How to Design a Restaurant Layout - Tips & Considerations

Priyanka Bhadani2/26/2021

Insights into Optimizing Restaurant Space

Customers often form their first impressions of a restaurant by its aesthetic, design, and layout. If an establishment is congested, unorganized, and unwelcoming, consumers are less likely to return. A crowded floor plan can also make it difficult for servers to navigate around customers, seat guests, and complete transactions.

Designing a functional restaurant layout is crucial for smooth workflow and customer satisfaction, as it often defines how well staff can execute their tasks. Therefore, restaurant owners should determine how they can adjust their available space to optimize functionality, capacity limits, and guest satisfaction.

What is a Restaurant Layout?

A restaurant layout, or floor plan, is essentially the blueprint that shows the distance and proportions of each room inside an establishment. Layouts include-

  • Light Fixtures
  • Walls
  • Hallways
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Counters
  • Shelves
  • Sinks
  • Equipment
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Electrical Outlets
  • Annotations

Typically, restaurant owners hire an outside architect or interior designer to sketch a floor plan. A well thought out restaurant layout will-

  • Help Management Adhere to their Budget
  • Streamline Employee Training

Without adequately planning a restaurant floor plan, businesses can experience lagging operational flow, congested foot traffic, and poor efficiency.

By investing time into outlining the logistics of each operation, restaurants can ensure there is enough space to execute tasks, such as in-house dining and deliveries, simultaneously without crowding the floor space.

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How to Adjust Floor Plans for Physical Distancing

Now more than ever, restaurants are concerned with physical distancing due to the new COVID-19 regulations. Establishments are not only facing a significant reduction in capacity, but they must also provide guests with enough space to stay six feet away from other customers.

Instead of undergoing a complete transformation, restaurants can make small adjustments to facilitate reduced capacity and social distancing-

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Adjusting the Physical Space

In order to accommodate six feet between customers, restaurants should assess their floor space and seating arrangements. Establishments should try-

  • Moving tables further apart and separating diners from high traffic areas, such as bathrooms and checkout counters.
  • Blocking every other table or installing plexiglass between tables if there is not enough space to expand the distance between diners.
  • Removing counter sets or blocking off every other seat at the bar.
  • Organizing furniture in a fashion that makes it quick and easy for employees to sanitize between parties.
  • Removing any unnecessary items from tabletops that could spread germs, such as condiments, decorations, and tablets.
  • Designating entrances and exits to keep customers moving in an orderly fashion and reduce face-to-face exposure.
  • Moving takeout and delivery destinations away from the dining area.
  • Installing hand-sanitizing stations in areas of high exposure.
  • Designating a room for employees to put on personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Using signs or assigning employees to direct traffic flow.

Leveraging Software

While rearranging furniture can help the logistical part of physical distancing, software can help restaurants manage their capacity. Modern point-of-sale (POS) solutions have table management features that enable employees to digitally redesign the layout to test different floor plans before physically moving furniture.

If existing solutions do not have this functionality, restaurants can rename blocked tables to BLOCKED or UNAVAILABLE to ensure the hostess does not seat guests close together.

POS systems also handle reservations so restaurants can manage how many guests are dining-in at once. Many establishments only accept reservations to ensure they do not exceed their capacity and customers keep a safe distance from each other.

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Informing Diners

Once the new floor plan and workflow are established, it is time to inform the guests of the service change. If customers make reservations ahead of time, they should be informed of the changes prior to their visit, whether through email, text, or call. This gives guests time to bring their own PPE if they choose.
Restaurants should also-

  • Update their website, social media account, voice message system, and reservation platforms to address new implementations.
  • Send emails to loyalty members.
  • Post signs of changes and any customer requirements.

If customers are not aware of these changes beforehand, they may arrive without the appropriate PPE. By addressing new operations and layouts immediately, guests can enjoy a smooth visit without any confusion or stress.

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6 Restaurant Floor Plan Considerations

When designing a new floor plan, there are several elements restaurants need to consider to remain compliant with regulations and improve traffic flow-

1. Building Codes

For the restaurant industry, businesses have to follow several health, building, and mechanical codes that must be factored into the design.

By hiring a professional architect or interior designer, restaurants can ensure that their layouts meet the appropriate building codes. Restaurants tend to have different regulations depending on which state they are located in, making it challenging to plan without an expert's help.

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2. Accessibility

Restaurants must not forget to accommodate customers with additional accessibility needs. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses need to ensure that all employees and consumers have the same level of accessibility. This includes customers with wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, and other devices.

Therefore, restaurants need to allow space between tables to ensure customers with limited mobility can navigate around other guests. Establishments should also provide bathrooms and bar seating for disabled visitors.

3. Budget

Some restaurants have restrictive budgets, limiting how much they can alter their facility. Therefore, businesses should determine the most cost-effective way to design a floor plan.

Establishments can save money on renovations by arranging their floor plan around existing plumbing and electrical fixtures. This allows restaurants to knock down non-weight bearing and partition walls to open up the floor space.

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4. Efficiency

Organizing available space to ensure employees have room to complete operations is crucial to establishing an efficient workflow. Therefore, owners must ensure that there is adequate space around crowded places, including checkout counters, waiting areas, and pick-up destinations.

