When you’re in the restaurant business, you know you’re providing more than just food. It’s also providing an entire experience for your patrons, from the taste of the food to the feel of the space around.
How your customers navigate your space affects how they behave and feel about it, which means that though you might have the best food around, it won’t make much of a difference if your customers don’t feel comfortable in your space.
Factors to Consider When Designing Your Restaurant Floor Plan
When optimizing what kind of experience you will give your customers, there are a few things that you’d want to consider, such as customer traffic, zoning regulations, restaurant type, establishment size, and kitchen layout. These factors are critical in creating the right restaurant floor plan for your specific needs.
1. The flow of customer traffic
Customer traffic is one of the most important considerations when arranging your restaurant floor plan. Your store layout can be to maximize customer experience, reinforce your branding strategy, and even maximize your profitability wherever it can.
A successful restaurant floor plan makes people feel at ease and ready to do business simply by being placed somewhere within your restaurant.
Here are some tips that you can use to optimize customer flow in your establishment’s layout.
- Observe existing customer traffic. There isn’t any cut-and-dry way to optimize everyone’s customer traffic, but observing the current customer traffic is one way that all restaurants can improve. Are there any areas that receive the most complaints? Do you frequently notice customers shy away from certain places?
- Prioritize customer health and safety. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming a big part of our lives, restaurants need to ensure that customers don’t feel unsafe in their establishments. Never compromise: maintain the appropriate distance, ensure barriers when necessary, adhere to local regulations about the virus, and place hygiene kits or handwashing stands where possible.
- Make your line queue system comfortable. Your queue is one of the most problematic parts of a restaurant establishment. We’ve all heard of–and even felt–queueing anxiety at some restaurants in our lives, and as restaurant operations, we need to lessen this pain point wherever possible. Be honest about waiting times, make customer waiting time pleasant, and even keep them busy.
- Reinforce your establishment’s branding. Your floor space management is one of the best ways that you can reinforce what your restaurant is all about. Is your restaurant for groups of friends and family? Is it a romantic getaway? Is it made for foodies? Reinforce your branding by modifying space between tables, optimizing table size, etc.
Managing your customer traffic flow is one of the first and most important things you can do to improve how you can redesign your restaurant floor plan for the best.
2. Zoning regulations and legal requirements
Another critically important thing when designing your restaurant’s floor space is the zoning regulations of your local area.
When opening any legal business, there are certain zoning codes that you need to follow to ensure the integrity, disaster-readiness, and accessibility of your establishments to as many people as possible.
One of the most important legal requirements that you have to consider would be disability access.
Even beyond the fact that it’s a legal regulation, you should also strive to be as inclusive as possible for your patrons, regardless of being differently abled.
In following this, you have plenty of guides. For example, the ADA requires that 36 inches be the minimum distance of isles between fixed seatings and that surfaces like tables or countertops need to be between 28 and 34 inches in height, among other similar guides.
Legal considerations aren’t the most exciting thing to think about, but your restaurant needs to adhere to the letter of the law when it can.
To ensure that you’re not unknowingly violating any legal guidelines, be sure to do your homework or have your establishment checked by professionals before the inspector’s visit.
3. The type of restaurant
The type of restaurant you have will also severely impact what kind of floor plan design you will have. This is because restaurant type is closely associated with purpose and function: what kind of service people expect from your establishment.
For example, sit-down restaurants or FSRs (full-service restaurants) will generally have a more open, inviting floor plan that will encourage longer stays and socializing with your group. The restaurant design is also entwined with the floor plan, making sure that the customer’s experience is as positive as possible.
This is because full-service restaurants charge you as much for the service and ambiance as for the food. They sell an entire experience of making you feel as if you’re dining in a specific time and place, whether it’s composed of timeless luxury or a theme restaurant frozen in place and time for you to enjoy.
On the other hand, QSRs or quick service restaurants will typically have a more grid-like linear design with efficiently placed isles separating tables and minimal space in between.
These types of establishments are pleasant enough to stay a while, but you’re mostly just there to eat something passably good as soon as possible.
There are also restaurants that straddle the border between the two: QSRs that offer better customer service and FSRs with more efficient processes.
In that case, you need to design your floor plan for exactly what you’re going for in your establishment.
Are you a quick service restaurant, or do you serve the full experience? Do you need to have picturesque spaces? The type of restaurant will dictate how you will structure the experience for your guests.
4. The size of the restaurant
The square footage you’re working with is a physical reality you’ll have to contend with when designing your restaurant floor plan. We all want to increase the number of customers we’re serving, but sometimes that’s just not possible given the available space.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the per-guest allocation of space varied slightly between different types of restaurants.
- Fine Dining: 18-20 sqft
- Casual Dining: 12-15 sqft
- Counter Service: 18-20 sqft
- Fast Food: 11-14 sqft
- Banquet: 10-11 sqft
However, if you want to, there are a few tips that you can use to maximize the square footage you’re working within your restaurant.
- Use an open floor plan that borrows views between rooms or ‘areas’ of your restaurant.
