Food Is Just Part of the Reason We Go to Restaurants

When it comes to choosing a restaurant, quality and taste of the food trumps everything. Right? 

Wrong, apparently. 

The New York Times, Bon Appetit, and other respected publications have repeatedly discussed one of the realities of the dining industry: food is just part of the reason we go to restaurants. 

Obviously, you probably wouldn’t make a point of going to a restaurant with terrible food. But whether it’s conscious or not, most of us allow other elements to truly dictate the restaurant we choose. Those elements ultimately add up to how we feel in the restaurant. 

It comes down to ambiance. That’s a broad term that incorporates anything mood-setting, which could include lighting, seating, temperature, noise level, décor, architecture, and even service (let’s face it: service quality affects your mood). 

It’s one of those things that makes sense the more we think about it. If you’re planning a romantic evening to celebrate your anniversary, you aren’t going to Chuck-E-Cheese. Sure, that’s partly because you probably want slightly more sophisticated food options, but the primary reason is the mood set by the space. There’s very little that’s romantic about Chuck-E-Cheese (no offense — Chuck-E-Cheese serves its role very well). 

“If someone likes a restaurant, just enjoys being in that space, say no more, the game has been one,” said one chef to the Times.  

Of course, the best restaurants are those that succeed both in creating a pleasant atmosphere and serving delicious, high-quality food. The two are definitely not mutually exclusive. 

The next time your friend or significant other asks, “Where do you want to eat tonight?” pay attention to what thoughts go through your head as you form your response. We’re willing to bet that your mind will go to taste (and probably convenience), but also consider how the space will make you feel.

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