5. Aesthetic

Businesses should start focusing on their aesthetic after a layout is created to promote smooth workflow. The building's color scheme should represent the brand and attract their key demographics. For example, family-friendly restaurants should incorporate bright colors, inviting decorations, and even play areas.

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6. Square Footage per Guest

While table sizes tend to vary depending on a restaurant's style and types of services, it is essential to factor in the appropriate square footage per customer. Typically, fine dining establishments offer up to 20 square feet per guest, while fast-food chains may only offer 14.

10 Areas to Consider When Designing a Restaurant Layout

When designing a restaurant layout, there are 10 essential elements that owners must consider, including-

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1. The Entrance

A restaurant's entrance area is the first thing new customers will see. Therefore, owners need to create a welcoming front using signs, lighting, coverings, decorations, and color schemes.

Management should think of their storefront as a billboard; it needs to intrigue passers-by to generate new clients. The entrance gives owners a chance to express their creativity and promote the brand's identity. Restaurants can use unique doors, windows, handles, and paint styles to bring their dining theme outside.

2. The Waiting Area

Although not every restaurant has a designated waiting area, establishments should at least have room inside or outside to place waiting guests.

Many restaurants incorporate a bar into their waiting area so customers can get a drink while they wait for their table. Other businesses install booths, benches, or chairs for visitors to sit and relax as their server prepares their reservation.

Restaurants should also consider placing menus in their waiting areas so guests can familiarize themselves with the items, streamlining the ordering process when they are seated.

The waiting area is also an excellent place to showcase a business's hospitality by providing-

  • Complimentary Snacks
  • Coat Check
  • Games
  • Live Music

3. The Bar

Some restaurants use their bars as waiting areas, encouraging drink sales while guests wait. Most establishments place stools around the bar, allowing servers to navigate around guests while they serve seated customers.

When restaurants have reached capacity, bars are often used for seating unexpected guests that did not make reservations. This enables businesses to accept customers and generate more sales.

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4. The Dining Room

The dining room is the most crucial element to a restaurant, as it sets the mood for customers and determines how well staff can function. If the dining area is unorganized or crammed, guests will be uncomfortable and servers cannot work efficiently.

Regardless of its size, the dining area should be spacious, welcoming, and intimate. Owners should check with their architect or the local fire code marshal to determine the seating capacity. Once the capacity is calculated, restaurants can begin installing tables and chairs.

5. The Kitchen

The kitchen floor plan determines how well the kitchen staff can navigate around each other and fulfill orders. This is especially important for restaurants that want an exposed kitchen, where customers can watch the chefs make their meals.

Depending on the type of restaurant, owners will need to factor in space for commercial equipment, inventory, storage, and dishes. Some establishments may also need a designated area for preparation, dry storage, an allergy-free zone, and a staff changing room.

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6. The Restrooms

A clean, organized bathroom represents a restaurant's overall hygiene and sanitation standards. Unfortunately, for many restaurants, the restrooms are an afterthought. However, studies show that 80% of consumers will avoid a restaurant that has dirty bathrooms.

Therefore, restaurants need to prioritize designing a bathroom that is easy to clean and accessible to customers. Bathrooms should be clearly marked inside the establishment, making it easy for paying customers to find. Too often, restrooms are tucked away in the back or corner of the building, so employees are frequently asked for directions.

7. The Staff Quarters

Servers, chefs, hostesses, bartenders, bussers, and supervisors all need a place to store their belongings during their shifts. Staff quarters typically have lockers, benches, sinks, and seating so staff can take breaks, lock away their items, and wash their hands.

Staff quarters are also often used to hold meetings, post employee schedules, and train new workers. The backroom should be located close to the kitchen and dining areas, so managers can pull staff to the side at short notice to make corrections or announcements.

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8. The Point-of-Sale Area

The POS area, or checkout counter, tends to get congested on busy nights. Therefore, restaurants should consider implementing multiple payment stations to minimize wait times and streamline transactions.

While some establishments use long counters to house several POS systems, others spread their hardware around the restaurant to avoid overcrowding the front of the house. Restaurants can place payment terminals in the-

  • Bar Area
  • Checkout Counter
  • Hostess Booth
  • Barback Nook
  • Beverage Center

Many businesses even use handheld devices, such as tablets and smartphones, to complete transactions at the table. This method prevents lines from forming at the entrance, which is already one of the most congested areas of a restaurant.

9. Outdoor Seating

Especially with the new safety precautions, restaurants have prioritized establishing outdoor seating areas, such as patios or street seating. Not only does this give guests more space away from other customers, studies show that restaurants can also experience an increase in revenue by up to 65% by establishing outdoor seating.

Outdoor seating should be located close to the kitchen and dining area so servers can juggle their indoor and outdoor tables without the extensive travel time.

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10. Emergency Exits

Restaurant layouts must be created with emergency exits in mind to ensure that everyone inside the building can safely exit the premises in dire circumstances. Establishments should have multiple emergency exits and a floor plan that maps exit paths posted around the building for reference.