Modern restaurant interior design. Concept: how to decorate your restaurant.
Suanny Garcia
By: sgarcia
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How to Decorate Your Restaurant: A Brief Guide on Restaurant Design

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When it comes to the question “how to decorate your restaurant?”, there’s only one person’s taste you should consider more than your own: your customers.

Customers visit your restaurant for more than the food; they also want to savor the experience. And we all know a complete dining experience involves all senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. Your design and decor should attend each of these factors to provide an alluring ambiance that keeps customers returning. But customer appeal is not your only goal when designing your restaurant. You also have to consider production efficiency: your design has to allow for optimal speed and flow.

The following tips on restaurant décor and design will help you in both areas, improving your production efficiency and enhancing the appeal of your restaurant.

15 Elements to Consider in your Restaurant Design

  1. Capacity. Capacity and seating are a balancing act. Depending on the type of restaurant you have, you should decide whether you want your focus to be on maximizing capacity or in creating a good atmosphere. In any case, avoid cramping your customers in your space and allow enough elbow room for servers to move easily and patrons to have privacy. If possible, try to avoid sitting areas in problematic places like the entrance, in front of the kitchen, and in front of the bathrooms.
  2.  Lighting. People often overlook lighting in businesses as well as in homes. But the truth is, lighting can make or break the space. The right lighting can improve the customers’ overall experience, and more importantly, strategic illumination in your storefront is the first thing that may attract a passerby. Have you ever walked past a restaurant with high-quality patio lights? If used the right way, the lights create a soothing ambiance that invites you to relax with your family while enjoying a glass of the finest red… sound like a dream? That’s because it is! And that’s the power of lighting. And let’s not forget: warm light brings warmth to your space, while cold lighting actually makes customers speak louder.
  3.  Music and Sound. In terms of “make it or break it,” music is a factor that can either make your ambiance pleasant or can break up any sight of ambiance. Ever visited a restaurant with bad music where it’s almost impossible to have a conversation? Yikes! Nobody likes yelling! Want to know a fun fact? A number of studies have shown that soft background music not only makes employees happier but also improves the image of the establishment and stimulates customers’ appetite. A non-commercial radio station is an inexpensive way to provide music background.
  4. Color Palette. Did you ever think you’d have to use psychology for restaurant design? Well, it helps! Here’s why: psychologist have proved that color has an impact on our brains, meaning certain colors can evoke certain emotions. Interesting, right? That would explain all the red displayed at fast food places. It has been scientifically proven that red whets our appetites. Blue, on the other hand, slows our metabolism. To create a friendly and optimistic atmosphere, opt for yellow and orange. To enhance creativity, focus on lilacs, and for peace: green, green, green! Don’t forget colors can also come in the form of beautiful plants and flowers. If your concept warrants a more natural restaurant design, definitely opt for plants regardless of the color scheme, as plants usually promote peace and health.
  5. Décor: No need to break the bank to make your restaurant unique and comfortable. In fact, most diners prefer comfortable chairs vs. high-end design pieces. What’s the use of having expensive furniture if you’d rather sit at home in a comfortable couch?  You have a lot of freedom in restaurant design here as long as you stay on top of trends. For example, formica tables and vinyl chairs are only acceptable if you run a 50’s themed restaurant. If you run an ethnic restaurant, try to avoid clichés. You can use some authentic but inexpensive art pieces or decorative items from your country of origin. When it comes to restaurant design, follow the golden rule: less is more. Patrons prefer a clean and airy space rather than something gaudy and over-decorated.
  6. Branding. Your restaurant is a great place to put into practice your marketing ideas. Use your logo, color palette or slogan strategically to create a unique look and feel that customers recognize. For example, a French/American restaurant in Miami called George’s has used the slogan “if you don’t take your lady to George’s, someone else will.” Albeit, not the friendliest, but definitely catches people’s attention. The same restaurant uses the face of said George (the owner) in the design of its napkins, bathroom decor, and color papers for kids. Quite entertaining when you visit.
