Play, Décor and Cuisine: Ambiance in a Bar

Bars and restaurants don’t just serve food and beverages but function as social centers for communities of people with similar interests. Ambiance in a bar or restaurant helps to attract families, college students, business executives, singles or urban professionals.

Thoughtful managers coordinate elements of design, lighting, entertainment, background music and games to attract certain types of customers. Bars and even restaurants are increasingly providing classic video and arcade games, trivia challenges, high-definition monitors and interactive games to draw customers.

Elements of Ambiance

Creating ambiance to attract customers depends on whether managers are targeting hipster foodies, sports-minded locals or romantic couples. Table lamps and candles set a distinct romantic tone while bright track lighting attracts hip and trendy customers. Other features to consider in setting the tone include:

  • Background music
  • Entertainment or live DJs
  • Uniforms or casual dress
  • Colorful menus for casual and family restaurants
  • Neutral colors with simple graphics for upscale facilities
  • Dishware and linens
  • Staff attitudes

Encouraging customers to act in certain ways helps to establish ambiance. Layout in a bar, whether people sit or stand, housekeeping standards, lighting and drink strength also affect the ambiance. Bar staff can control the alcohol level and environment and promote food sales to reduce altercations and set the tone.

Loyalty Programs and Interactive Games

An excellent way to use a loyalty program is to offer rewards based on games, scores and visits during special events. These kinds of contests and games can definitely affect the facility’s ambiance. The benefits of using loyalty gamification include:

  • Enlisting customers to create a type of atmosphere through costumes, special dress and crowdsourcing initiatives for photos, decorative displays and promotional ideas
  • Challenging customers in ways that are easily solved
  • Winning a free game to appeal to the gamer mindset and Millennials
  • Creating an interactive mobile marketing strategy that keeps customers checking their smartphones for clues or updates

Celebrating Sports Teams at People’s Second Home

Leveraging sports teams for ambiance and promotion is increasingly common among hospitality businesses. Millions of people watch sports at local restaurants or bars, which they regard as second homes. Decorate with team colors, broadcast games on big-screen TVs and offer special menu items during games to create a sporting ambiance.

Try offering meal deals for game nights that customers order for takeout. Part of the deal might include using team colors or logos on packaging, but make sure to get permission. Monday Night Football is an ideal opportunity to create a sports ambiance and attract customers on the slowest night of the week.

Other ways to leverage sports teams for ambiance and promotion include:

  • Team-logo pizzas and cakes
  • Burger contests for opposing fans of league or in-state rivals
  • Partnerships with local breweries for discounted kegs
  • Contests for best sports predictions during a season

Ambiance and Marketing Together

Using features of a bar or restaurant’s unique ambiance—especially games—returns exceptional marketing opportunities. Possibilities for marketing games at bars and restaurants include:

  1. Hosting interactive online games
  2. Partnering with local businesses and community organizations in events like bar crawls, tastings and scavenger hunts
  3. Sharing game and team information to generate positive press coverage
  4. Entertaining local writers and bloggers with a dedicated game tournament
  5. Holding contests and giveaways for the highest arcade or digital game score
  6. Sponsoring retro nights that feature classic arcade games and fashions from the past
  7. Scheduling weekly trivia nights or special trivia tournaments based on relevant subjects and times of the year such as baseball season, Black History Month or city history
  8. Tapping into the fantasy sports market
  9. Enlisting radio stations for live broadcasts—especially during playoff games and championships
  10. Having an open-mike or karaoke night to attract a different type of group on slow nights

Ambiance can be overt or subtle, and large operations might prefer the subtle approach to avoid alienating other customers. Many hospitality venues resolve this dilemma by creating a distinct, professional ambiance during rush hours and a transformative experience after things slow down for the loyal patrons who stay longer.