Restaurant Colour Palette: How To Choose The Ideal Colour Scheme

01 February, 2022

Restaurant Design

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Interior Design Fundamentals

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How important is it to decide on the restaurant's colour palette? What is it that can make a simple hue so paramount? If you want the most extensive explanations, ask a designer or a psychologist. Every shade has its own way to impact the senses, eliciting emotion and evoking a response. Choosing the appropriate colour for your business's intended reaction is one of the most important stages in its success.    

For the restaurant owner, the colour has a strong relationship to his customers' sense of hunger; above all. It influences the entire dining experience and makes a significant cognitive impact on future brand recognition. 

The colour palette in a restaurant can range from subtle to dramatic. The effects of certain colours on appetite are well-known. However, humans are complex systems of sensibilities, patterns, rituals, social and cultural influences, and personal preferences. It is therefore clear that a one-size-fits-all solution is, more or less, impossible to achieve. 

As most interior design consultants would agree, great design is an adventure and exploration as complex as society itself.

How to choose the perfect restaurant colour scheme  

It's possible to use colour to alter perceptions of space and assist in creating greater or lesser levels of intimacy. A pastel colour scheme, as well as light, cool hues, tend to fade away, making a little place feel larger but also more casual and less personal. Dark and warm colours, on the other hand, make a big area seem not only smaller but more personalized and private.

Colour can be used to underline storytelling and project the desired restaurant image. The chosen palette will define its character, may it be a trendy hipster joint, fine dining venue, family restaurant, or fast food business.

Introducing Basic Colour Psychology

Check out our in depth article on Color Psychology and it's importance in interior design for more in-depth information how colour affect how you feel.

How to Use Color to Set the Mood and Influence Customer Behavior

Going through the essential psychological properties of hues can help you better understand their importance for your restaurant, brand, and public recognition.

Red colour palette for a restaurant interior design

The most prevalent hue in the food industry is red, a well-known hunger enhancer and impulse trigger. This is quite logical, knowing that all of the nutrition groups naturally contain some form of red. For that reason, red is the primary colour of well-known brand logos in the culinary industry sector, such as Campbell's soup or Barilla pasta.

Red is a strong and striking shade, a call for an immediate reaction. It's not by chance that most fast-food restaurant chains use red as their primary brand identifier. Its ability to speed up heart rate and cause arousal makes it the perfect choice for fast food places like McDonald's. That, however, doesn't mean the crimson shades can't be used in a sophisticated environment. Feel free to experiment; just avoid the brightest versions and keep the other hues low-key.

When you use dark, warm on the walls and mix them with ambient lighting, they promote a relaxed, pampered feel and make your customers wish to stay longer. Combined with its power to increase customer appetite, soft, dark red makes an appealing choice even for a high-end establishment. The World Luxury Award winner Anardana Restaurant in Riyadh or Aka in Dubai are just a few of the numerous examples.  

Yellow colour palette for a restaurant interior design

Yellow is similar to red and orange in its vibrant and exciting character. If your restaurant wants to appeal to a younger demographic, this colour is one of the best choices. Nevertheless, if you aim to offer a more relaxed atmosphere with a trendy yet elegant flair, avoid using its most vivid shades. Otherwise, you risk being interpreted as too young or cheap.

Restaurants with a high turnover use bright, primary yellow combined with red as an instrument to greatly advance customers' speed impulses. Ethnic-origin restaurants, such as Indian or Chinese, can also benefit from accentuating with intense yellow, connecting with the customers on a cultural level. Marvelous Naya Restaurant on Jumeirah Beach, for instance, showcases the luxury ethnic restaurant design done right. 

On the other hand, its more pleasing, subtle tones like beige are an excellent start for sophisticated design and graded shading. They're on-trend and neutral enough to work with nearly any décor, making a good selection for a cosy dining experience. Yellow and gold also work well together to create an upscale ambience while still feeling casual and friendly.

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Orange colour palette for a restaurant interior design

Orange is a colour known to stimulate all five senses, agitate happy and cheerful emotions, and stimulate both hunger and conversation. Due to these effects, it's considered to be a sale-booster in all types of eating venues. Surrounded by this shade, customers tend to spend more time socializing, eating, and drinking. Fast food restaurants, ice cream shops, and casual eateries are often decorated in orange for that reason. That doesn’t mean you can’t implement orange in your classy dining environment, but it’s better to go for its soft, muted hues.

Orange is also a good colour for a highly active professional setting, such as a kitchen. Chefs and other culinary personnel can take advantage of the warming shade to increase their energy, productivity, and mood – producing a positive environment that spills over towards customers.

Green colour palette for a restaurant interior design

Green is commonly linked to money, leisure, balance, harmony, nature, environment, and creativity. It's also a colour that subconsciously reminds us to sit down and relax. Starbucks, one of the world's most famous coffee chains, uses a green logo for that reason. It invites us to take a pause and grab a cup of coffee.

In gastronomy, green relates to health, vegetarianism, freshness, and in general - good taste. There are numerous examples of green in the world, and most of them are related to salads, vegetables, and fruit. Consequently, restaurants aiming to be seen as organic, fresh and healthy use it as a dominant brand hue.

Green is an excellent colour for contemporary, wellness-oriented food concepts. It creates a sense of stability and relaxation by lowering blood pressure and respiratory rates. It also emphasizes nature by eliciting feelings of newness and vitality in people who view it.

