Obviously, this is just a crash course and not meant to be a complete guide to restaurant design—just some helpful hints on getting started…Your customers might think a dining room consists simply of tables and chairs, but you know there are a number of key issues that help ensure not only an aesthetically pleasing dining area for your guests, but also an efficient one.In addition to basic space requirements and limitations, consider how lighting and color come into play, what to look for when selecting your furniture, and the relationship between flatware, dinnerware and table linens.Where food meets customerAccording to NAFEM, the dining room is the “stage,” where food, service and atmosphere come together to deliver a memorable dining experience.
Naturally, every consideration of space and construction has a corresponding operating cost. While smaller space allocations may result in reduced building costs, insufficient space can increase operating costs and lead to inefficient operation and lower profits.Consider the number of patrons you will be serving and over what period of time; what kind of preparation methods that will be used in the dining area, what type of storage space is required, what kind of space is needed for checking, waiting areas, coatrooms and service areas.
Lighting and DécorNAFEM identifies five basic principles of lighting, which are space relationships, perspective, contour, special details of intrinsic beauty and imaginative and subtle qualities.According to NAFEM, guests in your restaurant will subconsciously feel the impact of light and color, associating it with their overall dining experience. A small room could benefit from brighter colors and lighter shades. Conversely, dim lighting and warm, dark colors could make a large dining room seem less overwhelming, and more cozy.Studies show that bright lights and primary colors –blue, red and yellow- actually encourage a faster turnover in busy establishments. Often, you’ll see these combinations in fast food restaurants, commercial cafeterias and employee dining areas. Likewise, subtle colors can create a more peaceful, leisurely atmosphere.Furniture and seating arrangementsIf you have already developed a concept and central theme in your restaurant’s business plan, selecting your furniture should be fairly straightforward. It is important to pay close attention to the quality and durability of your furniture to prevent heavy replacement costs down the road. Before purchasing any furniture, ask questions about how the material will reflect your restaurant’s theme, if the furniture you’re considering is an appropriate height, and if replacement parts are readily available.Also consider how difficult your upholstery is to clean and if it will hold up under frequent and constant use. Some states even have fire safety codes that may affect your upholstery considerations. Check with your state’s restaurant association for more information about requirements in your area.Also, as mentioned, your seating arrangements must be compliant with ADA standards. Regulations require that wheelchair users should have easy access to the bar area as well as the dining area. The result is that most bars are being lowered to a 36-inch height. Check with your product consultant or local restaurant association for more information on these requirements.A design consultant or foodservice industry expert can help you identify your options, and whether you should use chairs, stools, booths, or all three. According to NAFEM, booths offer the ability to maximize seating, but they are also large and rather permanent. Will booth seating enhance or detract from your décor? How formal will your restaurant be? Are you going to offer take-out service or seating in the bar? A detailed seating plan will help answer these questions.Flatware 411Your restaurant’s seating arrangements will help you determine what goes on your table too. Consider again the theme of your establishment. Not every restaurant requires a demitasse spoon, shrimp fork and steak knife. Make sure anything you put on the table serves a purpose. The appearance of clutter will leave a negative impression with your guests, so any piece of flatware or glassware should be absolutely essential to the meal.Your flatware should be durable enough to withstand the level of use you anticipate. Some patterns naturally hide scratches and wear, while other styles can accentuate them.GlasswareWhen you are selecting glassware, considering the following tips NAFEM offers to reduce your future replacement costs:
- Glasses that have a heavy bead or roll on the lip are less likely to chip.
- The thicker the glass, the more durable it will be.
- A straight-sided glass is more durable than a curved or bulged glass.
- Glasses that are flared (like a martini glass) are more likely to chip, crack and break.
Handle your glassware with care!Remember to let your glasses cool after removing them from the dish machine. Thermal shock, which is basically rapid temperature change, is one of the most common causes of glass breakage in a restaurant and normally happens when you fill a glass fresh from the dishwasher with ice. The last thing you want is an ice bin full of glass shards! Last, store your glassware properly—in a rack with dividers, to prevent glass-to-glass contact.That being said, glasses are going to break. Experts recommend setting aside one glass from each collection and writing the model number on it for easy reordering.Make sure to order enough glassware so as not to have to rush them through the washing system, which can stress china and glassware. Maintain a simple ratio of three times as many glasses to seats to ensure a glass on every table and a complete supply of replacements even when the dishwasher is full.Dinnerware and accessoriesTable accessories like shakers, napkin rings, lamps and vases should have some visual appeal, but not at the expense of comfort or space. Again, consider whether your table accessories reflect the image of your establishment. Will your customers expect condiments and flatware to be on the table? Will a white linen table cloth create the impression of higher menu prices? Who is going to launder and iron them?Table lamps and candles have become increasingly popular with the advent of flameless and electric lamps. A table setting can appear more cozy and intimate in the absence of overhead lighting—consider overall functionality as well as aesthetics. Also consider how often you’ll need to replace candle fuel, wax or batteries and make sure to include those costs in your budget.