Restaurant Design: How to Use Colors to Attract Customers

It’s often been said a picture is worth 1,000 words, but in a world where the average attention span often rivals a goldfish is that really what we want?

Restaurant designs, especially new restaurant logo designs, are your best chance to make a great first impression. Mess up that introduction, and customers may get the wrong idea or, worse yet, be turned off to your restaurant entirely. According to Kissmetrics, an estimated 85% of shoppers say color is the main driver for why they buy certain products over others. How those colors are used also makes a huge difference to your audience. Kissmetrics suggests that using colors increases brand recognition by 80 percent, so having the right colors in your design can make a world of difference right off the bat.

The Best (and Worst) Restaurant Colors

So, what colors make the biggest impact? Well, it depends on what you’re going for. A third of the world’s 100 biggest brands use blue in their logos, but red is a very close second with 29%. Other popular colors used by the largest companies are grayscale colors (including black), along with silver, and yellow/gold.

With that said, let’s do a quick experiment. Take a moment and search Google for some of your favorite quick-service restaurants. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of searches to figure out that there is a pretty common theme.

Red has been the mainstay of fast food restaurant logo design for decades, and there’s a seemingly good reason behind it. The color is often described as having an energetic effect (hence why it’s a popular color for sports teams, too), creating urgency in people that other colors don’t evoke. Interestingly enough, red is also the first color a baby sees, after black, white and gray.

The fast food industry prides itself on giving people a quick bite at a good price, and red is typically used as an eye-catching focal point meant to make customers hungry and get them spending. Another color that tends to make the rounds in restaurants is green, which denotes freshness and cleanliness, a concept that some chains, like Subway and Starbucks, have attached themselves to.

Remember blue, the most prevalent color used in logos from the 100 most valuable companies? Unfortunately, it doesn’t lend itself well to restaurant logo designs for a couple of different reasons. Some believe blue, which is seen as tranquil, soothing and intelligent, doesn’t encourage people to eat and might be unappetizing. Blue is also not a natural food color, so people may be subconsciously affected by its use in food logos. On the other side of the coin, seafood restaurants can get away with using blue hues in their designs and décor because it reminds people of water and may represent freshness to customers.

Restaurant Logos: A Tale of Two Concepts

Going back to our original experiment for a second, what is the other thing that easily stands out with the biggest fast food restaurant logo designs? The designs are all incredibly simple! Brands like McDonalds and Starbucks are so well known to the consumer that each has shed its name from its logos, but that has taken years of marketing and millions upon millions of dollars in advertising. Most other large brands focus on using only one or two colors and simple designs that will be easily remembered by passers-by and diehard fans alike.

Take McDonald’s, for example. The company began as McDonald’s Famous Barbecue and used nothing but lettering as their branding, but by the 1950s had introduced America to Speedee, a chef with a hamburger for a head. By the early 1960s, red and yellow became part of the design, along with an iteration of the iconic “M” we’re so familiar with. Once the year 2000 hit, the restaurant name was off the logo completely and the golden arches have been mostly flying solo ever since.

Starbucks had a similar growth spurt, ditching its original brown logo from the 1970s with its zoomed-out mermaid for a cleaner green and white logo without words and featuring a stylized up-close mermaid by 2011.

While simple designs and bold singular color palates work for the largest franchises, for restaurants with only one or two locations sometimes less isn’t more. According to Juicy Logos, smaller restaurants should aim to be unique and distinctive, using their professional logo as a chance to tell a story or, at the very least, tell prospective guests what kind of food they serve. The idea of using one or two colors here is less necessary, but no matter how many hues you use, the colors should help you establish the major themes of your eatery. For example, using colors and designs associated with the region or style your cuisine is associated with might be helpful, whether it’s sushi, a pizzeria or vegan fare.

Design Tips for Restaurant Logos

Still, it’s important to realize that both overdesigning and under-designing can leave the customer confused. A good rule of thumb from most logo designers is to make sure whatever you’re creating looks good in a simple black and white layout. Why? Realistically, your logo is going to be printed on everything from paper bags and boxes to business cards, T-shirts and other signage, and in many cases, printers will be using plain old blank ink to print it. If your beautiful and intricate design doesn’t translate well, you could end up with a massive black smudge that could be unrecognizable.

Typography is important, too! If you’re using a font, make sure it’s legible no matter what size or color it’s in. Cursives can sometimes be difficult to read and prospective guests may not be able to see where another person’s to-go bag is coming from. The same goes for your logo itself. Make sure your designs are easily understandable from close and far away because you never know when or where someone might come across it.

Lastly, don’t forget to play around with the design itself. Whether you’re using a ton of different colors or just focusing on one bold hue, try to make use of whitespace. Whitespace might seem like a wasted, blank area at first, but it does something cool. Certain colors are tougher for our eyes to process than others, so giving people a slight rest by using whitespace appropriately may help your logo appear a little clearer and a bit more refined.

There is so much more to brand design than what we’ve covered in this article, but these tips and tricks might give you a head start when it comes to creating your next great logo idea. All in all, just think about how others are going to interpret your unique logo and have your brand identity stay true to what it is your restaurant is about!