In many states, you have to submit a floor plan to the city to get a restaurant permit for the construction of a new restaurant. That means before demolition, electrical work, plumbing, and installation of kitchen appliances, you need to have an approved restaurant floor plan.
In our restaurant business plan template, we show, step-by-step, how to get a head start on your business plan for a new restaurant, including gathering your design ideas and planning how you’ll bring them to life.
Some restaurateurs may want to use restaurant floor planning software such as SmartDraw, ConceptDraw, or CadPro to create a floor plan themselves. Others prefer to work with an interior design studio, leaving the complicated processes to professionals who know how to maximize space. When it comes to restaurant floor plans, one size does not fit all.
Either way, before you start the process, you need to know the basics of a restaurant floor plan, and have an idea of which elements you want your restaurant concept to focus on. We’ll walk you through them.
The Elements of a Restaurant Floor Plan
1. The Entrance
"Never judge a book by its cover" is a pretty idiom – but it doesn’t really apply to restaurants. Diners frequently choose not to visit a restaurant based on its exterior, especially if they’re just walking by. Before a server even greets your guests, you need to prove that your restaurant is worth eating in.
That can be tough with complicated concepts. For example, Ilan Dei, of Ilan Dei Studio in Venice, CA, designed the exteriors of the 12-unit Lemonade restaurant chain in Los Angeles. Lemonade is a modern, cafeteria-style chain – some of his restaurants are in malls with tons of foot traffic, while others are “drive-bys” and require very different entrances.
In an interview with Restaurant Development + Design Magazine, Dei explained that a restaurant should be designed attract visitors like a billboard if it needs to be visible from a car driving by. To accomplish this, he used floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing drivers to glimpse inside the inviting space from a distance.
The locations inside malls don’t have the same floor-to-ceiling windows. However, one common element ties all the restaurants together: a customized door handle, which looks like two lemon wedges, which contributes to consumers recognizing that they’ve dined at one of the chain’s restaurants before: It aids in brand recognition.
Next, focus on the waiting area or foyer. In some restaurant designs, this area is completely overlooked, resulting in diners being packed into a small area while waiting for a table. At the very minimum, make sure you leave enough space for guests to wait.
In the waiting area, you have a great opportunity to show next-level hospitality, so don’t waste it. One way you can show your restaurant’s commitment to the guest experience is by implementing a free coat check.
“Restaurant operators can sacrifice a great deal of storage and sales opportunity or the ability to open the room up more for bar seating, but at the end of the day, the coat check adds to the hospitality, even if only in the winter,” said Richard Coraine, senior managing partner of business development and consulting for Union Square Hospitality Group. He helped implement coat checks in Gramercy Tavern in New York.
Another simple option is to have a host standing in the waiting area who will keep guests at ease as they wait for their table, as Giovanni’s Restaurant in Copperas Cove, Texas has done. Of course, a great restaurant host or hostess may be hard to find. The right host must be an expert at reading body language and facial expressions of guests, and if your restaurant allows it, they should know when to provide a drink or a free snack if the wait time is getting too long.
Many full service restaurants also have bars that double as waiting areas and allow the restaurant to serve more people. Below is an example of Bahama Breeze Island Grille’s floor plan for private dining. The full facility fits 152 people seated, and 300 for cocktail or standing room.
The more tables you have, of course, the more difficult it can be for servers and bartenders to run around taking orders. Odd Duck in Austin, TX found a solution in Toast Go, our handheld restaurant POS system, which allows servers to split checks, take orders, take payment, and collect guest feedback at the table or the bar.
When a guest’s table is ready, they’re led into the dining room, which is arguably the most important part of the restaurant. Your dining room should be inviting, but private; spacious, yet welcoming.
Total Food Service suggests that the dining area should take up 60% of the total area, and the kitchen and prep areas should take up 40%.
Next, you’ll need to determine how much space you want to allocate for each guest based on maximum occupancy. This will be different for various types of restaurants, but Total Food Service suggests:
Fine Dining: 18-20 square feet
Full Service Restaurant Dining: 12-15 square feet
Counter Service: 18-20 square feet
Fast Food: 11-14 square feet
Banquet: 10-11 square feet
For example, a space of 5000 square feet will have a dining area with 3000 square feet and a kitchen with 2000 square feet. With 200 seats, that gives about 15 square feet to each guest.
