What do you think of when you think of an Asian restaurant?
What sort of décor do you expect to find there? There is a broad range of
options for an Asian theme, but some elements are likely to be common.
All the chain Asian restaurants I have seen have polished
wooden floors, usually of a dark color. They have very traditional seating;
four-legged padded chairs, large tables, and a few banquettes. You may find
paper screen dividers, Asian art on the walls, and some form of jade
ornamentation. In Japanese restaurants you may also find low tables and tatami
mats. Sure, it’s a stereotype, but it is a fairly accurate one.
These commonalities are so ingrained that even when the look
is taken out of the restaurant and into the mall or hotel lobby, you can still
expect to find them. How can you make your restaurant stand out from the rest,
while still offering guests a bit of what they expect?
Don’t be Cheap!
Invest in quality restaurant furniture chairs and tables. Cheap
furniture gives your customers the impression right from the start that you
just don’t care if they stay or go. I know that I stopped eating at one of my
favorite Chinese places when they switched out their “real” tables to those
square tables with a single pole in the middle and stopped using
tablecloths. The food was the same, but
the experience of eating there went out the window.
Turn Off the Music
I can’t stand it when I go out to eat and encounter muzak.
It is even worse when I can’t even identify what is playing. If I’m eating in a
group, the music makes conversation difficult. If I’m eating alone, chances are
I have a book or something to do and the music is distracting.
The exception to this suggestion is if you are going to play
authentic music, do so at a low volume. That volume should not be increased if
the ambient noise increases in the restaurant; that is a cue to shut the music
No Café Chairs and Outdoor Tables Together
There is nothing wrong with either of these items, but they
don’t belong together. Whatever your theme, stick to it. Even in an Asian
fusion restaurant, they don’t mix and match styles; the style is fusion. If you
are serving Chinese cuisine, your restaurant should have appropriate dining
room furniture, tableware, and décor. If your menu features Vietnamese food,
look for items that reflect that culture.
If you are unable to find traditionally oriented items, then
talk to your restaurant supplier and go for an alternative. You can always opt
for something simple, like wooden tables and chairs, and then bring in elements
from the appropriate country. A few wall hangings, traditional stools, benches,
and a display cabinet of artwork is a good way to create the right atmosphere.