Atmosphere is without a doubt one of your restaurant’s biggest selling points. Just as you’d modernize your menu to meet your guests’ evolving taste, updating your restaurant’s overall look and feel is vital to long-term success. A beautiful restaurant will make the food even better, while a dated ambiance can detract from even the best culinary creations. 

Changing your restaurant’s atmosphere can appear daunting on the surface, but rarely will you need to knock down walls or undergo the overhauls found on Restaurant Impossible. Oftentimes it’s the little things that will make a big difference. Yes, they will require some money and perhaps a bit of elbow grease up front, but should pay dividends down the road.


Lighting sets the mood, and can be one of the quickest simplest ways to change the feel of your dining room. Changing recessed bulbs to those of a different temperature can make your restaurant feel more intimate or exciting, depending on the look you’re going for. 

Try adjusting the lighting in your own home first, or in your restaurant during off-hours, and have staff, friends and family verify if they like the difference.

If you have chandeliers or other light fixtures that aren’t as easy to change out, then best to consider other tactics before committing to a lighting overhaul.


Your color scheme works hand-in-hand with lighting to create the atmosphere you’re going for. White walls are often being subbed out for darker colors, exposed wood and other earthy undertones, but you should stay true to the mood you’re looking to convey. 

This change can involve a simple paint job. Get some swatches and gather feedback from peers before moving forward, and then test in one room [if you have multiple sections in your restaurant] before changing color across the board. 

Tables and table settings

New tables and settings can go a long way to convey new-age elegance, as well as maximize your floor space. Tables will likely be a larger expenditure, so be sure to have your other elements in order prior to making this change. Modern-looking tables would look pretty out of place against old-school walls.

Silverware, plates, bowls and glasses should be consistent with the look you seek to establish. Fancy, heavy silverware may fit well in a nice gastropub, but not necessarily in a family-oriented pizza joint. 

Don’t forget about the host booth in this mix. The host booth is one of the first impressions guests will have of your restaurant, so it should match the theme of your dining room.

Server uniforms

Your service staff are walking ambassadors of your restaurant’s atmosphere, and should dress the part. If your menu is all that is hip and trendy, then the rustic look that’s swept through venues across the country may be a great fit. If you’re a high-volume Asian looking to make a loud impression, perhaps a bolder look is in order. Flat colors and ultra-thin pinstripes are trending, but in any case uniforms should complement the other elements in the room. 

An intricate balance between standing out and blending in exists, whereby guests will be able to easily distinguish staff from fellow guests but at the same time feel comfortable approaching a staff member as if they were a friend. 


In addition to the visual components, altering the sound of your restaurant can dramatically change the attitude of your dining room. There’s no shortage of spots that blare club beats at a near-deafening level to increase their ‘hip’ factor. Conversely, soft tunes can make a spot feel more romantic, and adjust guest conversation volume levels accordingly. 

Music is by no means required to lift a restaurant’s mood, and can certainly detract from the experience, so closely monitor any changes you make in this area.

If you pride your restaurant as a ‘blast from the past,’ then by all means keep it that way. There will always be a niche for shiny red booths, tuxedo clad servers and framed photos all over the walls. Just be sure to see eye-to-eye with your guests in terms of how they perceive your restaurant.  If they want you to change, it’s important to listen to them.