Restaurant Design Tips: Creating the Best Dine-In Experience

Your restaurant design should enhance the dining experience and keep people coming back for both the food and ambiance. Learn some essential design tips.

When it comes to designing and decorating a restaurant, having a general knowledge of architectural balance and color palettes is a good foundation, but there is more to it. Restaurant design has a significant marketing component. Making the right design choices can reinforce your overall restaurant concept in a way that increases sales and promotes your business. Your restaurant design should enhance the dining experience and keep people coming back for both the food and the ambiance. 

How Restaurant Design is Influenced by Restaurant Type

Your restaurant may serve the best food in town, but if guests don’t enjoy the design and feel comfortable, they may not recommend your business to friends and family. The type of restaurant you are operating will have the most significant influence on your design choices. 

Types of Restaurants

Essentially, there are eight different types of restaurants:

  1. Family style
  2. Pop up restaurant 
  3. Cafe or Bistro
  4. Fine dining
  5. Fast food
  6. Food truck
  7. Fast-casual
  8. Restaurant buffet

Interior Restaurant Design Essentials

No matter what type of restaurant you are operating, there are six main interior design elements that will need to be considered in your new restaurant design.

1. Color

Both scientists and marketers understand the influence color can have on our brains. Color causes subconscious reactions that can be quite powerful. In the restaurant world, red is the predominant color because it tends to spark our appetite. Take McDonald’s for example. They have incorporated red in their logo, uniforms, and decor.

Now consider the color blue. It has a calming effect that might be great for a home bathroom or bedroom where relaxation is the goal, but in a restaurant setting, it can actually slow metabolism. When it comes to restaurant design, your personal favorite color might not be the best choice for business. 

2. Decor

As you choose tables and chairs, keep in mind that customers have no idea how much your decor costs. They won’t know the difference between a $900 designer chair or one that you bought in bulk at a warehouse. Customers are more concerned with function.

If you are operating a fine-dining restaurant, go for more plush and comfortable decor, soft lighting, and fluid lines that will make customers want to hang around and enjoy several courses along with some drinks. Cafes that cater to younger customers and have a faster table turnover rate can incorporate more modern elements like glass, metal and use more intense light and hard lines in their decor.

3. Lighting

The importance and influence of lighting in restaurant design cannot be overstated. Lighting is the main factor in setting the mood of a restaurant. Strategically placed lighting can highlight certain architectural features, illuminate cozy seating areas, or hide some flaws. Smaller pendant lighting at tables tends to create an intimate and romantic feel while larger overhead lights make space feel lighter and more open. This is such an important aspect of restaurant design that if you don’t have experience with lighting, it is worth investing in hiring a lighting expert.

4. Seating Spacing

It is important to find the balance between accommodating enough people to earn a profit and making people feel comfortable. You also want wait staff and customers to be able to easily navigate through the restaurant without having to squeeze between tables. For example, gourmet restaurants put more distance between tables for an intimate feel that encourages people to linger and spend more on a meal. Fast-casual restaurants can place tables closer together because customers tend to spend less time eating.

5. Music

Much like color, music can have a major impact on the mood of both employees and customers while also stimulating appetites. Faster-paced music makes people chew faster and can help empty tables faster. Classic music slows us down and helps sophisticated dishes feel even fancier. Use the relationship between music and food to enhance your restaurant design and experience.

6. Indoor Temperature and Air Quality

You don’t want the heat and smells from the kitchen overwhelming the dining area. The right HVAC and ventilation system can keep the dining room cool, comfortable, and smoke-free. While restaurant HVAC systems can be expensive, it is well worth the investment if it means that you can earn repeat customers who will provide you with positive word-of-mouth marketing. 

Restaurant Design Layout Basics

It can be easy to get caught up in the design of the dining room and overlook other essentials like the main entrance, bathrooms, and kitchen. However, these are also important elements that will affect the customer experience. Here are some restaurant layout basics to consider:

The Restaurant Entrance

The entrance, which includes both the interior and exterior, is the first impression a customer has of your restaurant. Use signs, music, lighting, plants, and other design tools to create a welcoming space that also reflects the theme of your restaurant. 

The Waiting Area

Restaurants that utilize a waiting area should not only include comfortable seating but make the most of the space by posting advertisements for special events, such as wine tastings, happy hours, etc. Also, be sure to place plenty of menus in this space so that customers can begin thinking about their order and get excited about the meal. If you have a bar area, customers should be able to grab a drink while they wait for their table.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of every restaurant. The type of food you will be serving, the commercial equipment, and the technology you incorporate, will largely dictate the layout of the kitchen. You want to provide staff with a logical flow that helps them perform their best and have easy access to the tools they need.

The Bar

Some customers may prefer to enjoy their meal at the bar. That means that the bar should be just as comfortable and welcoming as the rest of the restaurant. The challenge is to make sure that it is also a functional space since servers will be coming in and out to pick up drink orders to deliver to tables and use the POS system. There needs to be the right balance between form and function. 

The Dining Room

Don’t forget to take your staff into account as you design your dining room. Yes, you want a comfortable and welcoming space, but your staff also needs to be able to function well in the dining area and easily execute their steps of service. Make sure that your seating capacity meets local fire codes and spend some time in every seat to get a feel for the overall view. This can help you perfectly position every seat and table.

The Restroom

This is another area where a bad impression can ruin that chance of repeat customers. The same design aesthetics and ambiance that define the rest of the restaurant should carry through to the bathroom. Also, make sure that someone is in charge of making sure paper products are adequately stocked throughout each shift and that the bathroom is clean. 

A great menu and delicious food can get you pretty far in the restaurant industry, but a well-designed space that enhances the dining experience will really seal the deal. Even if you are mostly dealing with online orders through apps and other software tools as COVID-19 continues to affect the industry, you can still work on making a great impression on customers. Putting the time and effort into considering essential design elements and their effect on how customers experience their food can make your establishment a success, no matter what type of restaurant you are running. 


How do you design a restaurant?

Essentially, there are eight different types of restaurant types that you can choose to design: fast casual,

family-style, fine dining, cafe or bistro, fast food, food truck, restaurant buffet, and pop-up restaurant.

How do you design a restaurant interior?

You should pay careful attention to color, decor, lighting, music, seating spacing, and heating, cooling, and ventilation.

What is the layout of a restaurant?

Besides the dining room, you need to consider the entrance, waiting area, bar, kitchen, and restrooms and you design the layout of a restaurant. 



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