How your Restaurant Can Use Design to Reach New Customers

Design can be a powerful tool that can help your restaurant attract new customers, improve brand awareness, and potentially increase sales.

But what’s the best way to implement design elements that will help build your business?

There’s not a single solution — rather, it’s a combination of carefully considered visual elements, from your decor to the colors you choose to the design of your menu and more (if you’re looking to design a new menu, online DIY services like MustHaveMenus make it quick and easy with free templates).

Looking for some inspiration? Keep reading for several successful approaches to implementing the design in your restaurant to attract new customers:

Transport Customers To Another Place Through Design


Part of the joy of dining out is that people get to change up their surroundings. Design can augment their experience — whether it’s as simple as setting the mood with lighting or transporting them to another place entirely through a combination of different design elements.

For example, Las Vegas eatery Bottiglia Cucina Enoteca uses design to craft a full sensory experience inspired by Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

The restaurant combines color, decor, and other design elements to transport customers to the Amalfi Coast without actually leaving their seats. A watercolor palette mimics pastel sun-kissed buildings against the sea; airy indoor and outdoor spaces call to mind a summery, coastal vibe; flowery details and quirky plates paired with sleek, modern furniture helps to create a cozy and eclectic yet sophisticated look. As Thrillist reports, walking into Bottiglia is “like walking into a rustic Italian garden party in which Martha Stewart and Marie Antoinette have equal decorating rights.”

The takeaway? Don’t be afraid to use design to create an immersive experience for your customers. Let it guide every decision you make, from the type of decor in the space to the art on your walls to the typestyles you use on your signage.

Use Design to Tailor to Your Audience

Design can help your restaurant appeal to the audience you’d like to attract.

For instance, say that you want to attract families. Delicate stemware, white tablecloths, and expensive modern art on the walls aren’t going to send out the most family-friendly vibe. However, a comfortable space with communal tables topped with butcher paper and cups of crayons, and kids’ menus could be very appealing to families. You can find a great selection of kids’ menu templates at MustHaveMenus.

In most cases, effective design is more about consistency and a distinct style than it is about being fancy. Just consider Seattle’s popular sister establishments, Unicorn and Narwhal. These respective bars/restaurants feature a carnival theme, complete with kitschy decor and carefully chosen “bad” art. The urban-hip design, paired with affordable, creative bar snacks and drink specials, makes these spots veritable magnets for city hipsters.

Make Your Restaurant Insta-Worthy


When your restaurant looks good on Instagram, it can act as a powerful lure to potential customers — just check out this article documenting the “most Instagrammable” restaurants in Philadelphia!

People love posting about their dining experiences on social media. As a restaurant, you want to make sure your space looks good on people’s feeds.

Whether it’s a trendy tile pattern on your floors, a unique bar, beautiful plants, or even a specific Instagram backdrop, consider carving out a space that people will love sharing on social media.

Pro tip: Want to amplify your social media impact? Be sure to feature your social media handles on signage or flyers in your space so that customers can tag you in their posts and spread the word.

Clever Signs = Customer Magnets!

You probably already know that signs are an important marketing tool for restaurants. But a clever, well-designed sign will trump a basic design any day. Here are just a few ideas for clever signs that will pique customers’ curiosity and get them through the door:

  • Offer a cutout sign where people can take photos of their faces with a backdrop of your choosing — make sure your restaurant name and/or website is prominently featured!
  • Post a riddle on a sandwich board and offer a free drink to those who guess correctly.
  • Create a clever sign featuring local color — be it a local motto, the likeness of a local sports hero, or a hot topic in the area — to speak to your local audience and attract potential regulars.

There are many directions you can take — be creative, and don’t underestimate the power of clever sign design!

Combine Design + Technology


More and more restaurants are using technology like QR codes to further their marketing efforts. Smart design paired with technology can help get your restaurant noticed — and bring customers through the door.

For example, you could create restaurant flyers featuring appetizing photos of your food and include a QR code inviting people to learn more. To further entice potential customers, the QR code could unlock a promotion or free item — always an effective draw!

Alternatively, a QR code on a beautifully designed sign or poster displayed outside of your restaurant can tempt people to learn more. Not everyone who walks by will become a customer, but the more people pause to explore, the more word of mouth the restaurant gets.

Design Your Restaurant’s Future

Design is a powerful tool for restaurants looking to expand their customer base. Not only does it make your restaurant look good visually, but it can amplify your marketing efforts and help you reach a whole new audience.

Ready to get started? Now that you’ve studied these design-driven techniques that have delivered results for successful restaurants, you can take what you’ve learned and start to build your own design-based plan!

What’s your favorite design idea from this article? Leave a comment, we love to hear from you.