Pattern Your World!

Sep.07th, 2014

The Flavor of Color

This week Pattern Pod was asked to be interviewed for The Social Restaurant Podcast, by Nate Riggs. Nate hosts a weekly show that is very influential in the chain restaurant food industry. Each episode is published to multiple podcasting networks, iTunes, blogged about and featured at We were so excited for this opportunity.  It really helped us delve into color theory in a very different way. Be sure to listen to it, and let us know your thoughts and comments. 

Because of this opportunity, we are taking this color trend letter in a more specific direction, and honing in on color in the hospitality industry, and especially restaurants. We thought we would share some of our insights with you! We hope you find it educational.





All the design details in a space should truly be tied in with the concept of a brand, and the image it wants to convey to its consumers. But, the bottom line is that there is really no “one size fits all” recipe for color & design in restaurants. Looking to color theory, and the subconscious perception that people have about color, is a really great place to start. Color theory suggests that colors can influence purchasing decisions, so it’s an important piece of the design puzzle!
If the vibe of a brand is energetic, use bright colors and dynamic patterns like geometrics. If the setting is casual, use warmer more relaxed tones, and sophisticated, more demure graphics. Color, pattern, materials and design overall are a great tool to help invoke a mood and create a more complete customer experience. 

With all that said, here is some of the consumer psychology behind color when it comes to the dining experience, restaurant branding, and food.



Red works really well for fast food restaurants, because their goal is volume. They want to get diners in and out quickly. Mc Donald’s & Pret a Manger are two very different business models, that successfully integrate red to their brand identity.


Red is the most appetizing color. While it has a positive connotation with food, it also increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and stimulates impulse eating. People get excited, physically and emotionally, when they first enter a red room, but it also makes them want to leave pretty quickly.
In fact, if you delve into the branding behind a lot of your most common fast food chains, you will find that there is a lot of red involved. Chipotle, Panda Express, Mc Donald’s (etc) are just a few examples to look to.




Orange Leaf Yogurt does a really great job with their color scheme, promoting a happy, clean and playful atmosphere, well suited for children and the frozen yogurt experience. Lyfe Kitchen is a new fast food restaurant that promotes health first. The use of orange in their branding, suggest a new twist on a common platform.


Orange is also considered to be an appetite stimulant. Based on the research behind food color theory, oddly enough, orange is not always a color that people relate to positively. For some, it suggests that you eat with caution. It can also be perceived as angry and uncomfortable. For others, it has a positive connotation. It can feel exciting and rejuvenating, as well as be an expression of confidence, creativity, laughter and celebration. For the most part, it is a happy color, and a fun accent color!




Au Bon Pain has a very welcoming & inviting space. The yellow draws you in, stimulates your appetite & lifts up your mood. This a great example of a primarily yellow palette that promotes a positive consumer experience.


Yellow itself is an appetite stimulant. The color suggests sunshine, expansiveness, happiness and high spirits. It can really brighten up a space!
It is also a color associated with intelligence and learning. Think of a number 2 pencil, or the original post it color.




Panera Bread is generally considered one of the healthiest fast food chain restaurants. Could it be that their use of green promotes that perception? Evos is another fast food chain that focuses on traditional but healthy fast food. Their branding directly relates to their mission statement with the use of green.


Green is the color of health and well-being. Most people think of green as something you can eat unlimited quantities of, without compromising your diet. It compliments the farm to table trend very well, and has positive connotations like fresh, organic, local, sustainable (etc).

Green tells consumers you can “eat without risk” and, is one of those colors you can’t go wrong with when incorporating it into a space. The only reason we suggest that it be used with restraint, is that it can make skin tones look funny. Consider combining the color with some earthy natural materials like wood, and reclaimed steel. This will give your space that local rustic look that is so popular at the moment, while still suggesting health. In fact, green and brown are great tones to use together. They compliment each other very well because they directly relate to nature.




Smoke, the burger joint, is a really great example of using a blue and grey color palette successfully. The brand honed in on what made their burgers stand out from everyone else’s, and chose a palette that reflects this very successfully. That is some seriously smart branding right there!


Blue is the least appetizing color, because it is rarely found in nature other than a few exceptions, such as blueberries & blue potatoes. It is also associated with perished food. It is a color that is not associated with hunger, but rather, thirst, and it tends to make food look less appealing.
Blue gets a really bad rap, so use it with caution, and make certain that it is an integral part of your branding statement. For example, it can be used as an accent color in seafood restaurants.




Noma, an upscale restaurant located in Copenhagen, uses muted black and grey tones, earthy materials and stark black furniture by Stellar Works. This very successfully conveys luxury, and their focus on natural & local foods.


A million years ago, when our earliest ancestors were foraging for food, blue, purple and black were “color warning signs” of potentially lethal foods. The “color” is associated with decay and perished foods. Thus, black suggests, “eat at your own risk”. Furthermore, black can also have negative sociological connotations like evil, mourning, ghostly, night, death and fear.

However, in Interior Design, black is regarded as a highly sophisticated, stylish and a modern color. It can convey luxury and a positive sense of mystery. With that said, make certain to use black appropriately in a restaurant space, by combining it with natural elements that suggest nature.

As consumers become increasingly educated on nutrition, sustainability and products in general, they want their dining experiences to reflect their taste and preferences.  Ultimately, you want to stay true to your brand. Any color can work in the right amount and in the right environment.

We hope this was insightful. Thanks for reading.



  • Geraldine Blanchot Geraldine Blanchot

    A designer, artist and color "freak" who loves to travel and draw. She also is a fan of kickboxing, wakeboarding and pretty much anything outdoors.

  • Kristen Dettoni Kristen Dettoni

    A designer, artist and crafter who loves anything creative. She is also an amateur Claymation animator and movie fanatic.