Every restaurant design is about far more than aesthetics. A restaurant floor plan is ultimately a balancing act between several different, functional needs.
On one hand, you want your restaurant design structured to get as many tables as you can into your dining room. The number of tables could greatly affect how many table turns (and checks) you have in a shift. You don’t want walk-ins to walk out because your next table won’t be available for another two hours thanks to being overly conservative with the number of tables in your initial restaurant floor plan.
But at the same time, cramming as much seating possible into your restaurant floor plan without leaving sufficient room in-between tables is not only awkward, but also dangerous. There are real safety concerns for both your guests and your staff if you set your tables too close together. For instance, if there’s an emergency and you need to evacuate the building, having clear pathways to the exits is an important part of keeping everyone safe.
On top of the safety issues, you absolutely want to make sure your servers and bussers can easy move in-between tables. An overcrowded dining room can lead to slowing down service along with an awkward dining experience for the customer. And even the steadiest server might lose their balance and drop dishes. This circles back to safety – you want to keep paths wide to avoid employees and guests alike tripping and hurting themselves as they navigate your dining room.
You should be able to answer three specific questions about your restaurant design, including:
1. What kind of dining experience will you have?
A fine dining restaurant obviously has different seating priorities than a fast-casual, but so does a full-service restaurant compared to counter service, regardless of price point. Your restaurant design needs to take into account the needs of the customer, as well as the staff.
Total Food Service suggests some minimum guidelines for space between each table:
Full Service: 12–15 square feet
Counter Service: 18–20 square feet
Fine Dining: 18–20 square feet
Fast Casual: 11–14 square feet
2. Are you planning to have a special food or serving option that would affect seating?
For instance, Total Food Service suggests restaurants that offer tableside presentations should probably have 15-18 square feet in-between tables, even if it isn’t strictly a fine dining establishment. On the other side of the spectrum, banquet seating that doesn’t involve servers bringing food directly to the table can go down to around 10 or 11 square feet between tables and still have guests and employees alike be comfortable.
And don’t forget the bar! Whether you have a bar area already in place or are planning to renovate your space to include one, the bar needs to be accounted for in your restaurant floor plan. Make sure it is easy to move between the bar area and the nearest tables, even when the bar area is busy. Ignoring this could lead to servers struggling to get back and forth, slowing down service and making your employees frustrated.
Also, ensure there’s sufficient space in front of the bar for waiting customers, if self-service is a factor in your establishment. You’ll want to carefully plan out the queue/overflow area so you can avoid crowding the space. You also don’t want guests don’t feel lost at the bar when they’re just trying to order or wait for their drink.
3. How big (and what shape) is your restaurant floor plan?
With spacing in mind, you can look at the size of your dining room and start plotting out where each table can go. Consider using room planning software (like SmartDraw or CadPro) for your restaurant design, to map out the exact shape of your dining room and make it easier to visualize where each table will go. You want the tables to be placed efficiently, remembering to keep at least the minimum space in-between.
When planning out exactly where each table will go, keep in mind that you have many different options for mixing and matching types of tables in your dining room. A lot will depend on the kind of restaurant design you desire, but a mixture of booths, small tables, deuce tables, benches, and diagonal seating both gives you ways to use the space efficiently — and creates some aesthetic variety in your dining room.
And while they aren’t as versatile as smaller tables, a banquet-style long table offers a sense of comradery for larger groups. If you’re anticipating reservations for groups of 12 or more (or want to offer shared space “community” seating), a long table can be a statement piece for the room.
Also keep in mind how many seats you’ll be putting at each table. You want to make sure each guest has a comfortable amount of space for themselves without being so far away that they feel disconnected from the rest of the people in their party. Keep in mind the width of the chairs when picking out the seating for your restaurant floor plan, since that could also affect the space in between each place setting. Consider having your staff test out a fully set table (and if you have enough staff, test out a full dining room) to ensure every guests is able to move comfortably and enjoy their meal.
And don’t forget that seating placements don’t have to be completely set in stone. If a year down the line you find the layout just doesn’t work, you can always reimagine your restaurant design and rearrange the movable tables to better fit the ideal flow. Just make sure you give your servers and hosts time to become acquainted with the new layout — and consider offer new training sessions to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Need to take the next step after revising your restaurant floor plan? Download our free eBook on “Getting Your Front of House in Order” today!