restaurant colors inside a restaurant

Think colors are only of concern for artists, designers, and people otherwise overly attentive to aesthetics? Think again.

Evidence suggests that the colors you choose for your restaurant matter and aren’t a decision that should be taken lightly. But don’t despair. You don’t have to be an artistic genius to figure out the basics of determining the best colors for restaurant walls. From menu designs to your restaurant’s logo colors, here’s everything you need to know to manage your restaurant’s color design.


Evidence suggests that the colors you choose for your restaurant matter and aren’t a decision that should be taken lightly.


Understanding Restaurant Color Psychology

Believe it or not, there’s an entire science behind the effect that colors have—it’s called color theory. When it comes to restaurant colors specifically, Restaurant Insider has put together previous articles that break it down. You can read the whole thing here, but this is the gist of it:

  • Warm colors like reds, oranges, and yellows are used most often in casual, fast service restaurants like fast food chains, ice cream shops, and small cafes. Oranges and yellows make people feel happy and cheerful and less prone to feeling guilty about eating unhealthy food. Reds can actually make customers hungry and want to leave more quickly, so it’s a smart choice for a place aiming for high table turnover.
  • Green is, unsurprisingly, most often associated with health food and is frequently found in vegetarian and vegan spots as well as salad bars—this is because of the color’s strong association with nature.
  • Brown can also be associated with health food but is also often used by coffee shops and contemporary eateries. It helps guests relax and feel more comfortable.
  • Cool colors like blue and purple are most often used in bars, nightclubs, and seaside restaurants. While these colors can reduce appetites, they increase thirst.
  • Black is best used as an accent to make other colors pop and is usually, like blue and purple, found in bars and nightclubs in addition to contemporary restaurants.
  • White is used in a variety of settings, from small restaurants (it can make space look bigger) to upscale eateries and wedding venues. It can have a relaxing effect and add to the perception of cleanliness.

What Are The Best Restaurant Colors?

It really all depends on what you’re going for. If you’re opening a seafood joint on the east coast, white, blue, and tan might be the way to go while the same would be totally off for a barbeque joint in the heart of Texas. That said, in general, the best colors for a restaurant are the warmer ones, greens, and earthy tones—but muted versions are best.

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A super bright orange can actually be hard to look at, while a more muted version (think terracotta) can be incredibly pleasing while still delivering the positive psychological effect. Muted greens communicate health and sustainability, but can have an unappetizing effect in low lighting so make sure your lighting game is on point before you deploy green.

What Are Restaurant Colors To Avoid?

Again, there’s a way to make almost anything work, but certain colors require moderation. Black, as mentioned earlier, can be a great accent color—especially in modern spaces—but too much can make a space feeling crowded and cramped even if it actually isn’t, so small spaces should avoid dark hues at all costs.

The same way that white can make small spaces look bigger, it can make big, sparsely filled spaced look incomplete and empty.

Besides diminishing appetite, too much blue can cast all food in a less than flattering light that makes even the best dish look unappealing and the same is true with purple. But if you’re running a sports bar and your team’s color is purple, you’d be remiss not to incorporate it somehow.

The moral of the story is: It’s all in the execution.

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Cinnamon is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and journalist who paid a large part of her way through college and graduate school by serving. Her work has been published with outlets like National Geographic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, and more. You can read more about her at