Customers rarely give a second thought to the floor plan and decor of your restaurant, but it’s something that really enriches their every visit. The layout of the bar, restrooms, and kitchen as well as any aesthetic touches can change how customers experience your space and how efficiently your staff can serve them, which can increase profit margins in the long run.
The food can be phenomenal, but if the interior doesn’t enhance your patron’s dining experience — or worse, hinders it — they’ll be less likely to return or recommend your location to others. Everyone appreciates a well-thought-out space, so let’s talk about what that looks like, especially now after COVID restrictions have changed the way we think about spacing, distancing, touchpoints, and ventilation.
Here are five things you need to keep in mind when designing your restaurant.
- Entrance and Waiting Area
The entrance and waiting area are a customer’s first impression of the restaurant, and you know what they say about first impressions. It’s important that you design this space in a way that gives your customer the best possible experience before they begin to dine with you.
Be sure to keep benches or chairs in this area so that your patrons aren’t standing while they wait for their table or reservation. This is also a great opportunity to give them access to the bar so they can have a drink while they wait, increasing sales. Consider placing the bar in such a way that makes it accessible to both diners and those who are waiting to dine to decrease movement through your restaurant, which could disrupt service and decrease efficiency.
It’s usually an afterthought but good lighting in your restaurant can set the mood, complement the furniture, create an aesthetic space, and just overall enhance the customer’s experience. The lighting needs to pair well with the decor, wall color, and overall tone of your space.
For example, soft, warm lighting is easy on the eyes and can hide imperfections while harsh, fluorescent lighting can exacerbate flaws and cause eye strain from the flickering. The latter is usually used in stores at night for safety and security purposes and has no business being used as the primary source of lighting in your ambient, dim restaurant people usually frequent in the evening. We’ve talked about the importance of good lighting when it came to planning your dream home, and it’s just as vital here in your restaurant.
Lighting can also be used as a marketing tool, hooking people that are walking by. Illumination is the first thing they see and attractive lighting can draw someone into your warm, inviting restaurant and allow them to feel at home.
- Heating and Ventilation
Not the first thing someone thinks about when it comes to designing a restaurant, but it’s definitely one of the most important (and expensive) aspects. Customers need to be completely comfortable, and nothing says that better than a pleasant, stable temperature during their visit.
Kitchens are one of the biggest sources of heat and smoke, so instituting good ventilation out of the kitchen so as to not have smoke leak into the dining room or have to blast the AC in the summer. Nothing turns someone away faster than a hot restaurant on a summer day, and the opposite goes for the winter months. Improper heating might not feel like a big deal in the warm kitchen, but it will get uncomfortable fast for your customers and staff. Keep everyone happy with proper heating and ventilation in your restaurant.
All the work you put into making your decor and layout perfect can be tossed away if your patron is shivering or sweating while trying to enjoy their meal. Cutting corners on heating and air conditioning could be lost in sales, and then some.
And it’s not just for comfort; good ventilation is also for the health and safety of your patrons and staff. As we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic, airborne viruses can easily travel in indoor spaces with poor air circulation. Putting good HVAC systems in place to maintain clean, filtered airflow can drastically decrease the spread of many different kinds of viruses, including any future ones.
Making the workspace and dining experience accessible for everyone is vital. At the bare minimum, it’s important to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as any city-specific standards of accessibility. However, aim to not just make the experience tolerable for people with mobility issues, but enjoyable.
For example, the bar counter. It’s usually designed with the idea that someone can comfortably stand or sit on a high stool, but this can be problematic for someone who is wheelchair-bound. Consider providing a section that is set up with inclusion in mind so all your customers can enjoy the experience, and the same goes with your tables, entrance, and restrooms. Speaking of…
It’s definitely not the most glamourous topic, but humans are humans and needing to use the bathroom is simply just a part of life, especially in a place where you’re serving food and drinks. Pouring countless hours and dollars into making a restaurant beautiful inside and out and then neglecting the restroom will only ruin the atmosphere and maybe even your patron’s appetites.
Place the bathrooms far enough away from the dining room to not carry any smells out the door and over to someone’s table. Installing a push-to-open mechanism is important, not just for accessibility but to decrease the transmission of germs and bacteria. The same goes for sink taps and hand dryers.
While we’re on the topic of accessibility, verify that there is enough room in the restroom for wheelchair turning (inside and outside the stalls) and a folding change table for parents with babies. Also, consider building a separate restroom for employees to use, depending on your preference and how many employees you have at any given time compared to diners.
You have your location, and now you need your design. It’s not easy to cater to everyone, but following these tips will ensure you’ve covered some of the most important fundamentals for your layout. When restrictions are gone and people are excited to dine out with friends, family, and dates, your restaurant may just be the one they pick and you want them to have the best experience.
We can help you bring that vision to life – but it all starts with you knowing exactly what that vision looks like!