KEY POINTS:
* Branding encompasses the whole look and feel of your premises and interior layout is a key component
* First impressions are often crucial for a potential customer so look at your premises with fresh eyes — there are a number of commonsense things that are often overlooked
* Your choice of décor and fitout should reflect your branding and customer demographic
* Within the wide spectrum of available choices, there are some important guidelines to bear in mind

INDEPENDENT PIZZERIA, pub or club, café or restaurant — no matter what type of foodservice establishment you operate, it’s imperative to create a unique brand and ambience for your business.
It’s this distinctiveness which enables you to stand out from the competition and attract that all-important repeat business built around brand loyalty. With so much choice on offer today, stylish and eyecatching branding combined with inviting, friendly ambience can attract consumers through your doors, and as long as the food, service and pricing meets their expectations, it will help keep them coming back.
In a previous article we looked at how effective brand design can differentiate your pizza business, making the point that branding is more than just your name and logo. In fact it encompasses the whole look and feel of your premises.
A key component of this is your interior layout. First impressions are often crucial for a potential customer in deciding whether or not to eat in your premises. If you regularly have people walk in, take a quick look around and then leave, you might start wondering whether you should make some changes.
So try to look at your premises with fresh eyes — what impression is your potential customer likely to have when they first walk through the doors?
There are a number of commonsense things that you may have overlooked because you’re so focused on the day to day running of your business. Some examples include:
* How clean and tidy is the entryway?
* Are all the lights working and the fittings clean and free of dust?
* Is the door easy to open? Is an open/closed sign clearly visible?
* Are the details of which credit cards you accept clearly on display at
the entrance or front counter?
* If you have a menu on display, is it current, clean and well-presented?
* Have you clearly signposted whether or not there is table service?
These details are not trivial — they are signposts to your potential customers about how much care you take in your presentation and service.
In terms of your décor fitout, obviously there are many options to consider — from low-level, subdued lighting to brightly lit, from traditional décor to urban hip. The choice of furniture, tablecloths, napkins, cutlery and even the table layout itself all combine to create the overall ambience and should reflect your branding and customer demographic.
Even within this wide spectrum of choices, there are some important guidelines to bear in mind:
* The premises should always be welcoming and non-intimidating.
* The dining area should look clean and hygienic. Pay particular attention as to whether customers can see through into the kitchen or any food preparation areas. If so, what impression will they get of the quality of your food and the commitment to hygienic preparation?
* If you’re playing music to enhance the ambience, you need to consider its style as well as its volume. Your choice of music should not be polarising to your potential customers, and you need to make sure it’s not so loud that it makes conversation difficult. Note particularly the placement of speakers, especially those close to tables.
* Customer traffic flow should be a key consideration when determining your interior layout. Toilets should be clearly signposted and easy to find, and customers should be able to easily reach (and if necessary, queue) at the register.
* If you’re offering a takeaway service, try to ensure there’s adequate seating or queuing space for customers who are waiting to pick up orders.
Remember that presentation is a key element in ensuring overall ambience and this exemplifies your business brand. So always make sure surfaces are clean and free of smears, stains and dust, that rubbish bins are emptied, and that any food on display is fresh and looks appetising.
By ensuring that everything looks clean, appealing, inviting and appetising, you’ve created an environment in which customers will feel comfortable to eat and spend time. Now to make sure the food, service and value for money is up to scratch!
Effective layout
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