Scent marketing for restaurants is the use of appropriate scents and aromas to promote and market a restaurant. Scent marketing is based on a growing body of research focused on “embodied cognition”, or the idea that decisions may be influenced by experiences in the physical world, especially scents.
In other words, decisions to eat somewhere, or keep eating somewhere, could be subconsciously driven by restaurant scenting. Notably, the power of these decisions lies in the subtlety of sensory effects, an important marketing idea put forth by Dr. Aradha Kirshna, a pioneer in the field of sensory marketing. The psychology and theory behind scent marketing for restaurants is well explained in Krishna’s book Customer Sense: How the 5 Senses Influence Buying Behavior.
What does this mean for restaurant scenting? Because restaurant scenting can be done subtly, consumers do not perceive the restaurant scenting as a marketing message. Consumers experiencing restaurant scenting are therefore less likely to react with resistance to a restaurant using scent marketing. It follows that restaurant scent marketing can be a powerful tool for creating positive customer experiences and increased sales.
So, how exactly can scent marketing for restaurants be used to increase sales?
(1) First, restaurant scenting can draw customers into your establishment. Restaurant scent marketing can include making food at particular times of the day to draw hungry customers in addition to using a synthetic blend of aromas with diffusing machines to micro-mist the aroma at selected times.
For example, in South Korea, Dunkin’ Donuts misted a coffee scent on buses when their jingle played on the speakers, resulting in walk-ins to Dunkin’ Donuts near the bus stops up to 16 percent and sales at the outlets by 29 percent. Read more about the study here. Restaurants could consider pairing strategic restaurant scenting with visuals and sound outside and within their establishments as a way to draw in customers.
(2) Second, restaurant scenting can create powerful branding.
Scent marketing for restaurants can be a strategic tool for improving brand recognition and sales. By administering natural and artificial scents that pair well with the restaurant branding, a restaurant can set itself apart from other establishments.
For example, Cinnabon has capitalized on scent marketing for restaurants (even though they are not technically a restaurant) by strategically baking their signature cinnamon-flavored bread every 30 minutes around the clock. Their restaurant scenting is so powerful, people can tell immediately if the scent is off. Establishments could pick whatever scent made sense to pair with their overall restaurant scenting theme, pairing the scent with their atmosphere, visuals, and overall ambiance (e.g., Mexican, Italian, other). Branding, as business owners know, is important for establishing customer relationships and loyalty. In fact, customers seem to have a tendency to develop relationships with brands as if they were humans, so adding a restaurant scent element to a brand further solidifies the relationship.
(3) Third, restaurant scenting can keep customers coming.
Scents can stimulate emotions and memory, and strategic restaurant scenting can capitalize on this by creating positive and memorable customer experiences.
For example, depending on the marketing goals, scenting your restaurant can create a comforting and refreshing environment for customers. Calming aromas such as vanilla or lavender can put people at ease. Or perhaps the goal is an uplifting and energetic environment, so the restaurant scenting may utilize scents such as lemon or jasmine. For restaurants, it is important to understand that restaurant scenting specifically targets the desire for more tasty food…customers may linger a bit longer to order dessert and are more likely to come back. Businesses know that acquiring new customers is approximately five times more expensive than retaining existing customers. So, why not capitalize on restaurant scent marketing?
Given how easy it is today to find quality scents and diffusers, restaurant owners and managers would do well to experiment with and consider restaurant scenting as a way to boost customer satisfaction, sales, retention, and branding.
Scent marketing research has shown the power of bodily experiences on human decision-making, especially because of the subtlety of scent which leads to less resistant decision-making. Paired with other forms of marketing (e.g., visual, audio) restaurant scenting can set establishments apart from other establishments.
Today, misting machines can be easily installed into air conditioning systems or placed as food aroma dispensers next to entry points such as windows and doors to promote restaurant scenting. In these ways, the restaurant scenting can draw people in, create powerful branding, and keep customers coming back.