These days, good food isn’t enough to attract a large customer base.
If you really want your restaurant to stand out, you need to pair a great menu with a unique and memorable experience. This can be done in many ways, but one of the simplest yet most effective methods is by establishing a perfectly crafted ambiance.
That said, it doesn’t come cheap. The average restaurant design and renovation costs can run from $180,000 to $300,000 for a 600 sq ft kitchen space and $90,000 to $180,000 for a 900 sq ft dining space. In sprawling cities like New York, this can even go up to a million dollars. Expensive? We think so too.
Fortunately, creativity is free. As long as you have the right restaurant design ideas and proper execution, you can create a space that your patrons will wholeheartedly love.
In this article, we’re going to discuss 12 restaurant design ideas that you can implement on a budget.
Restaurant Design Ideas on a Budget
1. Ride the minimalist trend
White & The Bear Children’s Restaurant by Natelee Cocks
Minimalism is a trend that has been in vogue for the last few decades now, and it’s still not showing any signs of stopping.
This type of design uses simple colors, elements, and forms to highlight your restaurant’s core concept. We’re talking light color palettes and as many organic materials–like clay, bamboo, or wood–as possible. A minimalist design also means ensuring that everything is organized at all times.
That’s probably why minimalism is so popular. It invokes feelings of neatness, modernity, and timeless classiness. No matter what individual elements and decors you use, minimalism is distinctive in itself.
If done right, not only will minimalism make your restaurant look classy and luxurious, you can also save a lot on materials and decor.
2. Go green
Restaurant in Brazil by Jonathan Borba
Plants and flowers offer a natural, refreshing way to lend a unique and pleasant atmosphere to your restaurant. They also provide additional benefits, such as enhancing the air quality of your interiors, reducing stress levels, boosting productivity, and even sharpening one’s focus.
If you’re unsure about which plants to add to your restaurant, you’d be happy to know that there’s a wide variety of ferns, flowers, and succulents with different care requirements and aesthetic appeal.
For the low-maintenance variety, you can opt for hardy house plants such as snake plants, spider plants, and philodendrons. You can also play around with how you present your plants, such as using vertical gardens, living walls, or hanging pots.
As you can see, plants are an easy, affordable way to create a striking and gorgeous ambiance. That, in addition to all the positive health benefits, makes living greenery one of the best restaurant ideas that you can implement on a budget.
3. Utilize the great outdoors
Italian restaurant by Krizstina Papp
Although they probably don’t mean it, a lot of restaurateurs end up neglecting their outdoor space. The thing is, outdoor spaces are a good avenue for expanding a restaurant’s seating capacity and adding new gimmicks right outside the doors – literally.
One example is putting up a small pop-up booth right in front of your actual restaurant, allowing you to capitalize on foot traffic without having to shell out a lot of money. This is especially beneficial if your restaurant is located somewhere with a view or is near a tourist spot, like parks and scenic bays.
Outdoor spaces can also be used to attract more customers to dine in your restaurant. You can do this by putting up signage and eye-catching decoration, like colorful LED lights or fairy lights, to entice passersby.
Of course, sometimes, it just can’t be done. Your restaurant may be located in a bustling area or in a place where the weather is highly unpredictable. But if you can utilize your outdoor space, there’s absolutely no reason not to.
4. Focus on the lighting
Restaurant in Denmark by Raoul Croes
Lighting affects almost everything in your restaurant, from how it looks in photos to the way customers perceive your space.
Focusing on the lighting is effective because, unlike other interior design elements, it significantly impacts how people feel while inside your restaurant.
According to one study conducted in 2016, good lighting can induce feelings of comfort and pleasure within a physical space. Meanwhile, bad lighting can make the same area feel uncomfortable and even unsafe.
Luckily, it doesn’t cost much to install good lighting fixtures in your restaurant. You can even use recycled or repurposed items for a funkier aesthetic. This can save you a lot of money, especially when compared to other types of renovation like repainting or redecorating.
5. Single out your ceiling
The ceiling already takes up a big area of the room, to begin with, so why not include it in your design scheme? It’s an easy and even affordable way to instantly enhance your restaurant’s interiors.
One way to do this is through peel-and-stick tiles that can make your ceiling look more sophisticated without hurting your budget. Since it’s too far above, it’s unlikely for anyone to notice that your panels are not real tiles.
You can also install murals, paintings, and other decors to make your ceiling space look more attractive while sticking to a budget.
