Creating a successful culinary business takes a significant amount of thought and planning. While you want to give plenty of attention to business plans and products, you will also need to consider design aspects. After all, restaurants depend on their ambiance and aesthetic success to bring patrons back time and time again.
You’ve probably dined in a restaurant and found their flow to be all wrong. Maybe they were really busy and their furniture was awkwardly in the way. Or you’ve had a waiter bump into a table that was too close, spilling water and ice into your lap. Perhaps you’ve tried to carry on a conversation with a friend, only to find the centerpiece irritatingly in your way.
It is crucial to design the flow of your restaurant to match the kinds of food you serve and the clients you attract. Here are a few areas to consider when designing your restaurant space:
Type of Building
Your first consideration should be the type of building in which your restaurant is located. If your restaurant is in an open eating area, such as a mall food court, you need to factor in noise and clientele. Most shoppers aren’t looking for a leisurely dinner in a fancy restaurant. They are interested in getting food quickly and getting off their tired feet for a while. You want to set up your business to allow patrons to move quickly through the area, pick up their food easily, and be able to plop down at a table for a short while.
If your restaurant is instead located in a busy downtown, you will have different kinds of patrons. They might be stopping in for a quick lunch or a coffee to-go. You may also get people who are looking for a place to sit and quietly work on their laptops. You need to balance both the in-and-out patrons and those who might want to linger in a cozy space.
If your restaurant is located in a suburban shopping plaza, you might be catering to families with young children. Your furniture choices and placement should reflect this possibility. Make sure to place furniture carefully so that children won’t inadvertently get hurt. There should also be some room for families, so larger dining accommodations should be a priority.
The next thing to consider when deciding on a design for your restaurant is to factor in how you plan to serve your food. There are several ways that restaurants go about getting their delicious food to their waiting patrons. From upscale service to casual orders, different serving styles fit with different restaurant themes. Here is a brief description of the most popular service methods:
- English Service: Another term for this style is “host service.” Generally, the food and refreshments to be served are brought out to one person who is designated as the host. The host inspects the food, then prepares the plates to be passed around. This is a common service style used for formal family dinners such as Thanksgiving in the United States. You might also recognize it from restaurant tea service, where one person pours out the tea and pastries to pass to each person.
- French Service: The most common way you might see French service in America is for salads and desserts. In this style, food is brought out on a cart and assembled in front of the patrons. After agreeing that it looks good enough to eat, the food is then placed in front of the person who requested it.
- Russian Service: This is the service style that Americans are most familiar with. Food is brought to the table already assembled and arranged on a plate. It is simply set in front of the patron and they then proceed to eat what they ordered.
- Buffet Service: This is a common style for salads and desserts in the U.S. You get up and walk to a table of food choices, and help yourself to what looks appealing. There are many variations on the buffet, but it generally is a self-serve type of service.
- Family-Style Service: This is similar to how dinner is traditionally served at home. Food is made in the kitchen and assembled into large serving bowls and platters. It is then brought out and placed on the table. Diners then serve themselves, passing the serving bowls around to each person.
In order to fully understand how to create your space, you need to understand exactly who you want to attract. Your ideal customer is the person who is most likely to frequent your restaurant and they are who you want to consider during each step of your planning process. Your location, price point, and menu will determine exactly who this kind of person will be.
If you hope to attract college students, fill your space with informal and relaxed seating. They’ll want to hang out together and stay awhile. If you want to create a more formal restaurant, choose intimate tables that are farther apart for dining privacy. If you intend to have a sports bar, you’ll want to consider high top tables that work well for the television viewing that your patrons will be doing while drinking and eating. For family friendly restaurants, you’ll want to choose sturdy tables that are attractive but also withstand a lot of wear.
You will have to do some serious thinking about what kinds of furniture will work best in your space. You’ll also want to look at local business codes and regulations. The fire department or other regulatory agencies might have rules you’ll need to follow in how your space is set up. Here are some other considerations.
Quality – Make sure to consider the amount of wear and tear your restaurant furniture will be enduring. Refrain from buying non-commercial furniture since it simply won’t hold up. Choose furniture that is made for commercial purposes.
Shape – Analyze your space to determine exactly what shape of tables you will need. Who will be eating at your restaurant the most? You probably want to have some larger square tables, a few smaller square tables, and a round table or two. This will depend on the size of your space and how patrons will be moving within the restaurant.
Style – There are two general styles of tables. You can choose to have anchored seating or portable. A booth is a good example of anchored seating. It might be a good idea to have a mix of both. Portable tables are great for extending anchored seating and for having seats in spaces away from the walls.
The overall layout of your restaurant has the ability to drastically affect both your bottom line and your customer loyalty. The space needs to flow in a logical way that doesn’t make your customers confused or annoyed. The dining room should have a mix of tables that cater to the potential dining scenarios that your customers will request. It should come with clean, stylish bathrooms nearby that are easy to find.
If you have a bar, it should fit into the overall experience and complement the dining room. The space should flow nicely into the kitchen so that waiters and staff can move easily between rooms. The kitchen needs to be large enough to fit a fast-moving staff. Employee space should be located near the kitchen and include personal storage options. An office space for the manager should be far enough away from the kitchen, but accessible to the overall flow of the business.
Your restaurant business plan needs to consider many things, but keep design and layout at the top of your list. The way that patrons feel when they walk in the door will encourage their loyalty or cause them to instead head to another restaurant down the road. A great layout will make sure there are enough table options for a variety of customers needs, while still maintaining a tight aesthetic. The space needs to flow in a way that intrinsically makes sense to customers and makes them feel comfortable. By choosing a great layout for your restaurant space, you will give your customers one more reason to make your business their favorite place to eat out.