It’s crucial to allow guests some elbow room. SeatingExpert.com suggests leaving at least:
18 inches between each occupied chair
42-60 inches between each square table
24-30 inches between corners of diagonal tables.
However, in a study by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, at a New York City fine-dining restaurant, researchers found that parties at closely spaced tables spent less per minute than those at widely spaced tables. Patrons seemed uncomfortable when freestanding tables were set as close as 17 inches apart and were more comfortable when the distance was closer to a yard apart.
The answer? Offer many different styles of seating at your restaurant, whether in benches, booths, diagonal seating, deuce tables, small tables, or banquet-style tables. Osteria La Spiga in Seattle, Washington does a great job of varying their seating options, below. Incidentally, this setup is also best for accommodating guests with disabilities.
Of course, the floor plan isn’t just for the guests. A well-laid out kitchen will increase efficiency, reduce accidents, and make your staff happy.
Below is an example from CadPro of a restaurant kitchen floor plan that includes space for goods receiving, inventory, dry storage, prep, cooking, dishes, a bathroom, and a staff changing room.
The cooking area is set up in a square, and the space is open, so chefs can communicate to each other while preparing meals. The best kitchen designs minimize the chance for sous chefs and cooks to bump into each other, and will reduce the time it takes to run a plate to where a waitress will pick it up – and it should also include all the essential restaurant equipment and supplies.
6. The Restrooms
To me, the most telling moment a guest experiences in your restaurant isn’t at the table, it’s in the bathroom. A clean bathroom indicates a clean establishment, and shows that you care about your guests. In many restaurants, the bathroom is an afterthought, but according to a survey by Zogby International, more than 80% of consumers would avoid a restaurant with a dirty restroom — and never come back.
Make sure your bathrooms are easy to access — without requiring guests to wander through the kitchen or requiring staff to wander through the dining room to use them — and always clean. The example above is for a Pho restaurant. The bathrooms are tucked around the corner, by the computer station, and allow ample room for stalls as well as wheelchair access.
7. Staff Quarters / Back Room
“Back of house” doesn’t just apply to the kitchen – it’s important to think about all your employees’ space when designing a restaurant floor plan. Servers, sous chefs, hostesses, bartenders, bussers, barbacks, and everyone else will need a place to either gear up for or unwind after a long shift. Plus, in the staff quarters, you can post your weekly or monthly schedule, leave announcements for staff, train new staff members, or hold pre-shift meetings.
In the example below from BrightHub, the staff quarters are right outside the dining room area and right next to the kitchen. The room has a door, so employees can have a private conversation, rather than going out for a smoke in the back instead (although, I’m not promising this will stop that habit).
8. Payment Station & POS System
Ben Kaplan of Barbara Lynch Gruppo describes your POS system as “the heartbeat of your restaurant.” Where in your restaurant you place your POS system can drastically affect your business's efficiency.
You may need several touchscreen POS terminals at different areas: one for the bartenders, one for the hosts, and one for the servers, as well as kitchen display screens for the kitchen staff. Or you may choose to minimize the amount of technology visible in your dining area, and opt for one terminal hidden away from guests.
To minimize staff running back and forth between the payment station and their tables, you can implement handheld point of sale systems, allowing guests to order, pay, sign, tip, and even rate the restaurant experience at the table.
The example below is from designer Raymond Haldeman who worked with La Fusion Lounge in Philadelphia, PA, where there are two POS stations at either side of the bar, so multiple bartenders aren’t tripping over each other.
Even though the area is not within the restaurant, it should still be included in your restaurant floor plan. The ideal location for a patio is close to the kitchen and dining room, so servers don’t have to walk a mile in between.
The example below from Acapulco’s Mexican Restaurant in Denver, CO has the patio in the back of the restaurant, with round seating. The patio has seven tables, less than the dining room, and is close to the dining room and the bathrooms.
After implementing a restaurant floor plan, you may be floored by how efficient it is, or disappointed that your ideas didn’t work out. Envysion reminds us: it’s OK to change seating arrangements after the fact. Poll your guests and employees, and test different layouts to find the best floor plan for your unique setup.
Just getting started on your new restaurant? Click below for help with your business plan, and subscribe to the Toast Restaurant Blog.
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