Did you know that, in many states, you must 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, installation of kitchen appliances, etc., 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. One of the requirements is design; before starting a new restaurant, you must have a solid idea for design in place.
Some restaurateurs may want to use restaurant floor planning software such as SmartDraw, ConceptDraw, or CadPro to create a floor plan themselves. Others would rather work with an interior design studio in the area, leaving the complicated process 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 for which elements you want your restaurant concept to focus on. Here are nine examples of restaurant floor plans and restaurant layouts, including exactly which elements a restaurant layout can include.
The Elements of a Restaurant Floor Plan
1. The Entrance
Never judge a book by its cover. That’s a pretty idiom that doesn’t necessarily correlate to restaurants. Diners, all the time, will choose not to visit a restaurant based on its exterior, especially if they’re 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 concept. Some 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 attract visitors like a billboard if it needs to be visible from a car driving by. So he used floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing drivers-by to glimpse inside the inviting space from a distance.
The restaurants within 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 the slice of a lemon, enhancing brand recognition.
2. The Waiting Area
Next, focus on the waiting area or foyer. Some restaurants separate the foyer from the dining area, and some keep it open. In other restaurant designs, this area is completely overlooked, resulting in packed diners waiting for a table. Make sure you leave enough space for guests to wait, and focus on hospitality first, even if they’re not seated yet.
One way you can show your restaurant’s commitment to hospitality is by implementing a 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, business development and consulting, for the Union Square Hospitality Group, who helped implement coat checks in Gramercy Tavern in New York.
Another simple option is to have guests walk into the waiting area immediately, and greet a host who will keep them at ease as they wait for their table, as Giovanni’s Restaurant in Copperas Cove, Texas has done below. Of course, a great restaurant host or hostess may be hard to find. The right host must have an awareness of body language, facial expressions, and more, within themselves and the diners, plus be in tune with the staff.
3. The Full-Service Bar
Many full service restaurants also have bars that can double as waiting areas and simply allow restaurants 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 space you have, of course, the more difficult it is for servers and bartenders to run around taking orders. O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille in Gulfport, FL found a solution in tablet point of sale systems, allowing servers can split checks, take orders, and take payment at the table or the bar.
(O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille, Gulfport, FL)
4. The Dining Room
When your guests are past the waiting area, they’re now in the dining room, arguably the most important part of the restaurant. Your dining room should be inviting, yet at the same time 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.
Everything should flow well while allowing guests for 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, be careful: In a study by the 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.
5. The Kitchen
Of course, the floor plan isn’t just for the guests. A well-laid out kitchen will make your staff happy and more efficient.
Below is an example from CadPro of a restaurant kitchen floor plan that includes space for goods receiving, inventory, dry store, preparation, cooking, dishes, water closet, and even a staff changing room. The cooking area in particular is circular, 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 the time to run a plate to where a waitress will pick it up, and include all the essential restaurant equipment and supplies.
6. The Restrooms
To me, the most telling moment a guest experiences 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 — 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 your employees’ space when designing a restaurant floor plan. Servers, sous chefs, hostesses, bartenders, bussers, barbacks, etc. will need a place to either gear up for or unwind after a long shift. Plus, you can post your weekly or monthly schedule, leave announcements for staff, train new staff members, or hold pre-shift meetings in the staff quarters.
In the example above 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
Where you place your point of sale system, which Ben Kaplan of Barbara Lynch Gruppo describes as “the heartbeat of your restaurant,” can drastically affect your 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 in your restaurant, and opt for one terminal hidden away from guests.
To minimize staff running back and forth between the payment station, you can implement mobile point of sale tablets, 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 themselves.
(La Fusion, Philadelphia, PA)
9. Outdoor Areas
Your restaurant may have an outdoor patio or outdoor seating on the street. 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.
Your Turn: Your Restaurant Floor Plan Ideas
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.
When you opened your first restaurant, what was your process for developing a restaurant floor plan? Did you do it yourself or work with an agency? What did you learn about restaurant floor plans that you didn’t know before?