity for aroma. Deodorizers come in endless fragrances like: vanilla, fresh herbs like basil or rosemary, or berry scents may also be appropriate for your concept.

5) And the last sense is touch.
Touch is important because skin is our largest organ and directly sends signals to the brain. When we are comfortable and relaxed in a soft leather chair. Or when we are agitated because the room temperature is off. Consider everything from where your fans blow, to the material of napkins.

All the senses impact the experience and many can be controlled. Here is a sensory checklist to help you tap into all five.

Conduct a walk through of your establishment.
From all points of view, what do you see? Sit at the bar. Sit a choice table. Sit in a private dining room.

Conduct a sound audit.
Call your place. What is the noise level like on the phone? What is your on hold message like? How does your staff answer the phone? What does it sound like at the bar? In the dining room? In the parking lot? In the restrooms?

Conduct a sniff trial. 
When you are in the parking lot, what do you smell? How about sitting at a table? At the bar? In the restrooms?

Conduct a touch test.
How do your dining room chairs feel? What about your napkins? The table and bar tops? The menus? 

Conduct a taste review.
This quality check should happen daily by management. Are there an unexpected places your customers can enjoy flavors and tastes?  For example: A Ritz Carlton I visited on the East Coast would serve fresh spun cotton candy in unusual herb and vegetable flavors like Rosemary beet and lemon basil as an after dinner treat. Here’s a resource in Seattle called Spun doing something similar. In closing in a previous post, we featured a cool company that is a purveyor or micro-greens. These aromatic plants are packed with surprising flavors like corn on the cob and licorice. Worth checking out, too.

Does your restaurant have any cool sensory touchpoints? Do you have examples from other brands that you love that could be translated for your restaurant? We’d love to hear about it on our Facebook page or Tweet to us.

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