Restaurant Interior Design

Restaurant Interior Design

Your restaurant’s interior design is an expression of your brand. It’s a powerful visual example of your brand’s look and style. Your restaurant’s interior is a space where you have total control to create just the right ambiance for your target customer.

Some of the design decisions you’ll make will be based on your restaurant theme. Some will be based on the type of energy level your guests expect. Other considerations are fairly universal for making your guests feel as comfortable as possible.

Creating a space that diners want to return to and feel comfortable in is vital to your restaurant’s success.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

Bathroom Best Practices

  • Easy to find
  • Clearly marked
  • Clean
  • Well stocked

Bathrooms should be easy to get to with clear signage. Many people feel embarrassed asking about finding the bathroom, so help them by providing a clear path.

Bathrooms should always be kept clean. Your host stand management software should have a reminder set to check the bathrooms throughout the day.

All equipment in the bathroom should be fully functional. Never make your guests have to ask for replenishment of paper towels, bath tissue or soap.

Make sure your bathrooms are stocked with the appropriate amenities required for your guests. More restaurants are featuring diaper changing stations, family bathrooms and additional toiletries that are greatly appreciated.

Keep It Up!

  • Clean and tidy
  • No wobblers
  • No dirty walls
  • No peeling paint

Even if the theme of your restaurant is to look rugged and dusty you don’t actually want your floor dirty and your paint chipping off.

Broken chairs, torn or dirty fabric and rickety tables send a clear message of poor quality and an “I don’t care” attitude to guests. They’ll quickly put it together, “If this is what the front of house looks like, I’d hate to see the kitchen!”

How Your Restaurant Layout Affects Guests

No matter what the theme is, you can still follow the principles of good layout design. Here are some guidelines you can follow when designing your interior layout.

Spacing — Guests need to be able to move easily between rows without having to dodge chairs. This should be true regardless of body size. Tables spaced too closely make it awkward for guests who don’t want private conversations overheard.

Chairs — Make sure chairs are sturdy and can support the weight of guests safely, with no wobbles or torn fabric. Follow the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines for chair geometry.

Banquettes and Booths — Seat cushions should be springy so it’s easy to get out of the booth. Mind the distance between chair and back. If the support is too far back it will be difficult for guests to sit up straight.

Tables — Make sure there is plenty of room for each person at the table. A table suitable for four guests eating sandwiches can only accommodate two people ordering a full course. Guests rubbing elbows is a frustrating dining experience.

Access For the Disabled

Check local laws and state regulations before committing to your layout. There are building code regulations and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines that you must comply with. Consult an expert in local building codes to avoid problems later.

Read More: 30 Keys to Restaurant Success

The Psychology of Interior Design

Beyond the basics of making your guests comfortable is when you get to use your creativity. Use the following ideas to create an ambiance and a theme for your restaurant. If you do it right, your guests will enjoy the decor and it will make your restaurant memorable.

The way our environment affects our behavior has been studied for many years, in depth. Here are some proven restaurant interior design rules used by professionals to create a unique space.

Lighting Design Sets The Mood

Lighting is a big part of setting the mood. It’s what makes a lounge feel different than a cafe. Design your lighting with a feeling in mind. Do you want it to feel bright and active or relaxed and cozy?

Choose a lighting strategy that complements the mood and look you’ve chosen.

As a rule, bright light is stimulating and dim light is relaxing. However, people don’t want to eat their meals in the dark. If your restaurant interior design is going for subdued lighting, provide individual lamps above each table. This will keep the restaurant dim while giving diners a good view of their plate.

To help customers find their way around your restaurant interior, pathways can be carved out using brighter lights above the path and lighter colored flooring. Use this technique to subtly direct customers through the restaurant. Restrooms, the bar, or the patio can be found without having to ask.

Colored lights can create curiosity and a sense of fun. This technique can be used to lead people to a lounge, bar or game room, where eating is not the primary activity.

How Colors Affect Psychology

To understand the effect different colors have on people, it helps to categorize them as “cool” or “warm”. Visualize the colors of the rainbow.

Warm Colors

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow

Cool Colors

  • Green
  • Blue
  • Indigo
  • Violet

The closer a color is to red the “hotter” it is considered. The closer a color is to Violet the “colder” it’s considered. You can decrease the intensity of the emotion associated with the color by mixing it with a neutral tone.

Neutral colors

  • Brown or beige
  • Grey
  • Black
  • White

Warmer colors are stimulating. They increase our appetite and signal our attention. That’s why red and yellow are featured prominently in fast food logos.

As we move toward green, the colors begin to “cool off” and are considered more soothing. Light greens and blues can create an uplifting and peaceful environment.

Neutral colors are non-stimulating. For this reason when they are the primary colors used in a space it is considered to have a calming effect.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

Interior Design for the Ears

Sounds are part of your interior design as well. Sounds in your restaurant also set the mood.

Think about sounds that could cause a problem. How noisy is the kitchen? Could this mean dining too near the kitchen is unpleasant? Outdoor seating could be a nice addition, but not if loud trucks frequently drive by.

Inside the restaurant is noise dampened or do bare walls and high ceilings cause echos? Noise level in most restaurants should be loud enough to mask nearby conversations but not so loud that people have to raise their voices to an uncomfortable level.

Next, consider sounds that enhance the dining environment. A completely quiet restaurant feels awkward and lifeless.

The choice of music should be considered carefully. Many restaurants use a preset playlist to set just the right mood. Match your music to the restaurant’s theme.

Music isn’t the only option for background ambiance. Some restaurants use speakers to play “soundscapes,” which are more ambient. For example, a jungle themed restaurant that plays sounds of rainforest birds and distant flutes has a soundscape.

For a more lively restaurant with a bar, research has shown that loud music can actually increase sales of alcoholic drinks — maybe because no one can really talk to each other over the music.

Loud and live music can be used to attract people off the street. However, it would drive away guests who are looking for a more relaxed, low-key mood. This is why it’s important to understand your target market and meet their needs.

Designing For Smell

Smells are subtle but have a big impact on how we judge a place. Smells are tied deeply to our memories and emotions.

The smell of fresh cookies or bread baking can trigger deep, positive associations with “home cooking”. Some restaurants go so far as to scent the air of their establishments with artificial smells.

Likewise, it’s important to avoid negatively associated and unappetizing smells in the dining area.

The scent of cleaning agents, mop-water and bussing rags are very off-putting to diners. Make sure not to expose guests to these strong odors when cleaning tables between seatings.

Many diners are sensitive to perfumes and colognes. Strong fragrances should not be worn by staff as it can cause irritation and loss of appetite to customers.

Read More: 30 Keys to Restaurant Success


Sounds, colors, lighting, and scents affect the mood of your guests. Now that you understand how, take this information to make your restaurant design to fit the lifestyle of your target market.

Trying to please everyone is a mistake too many many restaurateurs make. But without a strong and definitive brand no one will remember you. Your restaurant interior design reinforces your brand.

Don’t be afraid to boldly define a personality and a tone for your restaurant. You’ll attract a loyal customer base who feel like your restaurant is a second home.

This guide to restaurant interior design is part of the free resource library provided by Rezku. Rezku is a leading developer of restaurant management technology. We’ve been providing restaurant owners like you with easy to use, reliable, affordable systems since 2012.

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