A new piece of research by Mood Media has revealed that sensory experiences increase in-store sales by 10%.

This has given rise to something known as ‘sensory marketing’, and it’s just as powerful in the restaurant industry as it is in retail.

While sensory marketing won’t work for every restaurant, there’s a compelling argument to at least give it a try, even on a smaller scale.

What is sensory marketing?

Sensory marketing relies on engaging with senses in order to sell products.

It isn’t new – particularly when it comes to food. If you’ve ever walked past a fast food outlet and suddenly felt the urge to drop in after catching a whiff of something tasty, that isn’t a happy mistake. Many restaurants of that kind will pump out smells to encourage passers-by to enter (often, the smell has no relation to the food on offer!).

However, sensory marketing is set to evolve considerably going forward.

Multi-sensory experiences are being implemented by brands to help customers establish emotional connections with them.

Most humans have five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. It’s believed that when two of those senses are targeted, they amplify each other.

In marketing, this can enable subtle messages to be conveyed without expensive banner advertising or TV spots. What’s more, the waking of those senses should result in information about the brand being retained.

Two examples of sensory experiences in restaurants

Even the people behind Sublimotion in Ibiza admit it’s hard to explain what their restaurant is all about, but they’re becoming renowned for their multi-sensory diner experiences.

This video demonstrates the concept at work.

Over in England, TV chef Heston Blumenthal has long invested in sensory marketing and experiences.

Take a look at The Fat Duck’s website, and you’ll see the sensory experience starts with the booking process.

Leaning on the 5 senses

Let’s consider how a restaurant might tap into the five senses of its diners to create a memorable experience worth sharing.

1. Sight

Before someone chooses a dish from your menu, they may be influenced by what they see.

The most basic example of this is someone else’s food being delivered from the kitchen, but with sensory marketing, you can go further.

Great food photography, video and interactive menu apps will guide diners towards their choice in an addictive fashion. And remember how important lighting, decor and the ability to see food being cooked is, too.

2. Sound

The choice of music in your restaurant will have a significant impact on the dining experience.

Depending on your brand and its style of dining, you’ll want the background music to set both the right tone and pace for the experience.

Think about the sounds your restaurant makes, too. If you have an open kitchen, for instance, don’t be afraid to let as much sound as possible from the clashing of pots and pans filter into the eating space.

Noisy food (think fizzing plates of red-hot fajitas) can also add to the sensory experience.

3. Smell

Freshly baked bread, barbecued meat and fresh herbs are hard to beat when it comes to enticing smells.

From enticing customers into the restaurant to subtly guiding people towards specific menu choices, the smell of your restaurant will play a key role in the behaviour of your diners.

Just remember to strike that balance between pleasant and overwhelming!

4. Touch

Known as ‘haptic cues’, the feel diners get when they touch the tables, chairs and cutlery in your restaurant will all signal the experience they’re about to enjoy (or otherwise).

This is why it pays to invest in quality, premium materials and cutlery for your restaurant.

The same goes if you offer takeout. A branded, quality paper bag will look great and feel satisfying in the hand compared to a white plastic bag. It’ll also probably remain in the diner’s kitchen for a while, thus consistently reminding them of your restaurant.

5. Taste

Taste is arguably the most obvious sensory experience of all in restaurants, but one that isn’t always used to maximum effect.

For instance, do you offer diners samples of dishes? Doing so is not only seen as generous but can also influence a diner’s menu choice. It’ll prove that you’re excited about what you have to offer, too, and that can be contagious.

Quick sensory marketing tips for restaurateurs

Have we got you excited about sensory experiences in your restaurant? Here are some quick tips for sensory marketing that any establishment can start work on:

– think carefully about the type of music you play and allow the sounds within the restaurant to breathe;

– lay on free tasting events or encourage staff to offer free samples of your latest dishes;

– check the materials used on your tables, chairs and napkins – do they feel premium or are they letting your restaurant down?; and

– if your dining area doesn’t pick up specific aromas, try a few interior fragrances instead and find one that best matches your restaurant’s identity.


H&L POS – working with you to help you grow your business 

H&L POS has been delivering POS solutions with extensive back of house and staff management systems to the hospitality industry for more than 30 years. As hospitality people at heart, H&L understand the critical requirements for each food and beverage operation. We have staff in every state of Australia providing direction and advice as you grow and as technology changes.

Call us at 1800 778 340, email [email protected] or fill in the form below to discuss your venue’s needs.