Blue colour palette for a restaurant interior design

Blue is frequently utilized in business and conservative logos due to it symbolizing security and trust. However, things get more tricky when it comes to restaurant colour choice. Blue has been proven to reduce hunger and is sometimes considered the most unappetizing hue in the spectre. The culprit lies in conditioned, evolutionary associations. There is not much blue food to find in nature, and the hue also indicates spoiled foods.

There are, however, some exceptions to the rule. Blue's unappetizing reputation can be used as an asset if you own a specific diet-oriented restaurant. The so-called "blue label" connection can be a handy guideline for any place specialized in Keto, Chrono, or any other low carb diet. By using the colour's reputation and alluding to weight loss, you can even turn a seeming disadvantage into a successful brand voice of your business.

Another association is a powerful ally for restaurants specializing in seafood - blue also symbolizes clear water. Think of the mighty brand colour scheme of Greek taverns, for instance. No bad association prevented it from becoming a trademark for one of the world's tastiest, most popular cuisines. Quite the contrary.

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Purple colour palette for a restaurant interior design

Purple is commonly associated with power, aristocracy, and a lavish lifestyle. Other meanings include wisdom, creativity, and spirituality.

When it comes to food, purple is even less popular than blue, acceptable but far from a fan favourite. Some see it as a consequence of being associated with aubergines and legumes. However, it's also a colour of berries, grapes, and wine. Moreover, due to Cadbury's famous shade, which made its way all over to the Pantone catalogue, many associate purple hues with chocolate.

While not at the top of the appetite-stimulating category, purple is great for creating a classy space with a luscious yet sophisticated atmosphere. Think velvet seats, dimmed lights, slow food philosophy, and molecular cuisine — purple fits right in as an enhancer. Take a stunning, blooming Tattu restaurant in London as an inspiration model.

Black colour palette for a restaurant interior design

Black is not a particularly appetizing colour, but it evokes feelings of power, refinement, and beauty. Smart lighting, black marble, mirrors, and glittering reflections can improve many restaurant interiors by adding a touch of mystique and exclusivity. It is, therefore, no wonder that The World's 50 Best Restaurants' list features an abundance of black logos.

In terms of meals, black liquorice, squid ink pasta, kalamata olives, and dark rum are among the top foods associated with the hue.

Black can be used as a powerful accent, or a strategic background to make the other colors pop. It requires a carefully weighed balance – while the right proportion makes the place feel more vibrant, too much black will convey quite the opposite effect. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing: the "Dinner in the dark" concept, for example, benefits from the excessive use of black in the restaurant interior.

White hues for a restaurant interior design

Despite the fact that it's technically not a colour, white has a vital role in interior design. White and negative space make a nice foundation for accentuating all primary colours.

In the restaurant world, white is a safe choice since it eliminates the colours of meals and compels glare - but can become dull and unpleasant if used excessively. It communicates purity, cleanliness, and honesty, implying that the establishment has nothing to hide. White also helps customers to focus their attention on the meal.

Tips for Choosing the Correct Restaurant Colour Palette

Each basic colour comes with virtually endless gradation possibilities. It's essential to consider its state, whether it's vivid, saturated, darkened, amplified, or washed-out. Texture can affect or alter the hue, depending on the material – it affects its character, appearance, visual richness, and more. These variations have a significant impact on how it is perceived, determining the delivery of your restaurant's message to its customers.

Every deviation affects your perceived intention. A soft beige, for instance, can be an ideal company for breakfast, representing the fresh feeling of the morning in a leisurely, relaxed ambience. Fast food restaurants, on the other hand, need solid and vibrant primary colours as a reliable partner in speeding up turnover times.

When utilizing many colour options, keep in mind that their connection to the original meaning might be altered if paired with a non-compatible hue. The last thing you want is to send a mixed, confusing message. Your primary and secondary shades should either contradict or complement each other.

Brand Identity and Color: Choosing the Ideal Palette for Your Restaurant

Your restaurant's color palette can be a powerful tool for conveying your brand identity to your customers. When choosing your colors, consider what emotions and associations each one evokes, and how they align with your restaurant's overall messaging.

For example, if your restaurant is focused on providing a high-end, luxurious dining experience, you may want to consider deep, rich colors like navy blue, burgundy, or emerald green. These colors can create a sense of sophistication and elegance, and can be particularly effective in fine dining establishments.

Alternatively, if your restaurant is focused on providing a casual, laid-back atmosphere, you may want to consider bright, cheerful colors like yellow, orange, or turquoise. These colors can create a sense of warmth and friendliness, and can be particularly effective in cafes or casual dining spots.

It's also important to consider your brand values when choosing your colors. For example, if your restaurant is committed to sustainability and eco-friendliness, you may want to incorporate natural, earthy tones like moss green or terracotta.

By choosing a color palette that reflects your brand identity and values, you can create a cohesive and impactful design that enhances the dining experience for your customers.

Setting the Mood: How Your Restaurant's Atmosphere is Shaped by Design Choices

Every colour is associated with a specific sensory experience and has a psychological relationship with the perception of smell and taste. 

When choosing the colour palette for your restaurant, it should go hand in hand with your brand identity and strategy. Also, think about how you want your customers to feel. Colours affect moods and emotions, which impact customer behaviour in nuanced ways that have been occupying the interest of researchers for centuries. Today we have many effective ways of using colour to influence restaurant guests' behaviours; however, they still leave space for creative improvement.

In any case, you might be interested to take a look to our restaurant fundamentals guide, where you will find more information on the basics of setting up a restaurant!

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Yaiza Martinez

Founder and Lead Designer

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