Restaurant Design Tips

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The Inexpensive 5-Star Look
Nothing can ruin a dining experience more than dreary lighting, silence, or décor that looks like it came from your grandmother’s attic. Dining is an experience of all the senses. Here are some areas to focus on when designing your restaurant:

modern cafe lookLighting. Many restaurants make the mistake of dimming the lights down way too low and the result is depressing. A dark restaurant messes with the customer’s senses and prevents them from seeing what they’re eating. If they can’t see the vibrancy of their dish because you’ve gone overkill on the ambiance, the food will literally not taste as good to them.

Sound. Dead-silence is as awkward in restaurants as in elevators. Take special care in planning the sound of your restaurant. The bustle of the kitchen or bar can make nice background noise if they happen to be open to the dining area. If not, you may want to invest in a music system. If you have large windows facing a busy street, then you can choose to turn the music down and allow the natural city sounds to become part of the interior vibe. Or, you can turn the music up and create an audio escape from the city noise. But whatever you do, make sure the customers have something to listen to and make sure it matches the mood you desire for your restaurant.

Color. Warm colors such as brown, red, yellow, and orange tend to carry energizing vibes. Cool colors such as blue, green, purple, and black usually have a more tranquil energy. It has been observed that people eat less food on blue plates, meaning that cool colors suppress the appetite. This is great if you’re running a buffet, but not ideal if you’re an a la cart business.

blue plated soupRestrooms. Whether it’s a hotel or restaurant, you don’t know how fancy the place is until you check out the restroom. This area is far too often overlooked in restaurant design but it can greatly impact your reputation. Restrooms should be spotless and they should also have a décor. Nice paint colors and a few decorations can easily elevate your restrooms to “women aren’t afraid to sit down” status. Streaming music into the restrooms is also a nice touch and keeps the mood of the restaurant consistent.

Server appearance. The final aesthetic touch to your restaurant is server attire. You can convey a lot about your business through the appearance of your wait staff, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to uniforms. If your business is extremely focused on culinary arts, try dressing the servers in tight-fitted chef coats. It conveys the vibe that culinary professionals are serving them and that food is the priority. If you are running a family-style diner, design aprons for servers that are reminiscent of the “diner waitress” that everyone is familiar with from movies.

Like any business, restaurants need their own brand, and that brand should appear as many places as possible. Keep that in mind when designing and decorating every aspect of your business.

Last modified: February 27, 2013
Sasha Smith


This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

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