Competition in the restaurant sector is intense and when you’re trying to attract and retain customers, one of the most important factors is creating a welcoming environment. Studies have revealed people make a snap decision on whether they like something within seven seconds of seeing it, so it’s true that first impressions count.

As a restaurateur, you have very little time to create that all-important first impression, so you need to pull out all the stops to ensure your establishment has the edge over your competitors.


Start from the outside

Keeping the exterior of your premises in pristine condition is the first step towards attracting new customers. Look at the exterior through the eyes of a potential customer and ask yourself, “Would I want to step inside to see what they have to offer?”

The exterior should reflect what the customer will find inside, so if you’re looking for a classic and traditional feel, or a modern, contemporary ambience, make sure your premises suggest this. Go outside and approach your restaurant from different routes to find out what customers will see.

Make sure your signage is clear. There’s nothing more off-putting than a sign that is either worn with the effects of the weather, or has letters missing because they’ve blown off in the wind and you haven’t bothered to replace them.

Similarly, if your paintwork is old and tired because it hasn’t been touched up for years, this can deter new customers from coming in. They will get the impression that if you can’t be bothered to keep your premises looking smart and clean, this may reflect the standard of the interior and your food too.


Check your lighting

The restaurant’s lighting is important, both inside and out. If you’re looking at your restaurant from outside, does it look fresh, bright and welcoming, even on an after-dark high street, or does it look dull and dingy?

Having a building that’s properly lit, whether you choose small, directional pools of light, or full flood-lighting, is a great form of signage. Once inside, customers will appreciate the appropriate lighting, as it ensures they can see the utensils, condiments and food properly.


Making an entrance

Letting potential customers get an idea of the interior while they’re still outside can also lure them through your doors. Making the building look appealing is a start, but enabling people to see inside prior to walking in can further entice them.

Many restaurants make use of the outside area to create a “cafe pavement” dining experience in warmer weather. If you add glass screens, canopies and heaters, the area can be used all year round. Bi-fold doors can be an amazing addition to your restaurant to “blur” the line between the exterior and interior.

As a great method of allowing potential customers a glimpse inside before they commit to coming in, the view should be welcoming – creating the image you wish to portray, whether it’s cosy or contemporary.

Even if you decide against an outside dining experience, it’s possible to create an enticing entrance simply by having bi-fold entrance doors leading directly on to the pavement, with very little frontage. It’s all down to personal taste and what you’re aiming to achieve.


Capturing people’s interest

Once inside your restaurant, consider what people will see, how they will move around and what they will sense in those important first moments. You need to reinforce what you’ve suggested from the outside, looking at it as the continuation of the customers’ journey.

As soon as you walk in, there should be something to capture diners’ interest, whether it’s the whole layout and d├ęcor, or something of particular interest. Perhaps you have a comfy seated area, with a bar, where customers can have a drink as they await their table. You may have some focal point in there, such as a tropical aquarium, or some particularly striking artwork.


Customer service

When you’ve spent a lot of time and money on making your restaurant as welcoming as possible, make sure your customer service matches up to the aesthetic high standards.

Customer service combines communication with genuine attention to diners by delivering meals on time, with a smile. Make every guest who visits your restaurant feel welcome. However great the venue and the food, if the staff aren’t welcoming, it will cloud diners’ judgment and may stop them from coming back again.

Combining excellent food with equally great customer service will lead to positive online reviews, existing customers returning time and time again, and new ones arriving, keen to find out what everyone else is raving about!

Slide or Fold’s bi-fold doors will enhance your restaurant, creating a seamless transition from the exterior to the interior. Whether your restaurant opens on to a garden, an exterior dining area, or directly on to the pavement, we have the solution. Contact us today for details of our products and services.