Plan your business environment

Matt Morgan
Aug 15, 2013

Have you ever stepped into a casino (or seen one in a movie or on TV) and wondered, "Why is it so gaudy and flashy?" It wasn't because they bought the cheapest, ugliest carpet around. In fact, that pattern was probably sought or designed at great expense!

We're going to delve a bit under cover as both discerning customers and intrepid entrepreneurs in order to see just what goes into developing a great place to eat, shop, or otherwise spend your time and your dime. Everything a business does from a small Ma n' Pa to a mega-corp should have a purpose. It should convey the brand, tell a story, or subtly tweak the neurons in your customers' minds to be more receptive to your business model.

Presumably, if you are reading this, you don't own a casino. If so, well, congrats! But this may be preaching to the choir. To answer the opening question, the reason why the floor is just so ugly is to make you NOT look at it. Your eyes need to be front and center. Look at the slots, look at the dealers, look at the keno results. Don't look at the floor like so many of us are prone to do naturally. Your eyes will be punished. However, they will also be rewarded with all the bright colors and flashing lights. Playing to our natural instincts, the lights blink on and off to keep our eyes moving and scanning as if we were still on ancestral hunting grounds hunting (or being hunted).

Further taking us from our lives as discerning, modern adults in the working world, and putting us into our Flintstone onesie with a club in our hand, are the scents of the place. Our sense of smell is the only sense (not including the "sixth" if you believe in such things) that is directly connected to the brain. Our olfactory bulbs are actually extensions of our brain and transmit the smells to our most primitive brain centers (the limbic system) to influence emotion and the advanced neo-cortex where conscious thought occurs. The jargon aside, that means: Smells = emotional memory.

Obviously it is tough for smaller businesses to spend such huge amounts on blinking lights and a central scenting dispenser, no matter how much it may help. But, do what you can. Auto-timed scent can misters are wonderful, inexpensive, and can be changed seasonally or to an appropriate scent for the area. "Fresh" scents work well in bathrooms and kitchens, "savory/sweet" smells work well in areas that serve snacks, while "flowery" has a generally comfort-inducing effect and is great for waiting areas. As for the carpet? Talk to your local flooring place to see what they have or can get in. There are also contractors who actually work in hotels and casinos and carry enough scrap from those jobs to liquidate it to you inexpensively, including the cost of seamless installation!

Color is also an important utility tool in the subconscious belt. Colors invoke emotions and can be used in conjunction with other environmental effects to guide action in the location. For an excellent breakdown on what you should consider when designing your logo, a mascot, or your interior, take a look here. If you are skeptical, try to recall products or brands that follow this color scheme...then realize that in doing so it just worked. Combinations can be used to be attractive, or even convey a message such as T.G.I. Friday's red and white tablecloths pointing to the exits to urge a speedier table flip. Is it true? Go to one and you be the judge, because if nothing else, we just talked about it. Again, the colors worked.

Lastly, the decor of the place should work with what your business is trying to do. A popular theme in casual restaurants can be summed up in this quote from 2001's adult comedy Super Troopers:

Mac: Hey Farva what's the name of that restaurant you like with all the goofy [stuff] on the walls and the mozzarella sticks?
Farva: You mean Shenanigans?

How true is it that even if you don't specifically pay attention to what's on the walls you just always recall it being there? It may not necessarily be called to attention every time you go on a date or business lunch, but it is there. Always. Another very good example of the decorations supporting the message is Buca Di Beppo. Look outside of restaurants, too. Does your insurance agent, doctor/dentist, financial planner, or other professional follow the same pattern? The tellers at my bank all have those little, wiggly solar-powered sunflowers at their stations. They are cheap, simple, no upkeep, yet here I am remembering them and telling others about it!

On either side of the desk or counter, take a moment to look at what is being presented with the business. What is the message it invokes directly and indirectly? Does it make the establishment seem more reputable, maintained, and had more effort put into it than even what comes across initially? Everything should have a purpose to compel action. If none is present, consider making a change one piece at a time to save money and see just what works.

Comments

Contango

Re: "Our sense of smell,"

I've read that recollections of scents tend to be some our oldest, longest lasting and subsequently the "deepest" memories in our brains.

I've always enjoyed this anecdote which points out the common but incorrect usage of the words "smell" and a "scent":

"As Samuel Johnson paused to rest on a London park bench one hot summer's day, his profusely sweating bulk caused a young woman sitting next to him to accuse him of smelling. 'No, Madam,' he replied. 'You smell, I stink.'"

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu...

Licorice Schtick

All good. Clean windows is a nice start.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Yes! The exterior wasn't mentioned specifically but your point is valid. You can have the best interior, service, decor, and product but if the exterior is shabby or location hard to find it will affect you greatly. There was a good Kitchen Nightmares about this regarding a steak house! Thank you for bringing that up.

Licorice Schtick

I did mean inside the windows, too, including the window displays. When cleaning windows, start with goo-gone. Successful national chains do not tape crummy hand-written messages to doors and windows over grimy tape residue from previous grungy signs. It need not be expensive to make when people see from the street attractive, interesting, and varying, but it is neighborly, and smart business. Who'd have thunk this would not be obvious to every small shopkeeper?