Colour is like spice for your brand. Get it wrong and it could leave a bad taste in your customers' mouths. Get it right and everyone wants seconds.
Colour is not only about your logo design. Effective colour use touches every aspect of your business. It might start with your logo, and lead into your website, and then into your menu design and decor. Colour theory in combination with colour psychology is a lengthy and deep topic but today we’re bringing you some basics to get you rolling.
We’re tackling colour as it pertains to the food industry, but if that's not your industry I'm sure there will be some useful tips here to keep your customers hungry too.
Colour has great power. It can stimulate appetite and incite action. You shouldn’t need to know about colour theory because all of the designers you will work with should already have this under their belt. But if you are doing things yourself, a few tips will go a long way.
So let’s get started.
Blue is an appetite suppressant. In nature there are very few blue foods, but I’m sure you can name a few. Blue Raspberry is not one of them! As it turns out, it’s actually based on the Whitebark Raspberry, which is in fact black of all things. And as luck would have it, black also suppresses appetite. We instinctively associate blue and black with mould and decay because this is how we see it most in nature.
Years of evolution and Darwinism have us programmed to naturally avoid foods these colours because of it. The cavemen that ate the blue moldy stuff keeled over and died. The rest of the us cave people said “Screw that!” and we’ve avoided it ever since. On the flipside, blue has a calming effect, making it more suited for somewhere you want to sleep than have a social night out.
That’s not to say blue is decidedly bad for your business, but should be carefully considered depending on your industry. There are a few food chains that use it in their logo design regardless: Dairy Queen, IHOP, Baskin Robbins and Dominos. Looking at these logos, which ones makes you hungriest? Which one are you most likely to go to based on the merit of the logo alone?
Arguably, DQ and Baskin Robbins are best suited for their blue hues—we also associate blue with water, refreshment and cold. Appetite suppression is not really an issue here since ice cream is rarely about being hungry as it is about having a sweet tooth.
On the other hand, Dominos and IHOP could drop their blue colour if it weren’t so ingrained in their identity. Not only is blue suppressing appetite, the inference of cold offers nothing when it comes to pizza or pancakes. Cold is the last thing customers want to be thinking about. I don’t know about you, but I want steaming hot pizza delivered and warm pancakes to melt my butter. If you want to stand out in your business’ market, don’t prioritize uniqueness over customer appeal. There might be a very good reason others are avoiding a specific colour.
If, however, you are in finance or technology, blue might be the perfect colour for you. Blue is also associated with stability and trust.
It’s no coincidence that red is used almost universally for fast food. Red is a known appetite stimulant. It raises blood pressure and excitability. It can stimulate conversation and movement and is associated with passion.
Yellow can incite impulsiveness so it is no wonder red and yellow are often found in combination. For a fast food joint this makes sense since volume is a main priority. Employing the same tactic in a sit down setting would likely backfire. Diners would eat quickly and leave possibly skipping out on drinks, desserts, and appies.
The second uphill battle this colour combo has is the association with cheap fast food. It should be avoided for mid-scale or up-scale dining.
So what colours can you use if you're not serving ice cream or cheeseburgers? It depends. I know that's probably not the easy answer you were looking for. There is a time and place for all colours and will depend on your application and if it speaks to your brand promise.
That being said safe bets may be greens and earth tones generally. That could go out the window if you're cuisine demands it. Greek restaurants are fairly well known for their blue and white combination. You will have to weigh your options carefully.
Have you thought about the colour of your plates? Their colour can make a huge difference on how much people eat. In a recent study I read I found some pretty interesting pointers.
Red, yellow, and orange will certainly increase appetite and metabolism but interestingly enough, turquoise will as well.
Green we see as fresh. Foods on this colour appear more appetizing.
White has the natural tendency to take on colours of the foods presented and enhance them. Desserts on white plates will often appear more sweet.
Obvious plate colours to avoid are blue, black, and grey. Grey tends to absorb surrounding colours sucking the life out vibrant salads the world over.
And finally, purple, for the same reason as blue, is an appetite suppressant.
The point is that it is colour choice complex. Consider the cuisine, your place in the market, and how you want customers to feel. Do you want them to get in and get out or stick around and make an evening of it? The colour of your walls, your carpet, the linens, your chairs, dish ware, menus, uniforms, logo, and exterior all make a difference. The same goes for food carts, food trucks, and stadium vendors alike. Think about how one small change in colour in your business might reap some major rewards if used correctly.
Colour choice matters, don’t take it lightly (unless pastels are your thing, hello Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour!).