Beyond the foods: A restaurant’s atmosphere (Part 1)

What do you expect when you leave home to dine at a restaurant? A comfortable seat in a marvelous setting, with your favorite type of music playing softly in the background? Would you be able to enjoy the meal without those details? Let’s explore how some famous restaurants of the world plan the tiny factors in order to achieve an ideal atmosphere for their customers. 

Beyond the foods - A restaurant's atmosphere 1

The luxurious yet cozy atmosphere at La Badiane

A restaurant’s atmosphere sets the stage. It’s about more than just a dining room away from home. Food takes the spotlight as guests become its audience. Factors such as music, lighting, artwork and spacing combine to create comfort, intimacy and even romance.

“Atmosphere – it’s of the utmost importance. It’s very key. The lighting has to be right. And table settings have to as well. It’s about trying to space tables out nicely so you have that atmosphere no matter how busy you are,” says Scott Andrews, operations manager at hotel and restaurant Gidleigh Park.

The Devon destination received two stars as well as four forks and spoons for comfort in the 2014 Great Britain & Ireland Michelin Guide. He explains just how much thinking goes into dining room layouts.

“We try to ensure people aren’t sat on top of each other. They have a good amount of space between them. We need to look at that very carefully. If you have a large table in a dining room you want to make sure they’re away from others. We try not to put small tables in with large ones because they’d just get overpowered. There are so many elements you have to take into mind,” he says.

Beyond the foods - A restaurant's atmosphere 2

Comfortable spaces between tables at Gidleigh Park restaurant (Chagford, Devon, England)

Photo: The Telegraph

Artwork also plays a part. Paintings hang on the walls of Gidleigh Park as they do at many restaurants. Andrews says: “It sets the mood to portray to your guests. It also gives them a point of interest. There’s nothing worse than staring at a bare wall. You do need a focal point in any room but nothing too overpowering.”

However, the restaurant avoids music because it would otherwise overpower the three small dining rooms there. Instead, taking advantage of its location in the Devon countryside, Gidleigh Park allows natural noise from the space to provide that tune.

“Atmosphere comes from guests, their conversations, the clinking of glasses and cutlery. It’s a very relaxed environment. Our guests have always preferred not to have music. We’ve had a lot of comments on the positives,” he says.

The Square in London also avoids music. It has two Michelin stars and four forks and spoons for comfort much like Gidleigh Park. Matching interior brightness to outside light is another way for the restaurant to keep its atmosphere relaxed and natural.

Beyond the foods - A restaurant's atmosphere 3

The Square restaurant in London filled with natural light in the daytime

Photo: The Square

General manager Nicolas Digard says: “We dim the lights as the night goes on. It starts quite bright but at the end of the night it’s very low. If night falls early, we dim the lights early. In the summer, we dim throughout the night to match the light outside.

“We don’t want the lights to be too bright for the customer. We just want the customer to feel relaxed and enjoy their meal. When it’s too bright it’s not enjoyable.”

 (With reference information from Elite Traveler).