- Create a sense of openness by emphasizing the tallness of your room and enhancing natural light when possible.
- Enhance the room’s depth by painting the ceiling with a light color and the walls darker.
- Display interesting artwork or bookcases in your hallways or passageways.
- Where possible, secure the outdoor area for additional seating. Create a separate floor plan for your outdoor seating, and factor in the weather in your prep.
5. The layout of the kitchen
Lastly, your kitchen layout will also affect your restaurant’s overall floor plan. This is because your kitchen layout will also affect how your employees work, and you want the flow of traffic of your employees to be as streamlined as possible.
It would help if your kitchen had a place for all the equipment that your menu needs and the space for various efficient stations for food preparation and cooking.
If you can, keep a close eye during operations to see how you can improve your kitchen’s layout. Are there places where employees bump into each other? Do they get stuck in a particular area while moving from one place to another?
Similarly, it would be best to observe how your front-of-house staff flows into the floor. Can they ferry their food effectively from the kitchen to the table? Are there any better paths they could take or better floor plans for better efficiency?
Your kitchen is central to how you work in a restaurant, so you need to build your floor plan around it.
Step-by-Step Guide to Restaurant Floor Plan Design
When designing a restaurant layout, it’s important to consider customer traffic flow, legal requirements, restaurant type, size of your establishment, and kitchen layout.
This section considers all that and discusses the basic steps for creating a restaurant floor plan design.
- Draft it out. Start by making a rough idea of what you want to happen based purely on preferences and experience.
- Map the traffic. Next, visualize how your customers will flow through your floor by plotting their path from the entrance to various areas and tables. Adjust as necessary.
- Consult zoning and legal regulations. Take into account any legal codes you can consult or have a professional look at your draft.
- Observe your kitchen layout at work. If you’re already operational, observe how your kitchen’s layout affects employee traffic in the front-of-house and adjust accordingly.
- Conduct a soft trial of your layout. Now that you’ve considered the primary factors of restaurant floor plan design do a soft trial of your layout and be flexible. There might be factors unique to your establishment’s architecture that you will have to adapt to.
Examples of Popular Restaurant Floor Plans
Now that you know what to consider and how to draft your restaurant floor plan, you should be able to visualize a basic floor plan for your needs. To better guide your design plans, you need to learn about the common restaurant designs that restaurants often use.
1. The linear layout
This layout is one of the most common floor plan designs because of its simplicity and efficiency. The linear layout simply arranges your tables in a grid-like fashion in a given space. Think of McDonald’s and other fast food that feature straight lines through several tables.
This type of layout is made for efficiency and flexibility. The paths are straight through the tables, and there’s plenty of flexibility in case patrons want tables to be merged.
However, the linear layout sacrifices layout and aesthetics in favor of efficiency. As a result, it’s typically not associated with restaurants that want to make a relaxed and inviting ambiance within their walls.
2. The U-shaped layout
The U-shaped layout is favored mainly by full-service restaurants that want to create a relaxing and inviting ambiance on their floor. Appropriately named, this restaurant layout clears the middle of the floor and arranges the tables in little alcoves in a U-shape around it.
The middle area may be occupied by a bar, a tasteful art piece, or even a stage for band performances to provide a sense of privacy and division in the room.
This layout creates a more intimate dining experience at each table along the U-shape. Tables will be spread far enough away to facilitate conversation and socialization better, and the middle of the room creates a natural central point.
3. The rectangular layout
This layout arranges your restaurant in a flexible rectangular flow around your floor plan.
This layout is somewhat of a crossover between the previous two layouts; rectangular floor plans spread the tables across the room, but with enough space between them to still facilitate conversation and socializing.
Rectangular layouts are best exemplified by restaurants that straddle the line between QSRs and FSRs. Think of large family restaurants that maximize their floor space by scattering a variety of table types across the space.
4. The free-form layout
Freeform layouts are becoming increasingly popular in modern establishments. In free-form designs, the floor plan doesn’t follow predetermined patterns and is instead scattered in organized chaos across the room.
A scattering of various table types with different capacities and designs will populate your floor.
Free-form designs will take advantage of unique physical locations, such as highlight walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and bars. Think of large, modern cafes that feature different spots with different ambiances depending on the size of your party and what you want to do (quick breakfast, socialize, work alone, etc.)
5. The courtyard layout
Lastly, the courtyard layout is for restaurants that can take advantage of adequate outdoor space. This design is made to conform to the traditional, tucked-away courtyard design that gives your tables a sense of the outdoors while at the same time improving privacy.
Traditional courtyards occupy a middle part of an enclosure made by various buildings.
However, modern iterations might not have the traditional architecture for courtyards. Instead, restaurants that utilize this floor plan are made to occupy an outdoor area that follows the same type of ambiance.
Designing Your Restaurant Floor Plan: Final Thoughts
Remember that your customers are your primary concern for whatever restaurant type you’re designing. The design of your floor plan is for them to have the right dining experience in your establishment and to make them feel confident and secure in your service.
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