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Guide To Designing Restaurant Floor Plans

December 13, 2022  |  Foodservice Design

Guide design restaurant floor plans tips

Restaurants live and die by their floor plans. They could have the most well-planned menus and the freshest ingredients, but if their chefs can't cook without dropping things or bumping into each other, and their waitstaff can't deliver the dishes quickly and safely, none of that will matter. A lot of thought needs to be put into designing a floor plan, and there's no perfect solution. If you're designing (or re-designing) your restaurant, here's what you need to know:

1. Maximizing seating might not maximize profits.

It might seem like a no-brainer — the more people you can fit into your restaurant, the more money you make, right? That's not always true. If you maximize seating, you run the risk of not leaving sufficient space for your waitstaff to properly service all of your tables. That means trips, collisions, or people left waiting for their food while their waitperson tries to find a path to them.

Fitting as much seating as possible can negatively impact your restaurant in a different way, too. If you aren't able to draw in enough customers to properly fill your seats, all of the empty space can give the impression that people should dine elsewhere.

2. You might not need as much dining space as you think.

As a rule, your restaurant should devote about 60% of its floor space to its dining area. This only works for conventional sit-down eateries, however. With the rising trend of ghost kitchens and fast casual places, some restaurant owners find that they need much less — or even none at all.

Consider your menu, niche, and the kind of customer you're courting. Are they going to pick up their food to enjoy at home, or sit down for a full meal and linger to enjoy the atmosphere? This will dictate how much dining space you actually need. It can also help you figure out an optimal kitchen layout.

For a fine dining establishment, you'll want to dedicate about 18-20 square feet of space per diner. For casual dining, you can get away with a bit less — about 15 feet. For a bistro service, you may be able to scale that back to 12 feet. That might sound like a lot, but don't despair. Even if you're working with limited space, there are tons of small-space design tricks you can use to help your restaurant look, feel, and function like a much larger one.

3. Know the location of the important stuff before you start.

If you're fitting your restaurant into an existing building, this is crucial. The "important stuff" here is things like water and gas lines, grease trap connections, and electrical hookups. Sure, these can be moved if absolutely necessary, but you're likely to have a much easier time designing around them instead of re-routing them to fit your floor plan.

4. A restaurant's floor plan is more than just tables, chairs, and a kitchen.

Planning out your kitchen and seating areas is the fun part. The rest is figuring out where to put all of the other things that make a restaurant work — like loading docks, pick-up areas, and restrooms. You definitely don't want to neglect your delivery areas and loading docks, but you should also avoid leaving your restroom areas as an afterthought.

This is purely for one simple reason: Cost-effectiveness. Professional plumbers are expensive, and big plumbing jobs are time-consuming and disruptive. If you can place your restrooms where they're easily accessible to your customers, but also adjacent to the kitchen, you can tie into the kitchen's water and sewer lines.

5. Don't forget accessibility.

A lot of business owners do the bare minimum of ADA compliance — if that. One commonly cited justification for this is that they don't have that many clients with disabilities, so they can't justify the expense. The problem with this is that they're missing out on tons of potential clients who are taking their business elsewhere, to locations that are more accessible to them.

This is why you should factor things like the width of wheelchairs and other mobility aids, ramps, and other needs into your floor plan. Not only will it save you from a costly lawsuit, but it'll also ensure that you don't miss out on potential customers.

6. Don't forget your back office, either.

The back office is where your restaurant's important documents are kept. It's where you handle hiring, payroll, and all of the other paperwork necessary for running any kind of business. This doesn't need to take up a lot of space, but it does need to keep your crucial documents secure. Plan for a safe, filing cabinets, and a door that can lock from the inside, as well as any necessary electrical or internet hookups.

7. Know when to call a professional.

Even if you're an experienced restaurant owner, it can help to get some extra pairs of eyes on your potential floor plan. That's where a service like ChefVue comes in. ChefVue teams you up with design pros and professional chefs that can help you iron out any kinks in your plans. Best of all, you can collaborate in real-time, so there's no waiting. You can see exactly what they suggest, offer your input, and come up with the perfect design together.

If designing a restaurant floorplan seems like a lot to consider, that's because it is. Not only do you need to weigh what's best for your customers, but also for your waitstaff and kitchen employees. These tips can help you balance the front and back of the house and design a comfortable, beautiful, and efficient restaurant floor plan.

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