Opening a business in the restaurant industry can be an exciting experience. It’s likely you’ll spend hours planning your menu, décor and signage, but there’s a key element of the restaurant set-up process that is often overlooked – the restaurant layout.
Many restaurants have wonderful food and interesting décor but fail to impress diners, as they are forced to squeeze between tables to get to the bathroom, shout at their friends and family to be heard above the hubbub or shiver under their jackets every time someone opens the door to the street.
The layout has a bigger impact on the success of a restaurant than you might imagine, so it is vital to get it right first time. Let’s discuss how you can create the ideal restaurant layout, whether you have lots of space or hardly any.
The Main Elements of a Restaurant
The two key areas are, of course, the kitchen and the dining area. Experts say you should create a 40-60 split between these, giving slightly more space to the dining area. Your entrance area is also important, as this is the space potential customers will judge when deciding whether to step foot inside. Make sure it is large enough to be inviting and gives people a glimpse of what’s inside.
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You could consider incorporating a bar or waiting area into your design, as this will help to create an attractive entrance space and give customers a comfortable place to relax if the restaurant is busy. A bar is a particularly profitable idea, as customers will be able to order drinks while they wait. Also, according to fitsmallbusiness.com, people expect less elbow room at a bar than at a table, so you can maximise your revenue by incorporating a bar where a lot of customers can order drinks and snacks.
You should also give consideration to your customer toilets. If you can put them near the kitchen, you’ll be able to minimise expenses by using the same plumbing and water lines. But the most important thing to remember is that toilet doors should not open directly onto the dining area, as this will make customers feel uncomfortable. Make sure the toilet doors open at an angle to the central dining area or are placed at the back of the restaurant off a separate walkway.
If you have the space and capital, you could also incorporate a staff toilet and locker room.
Restaurant Layout Design
When making a restaurant plan, you’ll probably include the kitchen, toilets and bar area, but it is crucial to plan out the exact placement of your tables too. You should try to get the balance between fitting a large number of diners into the space and allowing adequate space for diners and waiters to walk between the tables.
According to fitsmallbusiness.com, a casual dining restaurant should allow 15-18 square feet of space per diner and use this model to calculate the number of tables they can comfortably accommodate. If, however, you’re launching a countertop diner or bistro service, you can reduce the space per person to 12-15 square feet, while a fine dining restaurant owner should increase the space per person to 18-20 square feet.
In order to make the most of your space, you should try to incorporate different types of tables; for example, booth-style tables with fixed bench seating fit well into corners – and enable diners to feel like they are in a secluded space away from other diners – while normal tables could be used in the centre of the room.
Also, think carefully about placing tables next to the door. If a restaurant is small, this can’t be avoided, but if you are fortunate enough to have a large dining area, consider eliminating tables near the entrance, as customers won’t have an enjoyable experience if they are blasted with cold air every time someone walks in through the door. Similarly, note the placement of air vents in the ceiling, and try to ensure customers won’t be sitting in a draught.
You may not have thought of expanding your seating area outside. If you have outdoor space of any kind, you could turn this into an attractive garden or patio where customers can dine in good weather. Just make sure there’s enough space for people to walk between the tables without knocking other people or having to duck under parasols.
Restaurant Kitchen Layout
As we’ve discussed, a restaurant kitchen should take up around 40 percent of your total space. Of course, this depends on how much space you have to work with in the first place, as your chefs must have enough space to create the dishes you plan to serve.
Here are some key points:
• When designing your kitchen layout, you should try to enlist the help of a chef with experience working in different types of restaurants. They will know about the intricacies of creating restaurant-quality meals on a deadline and may be able to offer valuable insight.
• Also, make sure you know about your local health and safety codes, as these may influence your design. Creating your design, installing your kitchen and then finding out that they breach local regulations will be time consuming and expensive, so research regulations in advance.
• Decide whether an ‘island’, ‘zone’ or ‘assembly line’ layout works best for your restaurant. Your decision will depend upon the type of food you intend to serve, the cooking processes involved in making them and the size and shape of your kitchen area.
• Make a comprehensive list of the equipment you’ll need to fit into the kitchen before you plan it. Remember to include items such as deep fryers, pizza paddles, mixing bowls, plates for different types of meals, soap dispensers, rubber floor mats, fire extinguishers and cleaning equipment.
• Create a rough 3D model of the proposed kitchen and ask volunteers to walk through it to make sure your staff will be able to move around comfortably while they prepare food.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©