Enhance Your Atmosphere

Create an Exciting Vibe

Your pub might serve mouthwatering food, stunning cocktails, and delicious beers, but is it still struggling to attract customers? Is it missing a certain ambiance or vibe that results in people not coming back after their first visit? If so, it’s struggling with atmosphere. A lack of atmosphere can mean you’re not the first choice for many customers, so how do you fix it?
There are a lot of elements that need to be balanced and every choice you make will impact the mood, the emotions, and the customer experience that your pub will be known for. Your customers are a good starting point when considering the atmosphere.

Who do you Want to Serve?

Think about your ideal customer. Imagine your pub or restaurant as a party, where you’re in charge of drawing up the guest list. Is it going to be wild, with loud music and lots of dancing? Will it be elegant and romantic, business-like, or a casual all-day hang out? Your customers will dictate how you tackle the issue, so you can draw together your strategy and tactics when you have a clear idea about who you want to attract.
Alisa Butler has been the general manager of The Blackfish Pub in Gibsons, BC for five years. It has two groups of customers: tourists and locals. How does the pub achieve a balancing act to create a welcoming, memorable experience for both groups? She reveals, “Everybody’s here to have a good time. It’s a large pub, so you can be in the main room with all the TVs and sports, but we have lots of side rooms where the music is low and locals can enjoy a beer without being bothered by noise from the other room. You can sneak in and enjoy an intimate meal and conversation.”

How Hands On Should Servers Be?

Your servers contribute to the energy in your pub. Not only should they have the basics covered, such as being friendly and helpful, but their service should also match the concept of your establishment. For example, if it is interactive and loud, they should be very involved with your customers, but if it’s a more intimate place where couples may enjoy a romantic meal, they should be attentive but low-key.

Red has been shown to drive your appetite into high gear.

Their level of engagement is key to your atmosphere too. It’s not only about being knowledgeable about food and drink, it’s also getting them involved in making the menus. If they can create a special of the day, they can push that item and upsell as they go, imparting a positive, enthusiastic energy to the customer experience.

How Lighting Can Dictate the Mood

Lighting is especially important in setting tone and you should consider how your pub is lit during different times of the day. If you rely on natural light, ensure that you have window treatments for warm days, and alternative light sources for cloudy days. In fact, lighting is so important in creating atmosphere that you should consider hiring a company that specializes in illuminating bars and restaurants. They will take some time to get to know everything about your bar, and suggest something that presents a lot more options than a plain old dimmer switch.

Colouring Perceptions

A basic principle of branding is consistency, and this extends to your logo and other touch points such as the colour of your walls, window treatments, and furniture. A lot of research has been done on the psychology of colour’s relationship to food and drink. Red has been shown to drive your appetite into high gear; it’s no coincidence that many successful fast food restaurants, such as Burger King, KFC, and Dairy Queen employ it to lure people into their restaurants.
Blue is relaxing, welcoming and calming, but it’s seen as unromantic so may be best for a family atmosphere. Brown is seen as traditional and relaxing, while orange is fun, modern and exciting. Whatever décor you have in mind, be sure to keep it on brand.

Do you Have the Touch?

Going hand-in-hand with colour is the sensory experience of touch. Think of the difference between sleek, cool marble and a rough, rustic wood table. Be sure to consider the texture on your floors, walls, furniture, and anything else your customers touch. Pay attention to the smallest details, such as the areas of the room where your fans blow and the feel of your napkins; they all play a part in adding to the overall atmosphere.

The Sound of Noise

Sound is a huge part of creating ambiance. A good place to start is by sitting in your pub during different times of the day. What do you hear? Pots and pans being banged about in the kitchen? Loud customers at the bar? Conversations from other tables? Consider your brand and concept, and what sounds complement them. Working out the acoustics of your pub can be as simple as grouping tables in the correct areas.
Music, too, is a vital part of your atmosphere. You may have piped or live music, a DJ, music videos or a jukebox. It’s critical not only for your customers, but employees too. Stephen Dorsey, Strategist and Producer for Dorsey Studios, which specializes in music for business and shopper engagement, understands the psychological effects of music, as well as how it can help servers create a connection.
He says, “If you’re going to a pub, you’re going for a staged experience. Customers want the staff to play a certain role, and the music is the soundtrack of that experience. When you get that right, it’s magic.”
Where does music fit into this? Every part of our day is soundtracked, from advertising jingles, the radio station you listen to on your commute to work, to your customized workout playlist. Employees are people too, and the right music can elevate their mood and motivate them. It also provides an excellent opportunity to connect with the customer. Dorsey explains, “If I’m a server and I’ve got customers, I should be getting excited about the music. We should enable our staff to have input on the music.”
“In the old days you would have staff play their own CDs that were off brand, so it would be a complete mess. Someone needed to control the madness. It needs some discipline.”

Playing the right tunes can lead customers to stay longer and buy more.

There are studies that back this up. Research has shown that music has a strong connection with memory, and playing the right tunes can lead customers to stay longer, buy more and create a desired association to your brand. A survey conducted by SOCAN found that 68% of people thought that their decision to return to a pub would be influenced by music. Around 75% of people asked agreed that a live band enabled them to enjoy food and drink more. This figure rose to 78% when it included pre-recorded or piped music. A quarter of people who took the survey agreed that they would react negatively to a restaurant that did not play music at all.

Is Your Pub Clean?

One of the basic barometers for atmosphere of any pub is cleanliness. Naturally, well-maintained restrooms are an important indicator of how clean the rest of your establishment is. As Butler says, “Even if a person has the best meal they have ever eaten, but goes into a messy washroom, that’s what they’re going to remember, and they might not come back after that.” She also prides herself on The Blackfish having well maintained grounds. After all, they are an important part of the first impression your pub makes.

Bank on your Brand

Atmosphere is an embodiment of your brand values. Again, your employees are vital to this and Dorsey recommends that your employees should know exactly what these values are. He suggests, “Get up as close to your staff as possible. They need to be immersed in the brand. If you look at BC-based casual restaurants like The Keg and Earls, they always do an amazing job. All of those people on the floor and in the kitchen buy into it, which is why there’s a high level of quality. Owners and managers need to hire people who buy into the brand and live it.”

The last word goes to Butler, who explains how the Blackfish brand is used to create an atmosphere that customers want to sample time and again. She says, “We brand anything we can with our logo, including glassware, coasters, and attire. People buy them as souvenirs, and we get tourists coming back to us to buy our own in-house hot sauce. It adds to the quality of the atmosphere. They can see we’ve taken the time to make it memorable.”