The Top 5 Restaurant Design Considerations
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
Over the last 15 years or so, restaurants have experienced a tremendous amount of change when it comes to diner experience, food quality, menu conception, brand culture, restaurant supply, tableware accessories, and many other related factors. Achieving excellence and Instagram-worthiness in restaurant design is one of the most important endeavors in the business these days. Offering delicious food and quality service is great, but it’s no longer enough to keep your customers coming back.
Obviously, this in no way underplays the importance of that first perfect bite actually hitting your tongue, but we all know that customers expect so much more than just good food these days … because we are those customers. Amazing food is going to be what makes a satisfied restaurant customer return and bring their friends, but most people initially choose a restaurant based on the VIBE and the LOOK. A restaurant’s interior design – its environment and ambiance – is essential for catching the eye of discerning customers when they plan for a special night out.
In days of yore, restaurants were usually run by families. There wasn’t a focus on the design of the restaurant at all, really. Restaurant owners concerned themselves with filling tummies, not providing “an experience” that would last past the exit door. The owners themselves would be the ones cooking in the kitchen, while their family members would serve the food in the dining room. And what they were serving the meals on weren’t luxury dining table sets, by any means. If you were lucky, you had a hard wooden chair to sit on and the only dining table accessories provided were a dirty salt and pepper shaker.
Fast forward a few decades, and restaurant owners have realized the critical importance of proper restaurant design as the underlying foundation of a truly memorable dining experience. The increase in competition is also a big reason for restaurants waking up to this new design-centric paradigm. Achieving real customer engagement requires a value add experience. The more value your business offers, the more customers it will attract.
We’ve come so far today, but there’s so much farther we can go. Take dining table ideas, for example. We’ve got round dining tables, square tables, communal tables, and so on. Communal tables, themselves, were a turning point in dining psychology. This concept came forward when we realized that social connection and interaction was more important to us than contained privacy and individualism. Now, we come together like never before, with strangers and friends alike. Eating al fresco was another paradigm shift that happened about 20 years ago. People used to only eat indoors, but now outdoor seating is almost always packed while restaurant interiors might actually be empty. We can thank the cafes of Europe for that forward thinking trend. Thank goodness it finally trickled down to standard dining culture in the US.
So in this discussion of what really matters when it comes to putting diners in seats, let’s get down to it. If you’re ready for a ‘standing-room-only’ number of reservations at your fine dining establishment, here are the experiential elements that you must focus on most:
Restaurant layout is an extremely important aspect of restaurant design. Other than the general color and lighting impression that customers first see upon entry, the layout is what communicates your brand, your essence, and your ability to provide a comfortable, inspired dining experience. Think about rooftop seating. Can you provide a patio space by the water? And yes, everyone loves a cozy booth, but adding communal seating near the bar area will spark that electric conversational buzz in the air that brings the space to life each service. Definitely remove any seating near the entrance of doorways and the kitchen … no one likes being near cacophonous noise, frenetic movement, or a draft.
Well-conceived lighting is possibly the most under-considered element in restaurant interior design. There are certain intangible aspects to a great lighting design that tap directly into the emotion of a space and its inhabitants. Bad lightening is a huge NO-NO. Lighting can put your guests either in a good mood or a bad mood, which can then translate to their perception of your service and even the taste of your food. If you’re going to invest in anything, invest in a great lighting architect. Like a magician, those professionals can turn nothing into something and make what you don’t want seen disappear.
Tabletop Accessories and Place Settings
Aside from lighting, tabletop accessories and place setting designs are the next most critical aspects of your customer engagement tools. Why is this? It’s because these elements of the dining experience will be interacting directly with your customers, in their own hands, during nearly every bite.
The way you choose and set plates, spoons, folks, flatware rests, napkins, and all other tableware accessories makes a huge impression on guests. It can either communicate a pristine level of cleanliness, thoughtfulness, and hygiene … or not. And I’m guessing that you want to convey to customers the former, not the latter. Take the desperately under-used flatware rest, for example. Not using flatware rests and setting utensils directly onto a luxury dining table set, doesn’t really present as luxury at all. Diners subconsciously feel stress about how clean their bare table surface is, and even with tablecloths, diners feel stress about not soiling the fabric during a meal. It’s confounding why the restaurant industry hasn’t fully recognized what a friction point this is in diner psychologically. And yet, a modern flatware set can perch elegantly atop a flatware rest and solve the problem entirely.
Stainless steel flatware, gold flatware, and even copper flatware can find their perfect hygienic compliment in utensil rests. These elegant rests add a legitimate level of luxury to place settings, not just the façade of luxury. While this concept may seem new, it shouldn’t. Something so simple and obvious should have been under our utensils – protecting us – since tableware was invented. Feel free to look through all the styles available right now which can elevate your brand, here on this website or on the Edward Don & Company website as well.
Getting straight to the point with this one, heating , cooling and ventilation both in the front of the house and the back of the house, are key to a basic degree of comfort from a climatic perspective as well as an air quality perspective. No matter how tasty your food is, if your guests are sweating during their beautiful evening out, or smelling anything unpleasant or unexpected coming from the kitchen, that’s what they’ll remember and they’ll never want to eat at your place again.
A lot of restaurant owners don’t realize this, but the quality of the bathrooms at restaurant sets the bar for cleanliness and design integrity in the minds of patrons. It is crucial to put as much care into your restroom design as you do the rest of your interiors. Good design is a living, breathing system and no area can be forgotten. Diners have their senses heightened during a dining experience, so if their brief interlude to the loo doesn’t meet with their overall experience and expectation of the rest of your establishment, you won’t have done your job … nor will they be left with the impression you worked so hard to achieve in all other aspects of your service.
Choosing The Perfect Restaurant Design Will Pay Back in Dividends
Coming up with spectacular restaurant designs, which deeply connect with consumers and subsequently get posted to the four corners of social media, makes the effort worth it. So, find the right design team. Don’t forget the details. And be cognizant that sometimes it’s the smallest things that get remembered, Instagrammed, and keeps your guests coming back for years to come!