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Eight design tips for your restaurant’s concept

While great food and service are paramount to your restaurant or foodservice operation’s success, the third link is having a restaurant design that works. Not only does your operation have to be pleasing to the eye for your customers, but it also must be functional for your employees to be able to offer the best service in a timely fashion.

With so much competition in the restaurant and foodservice industry, today’s restaurant patrons want an authentic experience in an environment that suits their needs and expectations. The design of your restaurant should be created with the goal of being able to excite all five senses of your customers. This means that what customers see, hear, smell, touch and taste will all add to their overall experience.

With her interior design background, as well as 30 years experience in the restaurant and foodservice industry, Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, offers these design tips to consider:

  1. Have a vision

First, you must decide what type of restaurant you want to be. Is your operation aiming to be a relaxed and soothing environment, an exciting place to be, or more geared towards families and children? Figure out who is your target customer base, your budget and the type of ambience you desire. Make sure that your design expectations will meet your budget, and that it also matches the price points of your menu. As soon as a new customer walks by or into your establishment, he/she should be able to figure out what type of restaurant you are just by looking at the design – even before looking at the menu.

  1. Great curb appeal

From the outside, potential customers should be able to understand your brand and concept before they even step inside your doors. Make sure that you have proper signage and lighting that will attraction attention, that the name of your restaurant is displayed prominently, and that the front of your restaurant is well maintained and properly landscaped.

  1. Make it unique and authentic

With so many different types of cultures and cuisines to try today, most customers are not only looking to try new foods, but are looking for a total dining experience. They want to be transported to a new country or new concept. Make sure that the design of your restaurant incorporates as much authenticity and uniqueness to the type of food you serve, and that all the ideas are consistent and cohesive.

  1. Make it functional

Your operation not only has to look good, but also needs to be functional. Keep in mind that the kitchen and bar must work together, and servers must be able to easily navigate throughout the entire restaurant. Study possible traffic patterns for staff and customers, and set up service stations in central areas of your restaurant so that they are easily accessible. Make sure that there is ample space between tables so that customers do not feel like they are intruding on their neighbours. Also keep in mind how easily your operation will be able to accommodate large parties. Freestanding tables are preferable to round tables, as you can easily move them around to create larger tables.

  1. Use space creatively

Large spaces can be made more intimate through the use of screens, booths and banquettes. Visual elements such as fireplaces and columns can also add to the overall effect. For smaller spaces, mirrors are also terrific design tools, as they can expand the sense of space, and are also great for people-watching. You can also add to the visual appeal and textures of your operation by adding artwork such as murals, paintings, sculptures or mosaics, provided that they are in line with your brand personality.

  1. Lighting and ceilings enhance experiences

Lighting is a key element to your restaurant’s design, and can easily add or take away from your customer’s overall dining experience. Lighting can be used to dramatize certain focal points like the open kitchen, an interesting piece of artwork or the tabletops. To create intimacy, hang lights over individual tables in a semi-dark room. For a more vibrant and energetic feel, your operation should be brightly lit with high ceilings. Well-designed ceilings can pull together your room’s lighting, colour and texture, so make careful considerations to your ceiling as well.

  1. Eliminate excessive noise

A restaurant operation with bad acoustics can drive away customers on that point alone. Effective use of draperies, carpeting, and proper acoustical wall and ceiling tiles can help eliminate unwanted noise and sound effects.

  1. New colours can revitalize your operation

If you can’t afford to do a complete renovation on your restaurant, sometimes a fresh paint job and new upholstery on your chairs and banquettes can revitalize your entire operation. Colours can psychologically influence diners very easily. For example, spicy foods are best enjoyed amid rich and bright colours like reds and oranges, while shades of black emit a more elegant and sophisticated affair. There is definitely a colour that will define your food and your operation best.


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