DISCLAIMER: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.
What makes small restaurants stand out is how warm and cozy they are. Yet, with limited space, it can be a bit of a challenge to make your space accessible to every guest. Even more so, many states require restaurants to submit blueprints and floor plans before obtaining building permits so that your restaurant can open.
Designing a restaurant floor plan is a way to guarantee that you successfully get these permits and have a smooth running restaurant. This guide is here to help you set your small restaurant up for success with an expertly devised floor plan.
What is a Restaurant Floor Plan?
A floor plan is a map of your entire physical restaurant space. Every inch of space needs to be accounted for, indoors and outdoors. Ultimately, the floor plan lets you visualize how all aspects of your small restaurant fit together.
Floor plans require a little research and creativity – they must balance your vision for your small restaurant with the accessibility of the space. How your guests and employees will navigate your small restaurant is just as important as the ambiance and experience.
A small restaurant floor plan should include:
Dining and seating areas
Staff areas, offices, and break rooms
Cashier stations and your POS system(s)
Accurate measurements of the space
Options for Creating a Small Restaurant Floor Plan
There are two options when it comes to starting the design process for your small restaurant – do it yourself or hire a designer.
You don’t need to be an architect, artist, or designer to make your restaurant’s floor plan. Software can simplify the floor plan and blueprint design process. SmartDraw, ConceptDraw, or CadPro are all reliable softwares that can create a custom blueprint for your small restaurant.
You can also hire designers to create your floor plans. An interior design studio can help bring your vision to life in full color. The right designer will work with you to hone your restaurant’s aesthetic into each aspect of your floor plan design.
No matter which option you choose, make sure you start with an idea of how you want the restaurant to function and flow. Where will the kitchen be? The dining areas? Where will guests enter and place orders? Double-check that your layouts support the flow of service for both your staff and your guests.
Accessibility Requirements for Small Restaurant Floor Plans
States and municipalities have codes that public buildings must adhere to. Complying with building codes guarantees that your small restaurant is accessible to all guests. But, as architect Justin Alpert says, adhering to building codes is just the bare minimum – think about how you might design a space that works for everyone, not just “the average customer.”
When arranging your floor plan, take inspiration from the humans that will use the space. Employing the principles of human-centered design not only results in beautiful and approachable small restaurant spaces but can also lead to more customer engagement. Throughout the floor plan process, make sure to answer this question – how can you engage all of your community with the design of your small restaurant?
The answer will all depend on you, your community, and your vision for your dream restaurant!
How to Create a Small Restaurant Blueprint and Floor Plan
It’s important to know what goes into creating floor plans and blueprints for restaurants whether you’re a DIY kind of owner or rather hire a designer. This guide will help you get an idea of how to start the design process, which begins with utilizing a floor plan design software to create a map of your small restaurant with design best practices.
Floor Plan Design Best Practices:
Design accessible spaces with your customers in mind. Consider both your guests’ and employees' needs, as well as local building codes, when organizing the floor plan for all of your small restaurant’s spaces.
Include ample space for your guests while they wait for tables.
Create an intuitive flow of service so that customers are not confused by how your restaurant functions.
Factor in where your employees will be working. This includes identifying where POS systems will exist to efficiently conduct transactions and communicate with the kitchen.
Consider how the floor plan works for the theme and ambiance of your small restaurant.
Kitchen Floor Plan
The restaurant’s kitchen is a primary consideration for any foodservice business. Think about how you can optimize the space for production and efficiency. Leave enough room to store all of your restaurant’s equipment. And, give your employees plenty of free space to prep, cook, and bake.
Time, quality, and, eventually, profits are sacrificed when there’s not enough space for employees to do their jobs efficiently. So, make the most of your small restaurant’s kitchen space by prioritizing the production capacity of your menu and your staff.
Staff Area Floor Plan
Staff areas (such as offices and break rooms) should always be included in your floor plans. Be sure to set aside back-of-house space for your managers to complete administrative tasks and for your staff to take breaks. Designating an area for staff will keep your small restaurant organized while also providing a communal place to post schedules and announcements.
Dining Room Floor Plan
The dining room is arguably the most important blueprint you’ll make. It drives the bulk of the guests’ experience! Your dining room’s floor plan needs to give customers access to the restaurant and match the aesthetic of your brand.
A sleek, open floor plan is great for modern dining. But, if you’re looking to create a cozy space where your community can gather, you may want to create a floor plan that compliments a subdued, warm, and inviting ambiance.
