Fundamentals of Great Restaurant Design

So you’ve developed a great restaurant idea, secured financing for your new venture, and purchased or leased a space. Maybe you’ve already developed the menu and brainstormed the aesthetic you want for your new restaurant.

Now it’s time to learn the basics of restaurant design to ensure your space will be up to code, provide a great experience for your customers, and be an efficient workspace for your team.

In this month’s post, we’ll outline the fundamental of great restaurant design. We’ll go over seating, the design of the kitchen, and much more!

Develop a plan for key spaces

Before you get too far into the design of your restaurant, it’s important to develop a plan for key areas in your restaurant. Think about what you need out of each individual space and how they’ll fit with one another.

Key areas of a restaurant:

  • Kitchen: Most restaurants dedicate around 40% of their floor plan to their kitchen. This may seem like a lot of space for a place your customers will never see, but a good kitchen will produce better food more quickly.
  • Dining area: This is where your customers will be spending most of their time, so making this area a priority is important. Make sure the space is comfortable and somewhere they want to spend time.
  • Entry and waiting area: While your patrons will likely not spend much time here, it’s the first place they’ll see. If it doesn’t adequately represent your space, it could turn patrons away. This is particularly important if your restaurant will have long wait times.
  • Restrooms: If possible, this should go near the kitchen to save money on plumbing and water lines. If the bathrooms are single occupancy, you’ll also need space for a small queue.
  • Bar (not always necessary): If you plan on serving alcohol in your restaurant, it’s a good idea to have a bar for your staff to prepare drinks. It will also be a great place for casual seating and for customers to wait for their table.


Determining the right amount of seating

How large you want your restaurant to be should be decided while looking for space. Nonetheless, once you have found the perfect space there are still two aspects of your design to balance:

  • Ambiance: A restaurant with sparse seating will have a personal and relaxed ambiance. While you don’t want too much space, a dining area that’s not crowded with tables will always be more comfortable for diners.
  • Maximum capacity: The more tables you place in the dining area, the more customers you can seat. Theoretically, this creates the potential for more sales.

Every restaurant will have a different balance of these two aspects. If you’re hoping for a more elegant, fine dining experience a sparser table setup will help you achieve the desired atmosphere. If you’re designing a more casual restaurant, seats can be placed closer together.


Limit “bad” seating areas

No one can fully design a restaurant without problem seating areas. Bathrooms, front doors, mid-floor seating, and proximity to a kitchen will always create less than ideal places for your customers to dine. This doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive in designing spaces limiting the bad seating options in your restaurant.

Some ways to combat bad seating include:

  • Using wooden partitions to separate large spaces
  • Identifying problem areas to place bus or wait stations
  • Placing bathroom and kitchen access in locations less disruptive to restaurant patrons


Design your kitchen with your assembly line in mind

Restaurants run on efficiency and organization. Not only will an efficient kitchen mean your patrons will receive their food on time (and the right dishes), but it will keep your operation safer and employees more focused.

No matter the exact design of your kitchen, you should separate the food preparation section of your kitchen into three sections:

  • Food preparation
  • Meal cooking
  • Plating and server pickup

There should also be areas for food storage and dishwashing. Divvying up your kitchen setup in this way will optimize your available labor no matter the size and scale of your kitchen.



With all the the functional concerns of your space it can be easy to forget that you want it to look great as well.

One of the first things you’ll need to consider is lighting. There are three types of lighting that you should focus on for any restaurant:

  • Ambient lighting: Sets the mood
  • Accent lighting: Draws attention to a decorative focal point
  • Task lighting: Provides enough lighting for your team to cook and serve food



The decor of your space is the main aesthetic decision you’ll make and will help set the tone for your entire business. You’ll want to make sure your customers are comfortable, but don’t be afraid to add some character to make your space unique.

Some things to consider:

  • Artwork
  • Paint color
  • Indoor plants
  • Materials of tables and chairs
  • Windows and drapes


Heating and Cooling

Restaurants create a lot of heat, smoke, and smells. Invest in a commercial ventilation hood system that can actually handle what you throw at it.

Given the amount of heat used in the cooking process, it’s not a surprise that it can get pretty warm in a restaurant! Making sure you have an air conditioning and heat system that will ensure your customers comfort and safety is key when designing your restaurant’s space.


Make sure your building is up to code

When designing a restaurant and preparing for the opening, the last thing you want is for your opening to be delayed. This can happen if you don’t know what to be looking for to ensure your building is up to code.

Have you considered…

  • Hood types
  • Dishwasher ventilation
  • Exhaust fans or make up air unit
  • Sink drainage
  • Walk in cooler compressors

To ensure you’re up to code and can open your restaurant on time, work with a restaurant design team that can help you build a space fit for your restaurant’s vision.


Are you ready to design the perfect space for your restaurant?

BnK Construction has been working with restaurateurs in the Portland area for years. We love building spaces that build off a restaurateur’s vision and turning that vision into a place customers will love.

Contact us today with any questions on your restaurant’s design and to ensure you restaurant is a safe place for both your customers and employees.

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