Impact of Colors on Customers

A restaurant’s interior colors directly influence the customer experience. Studies have shown colors can shape diners’ perceptions, decisions, and behaviors in both subtle and profound ways.

When designing your restaurant, carefully consider how different palettes shape the dining experience you want to create. The 2023 Pantone Color Trends report notes: “Color selection and placement set the tone and atmosphere of an interior space, subtly informing and guiding a consumer’s expectations and reactions.”

Here is the general consensus of how color affects psychology and how we can paint your restaurant to promote your sales and please your customer base:

Color PalettesPsychological EffectsBest Suited For
Whites, Beiges, Light Greys– Airy, spacious feel – Relaxing, welcoming – Can suppress appetite if overusedCasual dining, cafes
Greens, Browns– Relaxing, calm – Associations with nature & health – Encourages healthy choicesHealthy menus, vegetarian
Blues, Purples– Suppresses appetite – Inspires thirst – Feels modernBars, lounges, nightclubs
Bright Reds, Yellows– Energizing – Stimulates metabolism – Fast turnoverFast casual, QSR
Dark Reds, Oranges, Browns– Warm, welcoming – Stimulates appetite – Encourages longer staysFull-service dining
This table provides an overview of popular restaurant color schemes and their psychological effects:

While categorized here by primary psychological effects, it’s important to note colors rarely operate in isolation. Skillful combinations create layered emotional spaces – balancing stimulation and relaxation through thoughtful accent colors and textures.

Choosing Colors by Restaurant Type

While color psychology principles apply broadly, how they are best used depends greatly on your restaurant’s concept and brand.

Consider what experience you want customers to have and how the space should support your offerings. Some examples:

Fast Food Restaurants

Fast food colors aim to energize – speeding up meal times to turn over tables quickly. Bright reds and yellows grab attention, while accents like chrome reflect light for an efficient feel.

McDonald’s iconic red and yellow palette is both energetic and nostalgic. KFC uses a vibrant red paired with crisp white. Brand heritage should guide your color selection to reinforce your identity.

Fast Casual Restaurants

The rapidly growing fast-casual segment balances speed with higher quality food and atmosphere.

  • Warm wood tones (specifically medium to dark oak finishes) provide an invigorating yet welcoming natural look, reinforced by Crushed Red and other leading brands
  • Earthy tones like forest green, olive, and avocado green inject organic vibrance and harmonize with wood tones (Like McAlister’s Deli)
  • Greys, tans, or whites keep the space feeling contemporary and clean against richer wood and green shades
  • Warmer reds, oranges and yellows make diners comfortable while still keeping energy levels up.

Key principles being the balance of richness from wood tones and greens paired with neutrals like white; occasional bright accents introduce energy but should not dominate.

Coffee Shops & Cafés

Relaxation takes center stage at coffee shops, with cool blue, green and grey palettes that soothe. Hints of red make lounging areas feel sociable and energetic.

Starbucks has perfected the warm, inviting coffee shop vibe by pairing different wood tones with dark green decor touches. Gray seating blends contemporary and traditional notes.

Bars & Pubs

Dim mood lighting sets the stage at bars. Deeper shades of red encourage conversation and sociability, while dark woods and black finishes feel sophisticated.

The warmth draws patrons in while color accents and textures prevent spaces from feeling dated. Cleaner lines and bold artwork inject modern flair against timeless pub foundations.

Fine Dining Restaurants

In exclusive upscale dining establishments, spaces allow patrons to unwind and savor a complete gastronomic journey. Research on award-winning restaurant design principles informs appropriate color palettes:

  • Neutral backdrops like cream or light gold exude refined warmth
  • Metallic sheens in copper and silver inject modern elegance
  • Deep green or navy dining chairs provide grounded pops of vibrancy
  • Crisp white table settings keep focus on the artistry of the plates

Using Color Combinations

Beyond selecting individual tones, skilled blending creates cohesive and impactful restaurant color schemes. Master chefs do not rely on one spice – neither should venues rely on one tone.


Leveraging shades, saturations and tints of one central hue keeps the look cohesive. For example, an ocean blue dining room could use navy walls, powder blue upholstery, muted blue-gray tiles, and touches of sky blue accessories.

Complementary Colors

Pairing direct opposites on the color wheel makes elements stand out vividly. A restaurant with red branding could decorate using green accents for tabletops and textiles. The sharp visual contrast draws attention.

Analogous Colors

Analogous schemes leverage three adjacent colors for vibrance with harmony. A dessert shop could couple vibrant magentas with softer rose petals and deeper raspberry shades. The combination stays lively while avoiding clashing.

Warm vs Cool Palettes

Warm tones like red, yellow and brown inherently energize. Cool shades of blue, green and purple relax spaces. Combining the two principles adds visual interest through both stimulation and serenity.

Contrasting Accents

Pops of differing bright and muted shades can spotlight decorative elements. For example, establishments with neutral white or beige dining spaces could paint rear bar walls black or charcoal for a striking feature.


Studies show picking colors based on research can help restaurants shape moods and sales. Owners should learn what colors make people feel relaxed, hungry, happy or social.

Commercial painting companies like HBP can help turn this knowledge into rooms that look great and get results. Their services include:

  • Picking palates
  • Testing paint samples
  • Selecting walls for accent colors

Good looks matter. But looks alone don’t cut it. Spaces should match what a restaurant wants customers to feel. Science-based choices make that happen.

Restaurant owners must move beyond arbitrary preference to foster spaces purposefully engineered through color psychology research. Optimal applications derive from clear intention – what should guests feel? Colors dictate perception, comfort, cravings and beyond in measurable ways.

Contact our well-versed color consultants to help you achieve the sweet spot of color through science-backed design.