Maximize Your Small Restaurant Layout for the Ultimate Dining Experience

Oct 4th 2022

When you walk into a restaurant, the first thing you notice is the overall “vibe.” Although it is not a tangible aspect to your restaurant experience, it is an important one. When you’re creating or renovating a restaurant, you need to provide careful attention to the layout and design of the space. This is especially true if you are working with a small building.

As cities become more crowded, retail space is hard to find and often comes at a premium. That means most people are left with starting their restaurants in small commercial spaces. Before you start panicking about how to make it all work, just know that there is a science and an art to layouts. With a little work, you can make almost every space feel inviting to your customers.

Some call it ambiance, others call it feng shui. It all starts with designing your layout. Here are a few areas to think about when creating your restaurant.

Greeting Area

No matter what size of space you’re working with, you want to be sure to create some kind of greeting area. The entrance is the first interaction patrons will have with your restaurant, so you want to make it memorable and welcoming. If customers must wait to be seated, then make sure to offer a waiting area seating option of some sort. Ensure that the decor pulls them in and makes the restaurant feel warm.

Dining Room

The dining area is the focal point of the entire restaurant, so make it count. Set up your tables to flow in a way that makes sense to patrons and leads them from the entrance to each important stop along the way. If the restaurant has more of an intimate feel, style the eating areas to create nooks so patrons will feel like staying awhile. Focus on the theme of the restaurant and the kind of customers you want to attract. This will tell you how they will want to use the space, which you can then use for designing a layout that will be perfect.

Tables must be appropriately sized for the space. Also consider the shape of the tables and how the flow of foot traffic will move around them. Square tables can be awkward in some areas, as people can bump into the corners and accidentally jostle them. On the other hand, round tables can sometimes be too small for dinner-sized plates. You will need to think about all aspects of their experience while in the restaurant while determining which items of furniture will work in which areas.


If you’re planning on adding a bar to your space, consider how to minimize it while making it still useable by your patrons. Is the bar going to be a place for customers to relax while waiting for a table? If your space is truly cramped, you might consider nixing the bar altogether and focusing more on the table service and selections there. Comfort and enjoyment are the ultimate goals of space design, so choose your bar furniture wisely.


When it comes to restaurants, the kitchen is just as important as the dining room. It needs to be fully equipped with plenty of room for all staff. Each item of equipment should flow well to maximize space. With an overall smaller floor plan, how you use each inch of the kitchen matters. Consider how employees will move, interact, and leave the space armed with plates. By considering each aspect of the space, you can relieve unnecessary stress for those who work in the kitchen.


A good restaurant can’t function without a designated office space. This can be a specific room or it can be just an area curated for business management. It needs to be close enough to the kitchen for employee access, while still being away from the chaos. If there is space, also consider creating an employee break room and space for them to store their personal belongings while working.


This can be a tricky aspect of working within a small space. You will need to maximize all parts of the kitchen as much as you can. Get creative with what other spaces you can use to store items. There are a number of strategies and plans available through a quick internet search that can inspire you to look hard at what your building offers. For example, often, we don’t use wall space effectively. You can choose to build shelving units for storage. Just make sure that they will fit without hampering room usage, won’t impede the flow, and will still fit within building code guidelines.

Outside Spaces

Some people forget to look outside. By creating outdoor eating areas, you instantly increase your square footage without increasing your rent. It’s quite trendy to enjoy eating outdoors right now, so jump on the opportunity and create an intimate space out in the fresh air. Include comfortable, durable seating and tables, and include sun shades to block out adverse weather conditions. Customers eating outside should be just as comfortable as those dining inside.

With a little creativity, you can easily work with a small restaurant space. You’ll need to really think through your layout design to make it work well. There are so many genius ideas available for free online, and after assessing your space you can apply many of these concepts within your own space.

Don’t forget that design matters too. Add mirrors to the space to give it more depth, work with a tall ceiling to create a feeling of more space, and brighten it all up with fresh, light colors. After it’s completed, test drive the space with people who haven’t seen it before, get their feedback and keep working on it until it’s just right.