6. Create a picture-perfect wall
Cafe wall in Kansas City by Alexander Gilbertson
Social media platforms are taking the world by storm. Nowadays, restaurateurs can attract a bigger audience by implementing standout backgrounds and decor that customers can take photos of and post on their social media accounts.
One cheap and easy idea is to use big, light-up signages with the establishment’s name or a kick-ass quote.
Other ideas include wall-spanning murals and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. You can also incorporate several design elements to create an accent wall that people’s eyes–and cameras–will be drawn to.
This idea is cost-effective because once you’ve decorated one side, you can leave the rest of the room bare. After all, you wouldn’t want to distract from the accent wall.
7. Use recycled materials
STORK Restaurant by CUBE Architecton
You can also go for an eclectic, mishmash approach. Imagine the mystique invoked by a traveling caravan full of mysterious goods and exotic treasures.
The same effect can be achieved in your restaurant by incorporating locally sourced recycled materials steeped with history into your design.
For instance, you can use salvaged wooden palettes from a local farm as materials for your tables and chairs. Furniture from decommissioned buildings that can still be restored to their former glory are also good options. You can even browse through antique shops, garage sales, and flea markets for aesthetic elements that you can add to your design.
Not only is this something you can do on a budget, but it can also be a point of interest for new patrons. On top of that, now your servers will never run out of topics for small talk.
8. Experiment with unconventional materials
Surfboard tables at Wipeout Bar and Grill in California
There’s a lot of interest to be generated from using unconventional materials for restaurant design purposes.
Have you ever thought of using mason jars as lamps? Umbrellas as roofs? Surfboards as tables? Tree roots as chairs? Honestly, your imagination is your only limit.
There’s a fine line between being striking and being absurd, and this is one of those restaurant design ideas that make you walk that thin line between the two. However, the rewards are great. Your design will not only be economical, but it will also be memorable and unique.
9. Go beyond stools and booths
Cafe Takdak Nama in Penang, Malaysia
Another cheap and easy way for your restaurant to make a lasting impression is by switching up your seating schemes.
Seating is an essential factor to consider when it comes to restaurant design ideas. After all, you want your customers to be as comfortable as possible inside your establishment.
But while classic stools and chairs are fine, they certainly aren’t good enough if you truly want to stand out. Creating an aesthetic that will change the way your space looks while keeping things comfortable for your customers is still ideal.
10. Feature local artists
One classic way to enhance the design of your restaurant is by displaying artwork. The problem for restaurateurs on a budget, however, is that premium art pieces typically command a high price as well.
To solve this, consider partnering up with local artists to use your restaurant as an art gallery of sorts. No matter where you’re located, there will always be aspiring artists wanting to test the waters and get their names out there.
This arrangement is a win-win for both parties. The artists will get the exposure and credit they need while you get to improve your restaurant’s interior design for a lower price.
11. Choose a simple but unique theme
Street Food by Oscar Vallés Gil
Sticking to a simple but unique theme for your restaurant’s design isn’t only an artistic choice – it’s also a practical one. Not only can it help your restaurant establish its own identity, but it can also help you save money.
For instance, you can highlight a single piece of design, like a specific painting, for an entirely personal aesthetic. Everything from the colors of the walls to the style of the furniture can revolve around this one featured piece.
If your restaurant is in the middle of the city surrounded by modern establishments, you can go for a rustic theme. You can use cheap materials such as recycled wood and reclaimed farm equipment to complete the look.
Weathered metal and steel piping can craft an industrial vibe. Different kinds of wood can create different moods. Tiled floors, rattan chairs, and posters on the walls can evoke the ambiance of a French restaurant. By utilizing a simple yet unique theme, your restaurant can stand out without burning a hole through your pocket.
12. Mix and match
Restaurant in Indonesia by Hobi Industri
You don’t have to get locked into just one restaurant design idea or concept. Remember, this is your restaurant – an expression of yourself and the values that you hold.
One way to do that is to mix and match ideas from this list and even from others. For example, fantastic lighting and a minimalist design make a great pairing. A picture-perfect background can be made by incorporating a mixture of art displays and unconventional designs. You can also pair indoor plants and recycled materials, especially if you’re going for an eco-friendly aesthetic.
By doing so, there’s no doubt that you’ll stumble across something that can best express your vision in a charming yet still affordable way.
Designing Your Restaurant on a Budget
Your restaurant’s design is one of the things that can make or break your customer’s experience – so you better pay complete attention to it.
That said, while it’s not cheap to have your establishment completely redesigned and reconstructed, there are still plenty of ways to save money, such as the ones you saw on our list. Feel free to pick the one you like best and increase your restaurant’s appeal today.