Restaurant Design Tips

Whilst good food and service are the main reasons we return to our favourite restaurant, great design not only adds to the eating experience, it defines a brand, improves the operation and increases customer spend. Over the last 20 years as a restaurant designer I have seen many style and layout changes but the same design criteria still apply.

Brand.  Defining the core identity through internal graphics and signage is vital in order to develop any business. Is it casual or formal dining? Is the atmosphere lively or intimate and does the operation and price match customer’s perception? Do the sights, sounds, smell and feel match everything else?

Layout.  The key to the success of any restaurant operation is to ensure that the entrance, kitchen and bar area are correctly positioned and can work with each other. Customer and waiting staff circulation routes should be clear and practical, space between tables adequate with flexibility to cater for larger groups and focal points or views given due consideration. Everyone likes to have his or her own personal space and the use of booth seating or screening can help achieve this.

Building. The external appearance of the building should be enhanced with landscaping and signage and internally any architectural features highlighted. The height and design of the ceiling will affect how people feel and the introduction of lowered bulkheads or suspended features can improve intimacy. Acoustic works can help reduce noise from neighbouring businesses and the use of carpets and curtains can reduce echoes and noise under foot.

Having defined the brand identity, agreed the internal layout and understood the building in which the restaurant is situated, there are many other details to consider.

Ambience   Ensure that the lighting levels are right for the atmosphere you are trying to create. Use a programmable dimming system with scene setting for differerent times of the day together with adjustable lighting for flexible table configurations. Candles, table lamps and directional spotlights can produce pools of light for an intimate feel and crystal chandeliers can give a perceived sense of quality.

Colour and Texture   Whether the interior is light or dark introduce a variety of wall finishes to add interest and depth. I try to use a combination of three or four elements such as etched mirror and painted plaster in two colours along side decorative stonework. Recognise the psychology of colours and relate them to the type of food being served. In Wahaca Mexican restaurant bold turquoise greens are used with highlights of chilli red.

Brian Hawkins. Casabella Designs. Restaurant Design.

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