Create a cheerful atmosphere to improve customers' dining experience

The moment customers step into your dining establishment, they will form an immediate first impression. A smile on the hostess's face can only go so far if the restaurant itself is dark and gloomy, cluttered, in disrepair or dirty.

It's easy, however, to give your restaurant an uplifting ambience — without breaking your budget. First, start with lighting. For daytime dining, natural light will brighten any setting. Of course, you must be careful not to have harsh sun glare angled directly in customers' eyes. At night, candles may be romantic but they also can be dreary; opt for more elegant overhead lighting instead. Stay away from fluorescent lighting; go with LED lights that you can adjust for brightness.

Colors can quickly set the mood of your restaurant. Warm colors, such as red orange and yellow, are popular because they tend to boost the appetite. Neutral colors, such as white, gray and beige, lend a more calming effect.

There's a reason easy-listening music is often referred to as mood music. The volume and tempo of music will undoubtedly impact your customers. If yours is a restaurant-bar, you probably want more upbeat music. On the other hand, a restaurant offering an intimate dining experience will do well with soft classical or instrumental music.

Pay attention to your furniture and decor, too. While you want sturdy furniture that won't show wear and tear, you also want comfortable seating (but not so comfortable that your dinner guests never leave!). The decor should reflect your restaurant's theme without going overboard.

When it comes to flooring, you have to balance the practical with aesthetics. Sure, it's more practical to have a floor that can simply be mopped at the end of the day. However, if your facility is more high end, you might want to consider carpeting.

Don't overlook little details like the tableware. While disposable plates, cups and utensils might be fine for a barbecue joint, it won't cut it (literally) at a fine steak house. Make sure that all the tableware is clean; while this sounds obvious, it's not uncommon to find utensils with crusted food, glasses with lipstick marks, and more. Be sure your staff knows how to properly set a table, as misplaced items will reflect poorly on your restaurant.

Last but not least, emphasize to your servers the importance of being friendly and courteous — even (and especially) when the customers may not be.