  7. Bar. Speaking of entertainment… if you have enough room, it may be a good idea to include a bar. It’s a great way to increase your profits. For most restaurants, alcohol sales account for around 30% of their revenue. If a bar sounds like an attractive addition to your restaurant, learn here how to get a liquor license.
  8. Menu Design. Design strategies not only apply to your space, but also to your menu. The way you strategically position the items in your menu will influence what your patrons order. Simply refer to this guide on menu design to learn everything you need.
  9. Kitchen Layout: This is often overlooked in restaurant design because it’s hidden from the public eye (unless it’s an open concept restaurant, which is becoming popular). Your kitchen layout is maybe the most important part of your restaurant design. Total Food Service magazine suggests that 30% to 40% of your space should be allocated to your kitchen to allow adequate food prep, cooking, and server pickup space. A beneficial step is starting with a space that was previously a restaurant. This will make it much easier for you to envision your restaurant flow. However, we know that is not always a possibility, which is why we want to briefly discuss three kitchen design options: assembly line, island, and zone. In a nutshell, the assembly line provides workers with three distinct areas for food production, keeping staff within defined workspaces. The island layout simply means the operation is at the center of the room, ideal for spaces where supervision among staff is needed. If you have limited space, you may want to consider a zone layout, which can be adapted to a variety of shapes and sizes.
  10. Ventilation, AC, and Heating. These three elements may be not part of your restaurant décor but are indispensable to guarantee the comfort of your customers. Keep a pleasant temperature in your establishment and make sure the strong smells and fumes from the kitchen don’t reach the dining.
  11.  Safety Elements. Fire extinguishers, alarms, and sprinkler heads are not visually attractive, but again, they are necessary. Integrating these items in your restaurant concept and design may be a challenge and a balancing act. Without disrupting your décor, you should place them in a way they are visible and easily accessible in case of an emergency. However, one item you can –and should disguise is your security cameras.
  12. Restrooms: Unfortunately, many restaurants neglect this aspect. If your restaurant is nicely presented, you should carry out the same theme and décor in the bathrooms. Not only should they be regularly cleaned and disinfected; you’ll gain the attention of customers if you offer a range of soaps, hand lotions, and even perfumes. Your fixtures should be up to date. Background music in the bathroom is always a nice touch.
  13. Entry and waiting area: Many times customers have to wait if they want to enjoy your fantastic food. That doesn’t have to be a negative factor if you make the waiting time short and enjoyable. Your host should attend arriving customers as soon as they cross your door: provide a nice sitting area, give them an estimate of the waiting time, and the option to wait in the bar. You’ll get extra points by offering water or ice tea while they wait.
  14. Patio: For warmer climates, a nice patio is key. We recommend using patio lights and having some sort of live music or an acoustic soundtrack playing — sounds that evoke relaxation. A water feature adds extra points. Even in colder climates, patios can work using proper outdoor heaters.
  15. Dogs and kids: Dog-friendly bars and restaurant are becoming very popular in cities across the US. If you are a dog lover and want to explore this idea, you should be able to provide an extensive outdoor area with proper fencing. Also, make sure you include plastic bag dispensers and bowls with fresh water. If you run a family-friendly restaurant, it can behoove you to accommodate an area for a kids’ playroom. You may have to spend a few extra bucks, but have in mind that can be the trick to gain loyal customers and have families in the neighborhood come over and over.

To sum up, the right décor and design should be the result of combining three factors: your customers’ taste and preferences, the efficiency your staff needs, and your own personality. Such a mix can result in a fascinating concept that will surely set your restaurant apart. Also, have in mind that trends change constantly, especially if we are talking about a pop-up restaurant. In this case, the rules of the game change and the factors explained below may not apply.

In any case, design and decoration shouldn’t be a hugely stressful endeavor, but a thoughtful reflection on what both your customers and employees will enjoy. Even if restaurant design requires some upfront expense — you might want to hire a professional interior designer if you’re not keen on aesthetics — it will pay you back in the long run with returning customers and good reviews.

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