Why are most restaurants not decorated inside?

I have been doing a lot of research lately about restaurants. What I am noticing is that very few seem to spend more than $1000 on the decor of their restaurant. I am not singling out pizza places, I am talking about most individually owned restaurants (including pizza places).

Why are most restaurants not doing much with their decor? Most places I go to at best have some cheezy motel looking pictures and beer neon signs for decor. It can’t simply be that they all have no money. Even restaurants that are 10+ years old haven’t done anything to improve their decor.

Any ideas?

I think it’s very simply that the people who are running these businesses are cooks and kitchen workers, not designers. Also, after you’ve been working in the same space for as many hours as most of us spend in our restaurants, I think you tend to not notice that stuff any more.

It’s something I’m planning on focusing on next month when we have our slow weeks.

To me its a good 40% of the dine-in experience. It shows a lack of love for the place IMO.

I guess maybe I don’t understand what you’re talking about then. I thought you just meant outdated stuff. I have a beautiful dinning room that is starting to look out dated, but I don’t think anyone could say I have a lack of love for it.

If you’re talking about places like Denny’s or Village Inn, then I think the kind of decor you’re talking about is intentional.

I’m talking about individual/mom and pop restaurants. I would say 90 percent of the one’s I have been in have less than $1500 invested in the stuff on the walls.

And it doesn’t seem to matter if they have been in business one year or 10+.

This seems to be the norm. Would you guys say you have about $1500 in “stuff” on the walls? I’m not talking about your chairs, tables, garbage cans etc. I’m talking about decor.

How much can you really spend on pictures to hang up in the walls. Its not like people are going to spend million dollars on a Picasso. The only place where I have been to that has a lot of pictures and thing on there wall is a BIG sub shop in Boston and that’s because they are right next to a college and they get signed pictures of the champion teams and coach’s. Other then that I see the usual picture of a Greek island or a random Italian guy doing something.

I don’t think a good decor has anything to do with how much money you spend on “stuff”. My walls are decorated with pictures of people with our pizza boxes at unique locations and events. But, from what I can tell, the popularity of that died off several years ago and it’s obvious that the pictures are really outdated.

I can probably find a good idea that ingrains my store with my community can be executed for a couple hundred dollars that would look better than your $1500 worth of “stuff on the wall”.

So it sounds like the norm is to spend very little money or time on decor. Especially judging by how many people viewed this post and how few even had a comment about it. I am not a restaurant owner or expert so this is why I asked the question.

I have very specific plans/theme for a pizza shop that require about $4000-$6000 in decor, picture/item framing and lighting. Sounds like my ideas are very different then the normal indie restaurants. That could be a good or very bad thing. :?

Thanks to those who posted, you have helped me learn a little more.

First: Do you go to a restaurant to look at the walls, or do you go to eat? Most owners are guys, decor is barely on our radar, and it shows.

Second: Not matter what your decor is - after three visits you no longer notice it.

And third: the more decoration you have, the more ‘dust catchers’ you have. A bare white wall at least always looks clean.

That’s a very good counter point.

“Do you go to a restaurant to look at the walls?”
Well that depends. If I go to a Burger King, NO. If I go to Hard Rock Cafe, YES. When it comes to Pizza Places I have seen very few that were decked out so to speak, so this is why I asked.

So in your opinion decor does not help or draw business to pizza shops? I should concentrate on food and leave the walls alone?

It’s true, one hassle of having lots of decor is I would have to dust more.

I think in your case living in Hawaii it might be different, if you are opening a pizzeria that is more aimed to the tourist then I would spend a good amount of money on decor. But if you are going to be opening a corner pizzeria where everyone knows all the sites where you live then I don’t really see the point. No one is saying don’t do anything at all but no one is saying you need to make your place look like an art museum. Maybe if you gave us an example of what you wanted to do we would have more incite.

At our place we have 3 different dining areas. We had one wall of the room we use for groups painted by a local artist with the high school mascot and things that represent the school. That has created a real talk piece and was also featured in the local paper. We also hang sports items from the schools in that room. In the other two we just have local artists hang pictures on the wall. It doesn’t cost us anything and it also helps them get there names and talent out there. Plus they change them out every month so there is something fresh there.

I find that decor must match the intended market positioning. If I am looking to be a mid-range priced and good food quality type of establishment that welcomes couples as well as families, then having original Degas paintings or frescoes painted all around, with polished marble and/or mahogany just does not add up. The customer will be confused that there is not a consistancy in my brand.

If I am putting up to be a fine dining place, then terra cotta, imported wood wainscot, crystal, elegant lighting are all consistant. You gotta know what your identity is and then design to match that identity. I built my tables myself, we hung the ceiling, walls and floors, and wife is developing a rotation of interior visual appeal . . . we are a small town place that spends the time and effort on the food and service. If I put too much money “on the walls” then people will doubt our committment to the food/service end of the business.

There really is a lot going on when deciding what to spend where and the feel of the interior of a location. Some people are possibly lazy . . . while others of working on balance of appeal and consistancy with brand identity in the marketplace. BTW, it isn’t a badge of honor for me to hear someone spent $XXX.XX on something in their shop. I want to see the place and taste the food.

Nick has decor to suit his outlet - a huge painting of himself - done by one of his staff. This gives his outlet a personal appeal and I bet in the small town he is in everyone has probably been in to see it, except his previous landlord.

I remember when Nick was setting up his current shop how they did the work and decor themself to add that homely touch and of course to his budget at the time.

What Nick said about matching your decor to your market positioning is spot on as was the reply about going to the place to eat or look at the walls.

We took our shop from an all male staff establishment with very tired and dingy decor and no interest in what the decor was or the state of it, and moderised it with sharp colour scheme painting, simple but cheap and modern wall lighting with a 6’ x 5’ feature wall hanging (of cane bars in a black wood frame) that we picked up from a redundant stock section in a furniture store for $175. All simple but smart and at a little cost. We have red walls and black and chrome furniture and a black, red and mustard coloured sectioned counter with our logo in red on the black centre section of the counter front. It fits our market image of a high quality, higher price product outlet vs other outlets around us that just have plain painted walls in unispired colours and lacking any decor touches.

The thing is it doesn’t matter how much or how little you spend on decor it is the atmosphere you achieve. We aimed to have ours simple and smart but also not overwhelming to the cutomers. We leave that to the high end restuarants.