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Restaurant Design

Your restaurant’s design sets the tone for your guest’s experience and creates an expectation about what kind of establishment you’re running. Is it a vibrant brewpub, a chilled-out lounge, a fun fast-casual diner or something else? Each of these restaurant concepts requires a different type of interior design.

Download PDF well designed restaurant interior

Understanding your guest’s needs, wants and comfort cues is an important aspect of restaurant management. Creating a space that customers want to return to again and again is vital to your restaurant’s success.

When designing your restaurant there are two sets of choices to make. Designing with universal appeal and designing for targeted appeal. Ultimately, your customers decide if you’ve done a good job of designing your restaurant, by rewarding you with repeat business!

Designing a Restaurant With Universal Appeal

Restaurant Bathrooms Should be Designed for Customer Ease

Bathrooms should be easy to get to and clearly marked. Many people feel embarrassed asking where the restrooms are. Bathrooms should always be kept clean and fully functional. Your front of house software should have a timer set to check the bathrooms throughout the day. Never make your guests have to ask for replenishment of paper towels, tissue paper or soap because none was available. Make sure your bathrooms are equipped with the appropriate amenities required by your target market. Consider diaper changing stations, family-style bathrooms and additional toiletries that may be appreciated by your guests.

Restaurant Interior Should be In Good Repair

Even if the theme of your restaurant is the rugged and dusty Old West, you don’t want your floorboards uneven and dirty! Besides the risk of liability for a guest’s injury, broken chairs, torn or dirty fabric and rickety tables send a clear message of poor quality and lack of care to your customers. They’ll quickly reason, “If this is what the front of house looks like, I’d hate to see the kitchen!”

Restaurant Layout Should be Designed for Guest Comfort

Here are some guidelines you can follow to get started planning your interior layout:

Chairs — Guests want to be able to move easily between rows when necessary, regardless of body size. Chairs placed too close together on any side means a potential for one guest to upset another when standing up from their seat. Make sure chairs are sturdy and can support the weight of guests safely.

Tables — Tables placed too closely together affect guests who don’t want their conversations overheard, or would be disturbed by hearing the conversations of others. Depending on the type of food you serve, make sure there is plenty of room allocated at each table. For example, a table suitable for four people eating burgers is only suitable for two people enjoying a soup, a salad, and an entree. Guests who are seated at over-crowded tables will be discouraged from ordering more items and will have a frustrating dining experience.

Be sure to check your local laws before committing to your layout and buying your furnishings. There are numerous legal regulations your interior must comply with, regarding safety and ease-of-access for those with disabilities. You’ll want to consult an expert in local codes to ensure compliance — and avoid expensive headaches later.


Restaurant Design for Targeted Appeal

Psychology and Interior Design

The way in which the environment affects our behavior has been studied in depth, but here are some proven restaurant interior design guidelines used by professionals:

Lighting Design Is Important

The brighter lit an area is, the more active people expect that area to be. 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 favors subdued lighting, you can provide individual lamps for each table.

To help customers find their way around your restaurant interior, pathways can be established using brighter lights and lighter colored flooring. Use this technique to subtly lead customers to restrooms, the bar, or the exit. People will naturally follow the well-lit paths without having to ask staff for directions.

Colored light in an area can create curiosity, enticing guests to explore. This technique can be used to lead people to a lounge, bar or game room, where eating is not the primary activity.

Colors have a well studied effect on human psychology.

Colors have a well-studied effect on human psychology. To understand the effects of different colors, it helps to visualize colors in the order of the rainbow. Starting with reds and oranges, these colors are considered “hot” and stimulating. They increase our appetite and signal our attention. Moving toward yellow and green, the colors begin to “cool off” and become more soothing and less frenetic. Light blue and teal can help create a calm and peaceful environment. Neutral colors like browns and grays are non-stimulating and may reduce appetite — a good choice for establishments with small servings that are meant to be savored.

Smells are Part of Designing Your Restaurant Too

Smells are tied deeply to our memories and emotions. Scents have a powerful impact on the way your restaurant is perceived. The smell of fresh cookies or bread baking can trigger deep, positive association with “home cooking” in the minds of your guests. Some restaurants go so far as to scent the air of their establishments with artificial smells or place ovens in a way that maximizes the amount of scent that reaches guests.

Avoid unappetizing smells in the dining area. You don’t want stale or musty odors to build up in your dining area. So, be sure to consider how easily fabrics used in your restaurant can be cleaned if they begin to retain odors. The scent of cleaning agents, mop-water and bussing rags are very off-putting to diners. Strong fragrances should not be worn by staff where food is served. Care should be taken not to expose diners to these strong unappetizing smells during their meals.

Music in Restaurant Interior Design

Use sounds to enhance the environment. Depending on the type of environment you’re looking to create, you can use sound as a way to create a mood. Research has shown that loud music can actually increase the number of alcoholic drinks sold in a given time frame. Loud and live music can attract people off the street who are looking for a vibrant atmosphere. However, it will likewise drive away guests who are looking for a more relaxed venue with a low-key mood. This is why it’s important to understand your target market well and meet their expectations.

A completely quiet restaurant feels awkward. Without some kind of background sound, your restaurant will seem lifeless. Guests expect to have some ambient sound to protect their privacy, or they may feel embarrassed speaking at a normal volume. Music isn’t your only option for background ambiance. Some restaurants prefer the use of custom “soundscapes”. For example, a jungle themed restaurant that plays sounds of rainforest birds and distant flutes.


Use Design to Attract Your Target Customer to Your Restaurant

Sounds, colors, lighting, and scents affect the mood of your guests. Now that you understand how you can use 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. Don’t be afraid to boldly define a personality and a tone for your restaurant! By doing so, you’ll attract a loyal customer base who feel that your restaurant is like a second home.

Interior design is an important part of your successful restaurant business strategy and is a major component in defining your brand. ​For more about how to target customers refer to the Learning Center article “Restaurant Target Marketing”.

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