How can a tactical paint job help your customers stay longer and spend more?

Is it possible that painting your dining room blue or your bedrooms orange can have a detrimental effect on your bottom line?

Colour psychologists would suggest so – blue acts as an appetite suppressant, so you might avoid having it in your dining area, while vibrant orange is stimulating and so overnight guests may not appreciate it in their bedrooms.

It can be even more subtle that that. Casinos for example exploit the idea that time appears to pass more slowly under red light and faster under blue light, to encourage people to spend more time (and therefore money) on site.

Colour can even change the way food tastes, as experimental psychologist Dr Charles Spence proved in an experiment where wine tasters were fooled into believing a white wine was a red one just by dying it red.


What the research says

Still sceptical? SCA, the Swedish hygiene company that owns the Tork brand, recently looked into the issue when developing a re-launch of its napkin range.




“We were interested in the idea of colour therapy and how people react to colour,” explains Jamie Wright, UK communications manager at SCA.

“Specifically, we wanted to find out how colour affects customers in pubs, bars and restaurants, so we used a company in Stockholm called the Colour Factory to run an experiment for us.”

Sixteen individuals were chosen to represent as wide a demographic as possible. Brain-wave and heart-rate monitors measured their reactions to spending time and eating in eight different coloured booths.

It became very clear that colour had a strong effect. 

“I think the most surprising thing was the force of people’s reactions but also that there was more than just a pure emotional response,” Jamie says.

“What we found from crunching all the data – and a specialist company did that for us, it was so complex - were things like orange helps keep you attentive, alert and focussed, so it’s perfect for meeting rooms or occasions where you are with friends.”

The findings suggest that licensees could make a significant difference to their business by merely changing the colour of napkins through the day – orange for breakfast, yellow for lunch, black for dinner, for example.


What the Pubco says

Taking this a step further means you need to think very carefully about what your choice of colours on walls, furniture and furnishings says about your pub.

London pub company Fuller Smith & Turner, for example, cleverly uses colour to differentiate between its different styles of pubs, as developments manger Andrew Durn, explains.




“In one of our Ale & Pie pubs, which are in the heart of the city, we’ll use more traditional colours such as red, green and purple. On the other hand our community pubs in the suburbs tend to be much brighter, so burnt yellows and blues - all still from the same heritage palate though, as we are a traditional pub company and we want to reflect that.”

Think about the quality of light too. Fuller’s uses old-fashioned light bulbs to give its venues a warm welcoming feel and remember that light levels differ.

“We’d never be as prescriptive as saying use these same colours in every building. You can’t do that because light completely changes colours. If you walk into some branded chains, Bill’s is a good example of this, in some venues the brand colours look amazing whereas in others it simply doesn’t work.”


What the designer says

As well as differentiating between styles of pubs, colour can also be employed to differentiate between the different areas, or zones, of your pub -  whatever you do don’t fall into the trap of painting your whole pub the same colour, says Ben Westwood, senior designer at Concorde BGW.

“At the start of the decorating process walk around and think about what you’ll be using each space for and let that inform your choices – bright, vibrant colours in the bar area, for example (which is more high energy) and calmer more tranquil colours in dining areas.”

Think about your demographic too, he advises, millennials are likely to want something different from the over-50s.

“From that process you should get your direction and theme and don’t be afraid to experiment. People are always afraid of colour and so too often go for off-white or grey but if you go the extra mile it can really work in your favour,” he adds.




What the licensee says

If you are still nervous, then some areas are better to experiment in than others, the bar tends to be more transient for example, so better to go bold there than in the snug or eating zones where people spend more time.

Licensee Alastair Scott, who owns several pubs including The Square & Compass in Weeton, North Yorkshire and The George Inn in Bristol, says that, just like Ben, for him choosing colours comes somewhere in the middle of the design process (after deciding what areas will be used for what and before you decide on the finishing touches).

“At that point I start by deciding if I want that area to be light or dark, warm or cold, formal or casual, muted or bright, and I use what’s already there to inform that.

“So, for example, if the existing fittings are chrome or pewter then I’ll want to warm those up with hot colours – yellow, pink, reds – but if they are brass or copper, which seem to be coming back in vogue, then I might decide to use cooler blues, greys and greens.

“Customers might never explicitly notice what you’ve done but they will understand what it is you are trying to convey and they’ll react to that.”

So yes, it is entirely possible that painting your dining room blue or your bedrooms orange can have a detrimental effect on your bottom line -but choose your colour wisely and instead it might have a more positive effect.


Interactive guide to colour


We've got more design tips for you on the website, including this guide to "zoning" your pub.