Also, make sure to consider your competitors in the area. Doing a little research on your competition can answer important questions like - what expectations will your community have for your small restaurant? How will you surprise customers to keep them returning to yours? These questions can assist you in developing a strategic floor plan that supports your small restaurant’s success.
How much seating should a small restaurant have?
To understand your seating plan, consider the industry standard. According to Total Food Service, it’s a 60/40 model – 60% of the space is used for guests (and seating) and 40% is used for the kitchen and other staff spaces.
Another critical step is calculating the maximum occupancy of your space depending on local building codes. These will vary by small restaurant type and location, but we suggest the following capacity per guest in these types of restaurants (note: local COVID guidelines may further restrict these calculations.)
Full-Service Restaurant Dining: 12-15 square feet
Counter Service: 18-20 square feet
Fast Food: 11-14 square feet
Let’s give an example using the suggested capacity above. A 3,200 square foot restaurant space would have 1,920 square feet of space for guests and the capacity for a counter service small restaurant would be 106 customers. This would give each guest approximately 18 square feet of space.
Offering guests more space is a very good idea. Spacing tables further apart and creating wide lanes for traffic is an excellent way to make your small restaurant accessible, especially for those with disabilities. Plus, a study by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration found that guests are more generous with their spending if they have more personal space.
Entrance Floor Plan
It’s critical that your restaurant’s entrance is inviting. It is the first impression guests will have of your restaurant. An entrance that leaves enough space to wait for tables makes people feel more comfortable and inclined to stay.
One helpful tip is to use signs or architectural elements to provide necessary information for guests as they walk in. This could be to guide them to a host stand or direct them to seat themselves. Of course, your entrance depends on the location and your style of service. In an area with lots of foot traffic, like a mall or shopping center, you might not need as much waiting area as a stand-alone small restaurant would.
Outdoor Seating Floor Plan
If you have the luxury of outdoor space, maximize it. A nice patio can attract a wider variety of customers to your small restaurant, driving additional sales and profits.
On the other hand, outdoor space that is out of the way or hard to find can slow service. This could lead to both guests and employees not wanting to use the additional space. To avoid this, design a floor plan that makes your outdoor space convenient to access for guests and servers.
Restrooms Floor Plan
Believe it or not, restrooms are a deciding factor in many people’s choice of restaurants, according to a survey by Zogby International. Designing restrooms that are big enough for all guests and easy to find from dining areas will create an attractive edge to your small restaurant. Its best to avoid having guests move through staff areas to reach the restroom.
Cashier and POS Station Floor Plan
The POS system stations are the brain and nerves of your small restaurant, sending and storing all the information that your restaurant needs to function daily. It’s where customers communicate with service staff and how the service staff communicates with the kitchen. POS technology also keeps track of all your small restaurant’s operations.
In a full service restaurant, be sure to set up POS stations at strategic points around the dining room so that your servers can easily access them. They will thank you for the reduced legwork! You might also want to invest in handheld POS devices, allowing servers to efficiently send orders to the kitchen right from their tables.
Emergency Exits Floor Plan
All restaurants must have fire and emergency exit blueprints that map emergency routes to exit the building. Once your floor plan is completed, be sure to communicate the routes to your staff, clearly marking external exits for them and your customers.
Executing your Small Restaurant’s Floor Plan
Once you craft your small restaurant’s detailed blueprints and floor plans, it's time to start turning your plans into a reality. Plumbers, architects, electricians, designers, artists, and your staff can all assist you in building the small restaurant of your dreams.
Consulting an interior designer is a great way to achieve the specific ambiance and experience you want for your customers. They can guide you through painting, decorating, and purchasing furniture that’s functional for your floor plan and suits your small restaurant’s aesthetic.
When it comes to lighting, installing light fixtures in a commercial space should be done by an electrician to be sure everything is up to code – the same goes for plumbing and any structural changes you want to make to your small restaurant space. Trade professionals are valuable resources, as they can make sure your small restaurant is up to code and safe for operation.
It’s also important to work with city, county, and state officials for all the proper permits for building and blueprints. If possible, maintain good working relationships with the employees in the permit office – they’ll be sure that your blueprints and any changes get approved on time.
This all may seem like a lot of work to do. But, your dream small restaurant is worth it! So, don’t forget to have fun and stay creative. Designing and executing the plans you carefully made for your small restaurant is exciting. As you work on your floor plan, don’t forget about your passion in the design process. The reward will be seeing a happy staff and happy customers in your restaurant.