In the hospitality industry, atmosphere is everything. Whether you are running a restaurant, café, bar or even a hotel, the way you make your customers feel is incredibly important.

However, with a primary focus on attracting customers and delivering good food, impeccable drinks and ensuring top class accommodation, atmosphere is an often-overlooked aspect of building a hospitality business. It can, in fact, be the clever competitive edge you need to guarantee long-term success.

Why is atmosphere important?

If a commercial space lacks feeling, emotion, comfort or depth, a customer will feel uninspired and unenthused, and will be unlikely to return. This is particularly prevalent for restaurants, bars and hotels where experience is key – you will not simply be judged on your service delivery, but the whole aura that surrounds it.

Although the intricate elements used to create atmosphere often go unnoticed by the typical customer, this is the beauty of it. By strategically using concepts of interior design and architecture, among other things, businesses can consciously create unique and exceptional experiences for the customer, that are representative of the brand, signify its values and evoke desired emotions.

This cleverly crafted atmospheric parcel, that truly puts the customer at the centre, can take a hospitality company from mediocre to outstanding, build its reputation and take it to the next level in terms of attracting customers and ensuring they return over and over again. And many customers will actually pay more for that ‘feeling’ you create and deliver.

How can atmosphere be created?

At a minimum, a space in this sector must be designed to facilitate the effective delivery of the service on offer, and be fit-for-purpose. This is easily achieved and is a basic expectation of customers, so creating an ambience is key to exceeding these expectations.

It takes much more than simply giving the place a lick of paint, hanging up a few pieces of artwork and buying some furniture to achieve this – architecture and interior design can perfectly translate the owner’s vision and the company’s concept in a way that goes far beyond the expected.

An atmosphere should stimulate every sense to have a lasting impact, and encourage people to keep coming back for more. We typically look at four of the senses when designing these types of spaces – sight, hearing, smell and touch.


Around 80% of our perception is influenced by what we can see, so this should be the first core focus when designing your hospitality space. Colour schemes should be selected based on psychology, and lighting should be specifically selected to suit the brand and allow people to feel a certain way, for example relaxed, excited, or comfortable.

The layout of the space is also vital, as illogical areas can irritate or confuse consumers, and give them a negative perception of the company.


Noise can be a critical component, as if you get it wrong it can have a hugely negative impact and leave customers feeling uncomfortable or uneasy. From loud, garish sounds, to hollow, awkward silences, there’s scope to destroy any chance of creating an atmosphere with the wrong use or control of noise.

Carefully selected background music can be key to developing ambience, and acoustics are also extremely important. Unless you’re aiming for a vibrant and lively location, noise-absorbing elements will ensure noise levels don’t exceed the acceptable limit, and customers can’t hear every word spoken by the people around them. This can be achieved through the use of carpets or rugs, sound absorbing materials that can be cleverly places in lighting, on the walls and throughout the space, and even simple things like table linen.


Stimulating your customers’ sense of smell can expertly evoke certain emotions or feelings, for example it can guide them into a mood of consumption or a feeling of relaxation or hunger. Scents can add depth and richness to an experience, and can be an incredible, subliminal way to guide your customers towards specific actions, and leave them feeling a particular way.


An apt ambience should instil a feeling of comfort, and the sense of touch is a great angle to take when exploring this. From the materials used for seats and beds, to the textures of the walls and counter tops, thinking about every detail in your venue from a touch perspective will add another layer of detail and consideration, and help you achieve that fully-fledged atmosphere for your customers.