While good food and great customer service are crucial for return business, the ambiance of a restaurant is also important. You want customers to feel comfortable and enjoy their meals. Restaurant design sets the stage for a customer’s dining experience. Loud music, Formica tables, and plastic cups set an entirely different mood than jazz, linen tablecloths, and fine china.
Balancing Seating Capacity
The design of a restaurant should be a balance between a welcoming ambiance and maximum seating capacity. In other words, you want to pack in enough customers to keep busy and turn a profit, while at the same time making guests feel comfortable. Some types of restaurants focus on seating capacity rather than interior design. Diners, for example, have more seating capacity, while fine dining restaurants tend to focus more on ambiance.
Design Problem Areas
In a perfect restaurant, there would be so such thing as a bad table. However, few restaurants can escape having at least one problem area in their dining room. Common restaurant problem areas--places that customers don’t usually want to sit-- include tables near the kitchen entrance, restrooms, and front entrance. Tables smack in the middle of the dining room are not always popular with dining patrons either.
To help disguise problem areas, you can try placing dividers, such as wooden partitions, tall plants or screens in between tables. Consider relocating a wait station or bus station, if possible, to a problem area rather than a dining table.
One way to spot problem areas before opening day is to sit in every single chair in your dining room. Study the view from each seat. You may find that one has a direct view into the bus station, while another gets a draft from the front door.
Silence is definitely not golden in most restaurants. Music will set the tone in a restaurant just as much as the style of the menu or the artwork on the walls. Avoid CDs that are repetitious, for the sake of your staff, which has to listen to it over and over again.
Radio is an inexpensive option for casual dining establishments, but non-commercial channels are preferable. Live entertainment, which can be expensive, adds a definite sense of ambiance. A good musician or group can draw in crowds better than any dinner special. Many restaurants feature live music on weekends or certain nights of the week.
Heating and Ventilation
An important (and expensive) consideration for any restaurant, either new or existing, is heating and cooling. Restaurant kitchens put out a lot of heat, smells, and smoke. Make sure that your commercial range has proper ventilation, with the right kind of hood and fans.
Proper air conditioning is also essential to any restaurant design. Nothing will turn patrons away faster than a non-air-conditioned dining room in the middle of a summer heatwave. It may be tempting to skimp in this area, but in the end, poor ventilation and air conditioning can cost you a lot more in lost sales.
Design and ambiance carry through to restaurant restrooms. Restrooms should be checked at least once at the start of every shift (preferably more often if it is busy). A hostess or bus person can be assigned the task of refilling paper products and taking out the trash.