Planning your Restaurant Floor Plan: Seven Things to Consider before Laying out your Space

Your restaurant’s floor plan has direct impact on your profit margins. A well-designed layout can increase operational efficiency, enhance your customer and staff satisfaction, and boost the overall look and experience. Not to mention, a properly planned layout can also protect you from building code violations.

Truthfully, the floor plan is a team effort requiring insight from both an architect and an interior designer. The architect lays out the actual structure, while an interior designer maps out the spaces.

Above all, your restaurant floor plan – the technical drawing that illustrates physical structure and all the rooms needed to run an operation – should map out the distance between rooms, the location of walls, windows and doors, and critical fixtures like sinks and point-of-sale (POS) systems, as well as areas requiring mechanical, electrical and plumbing elements. But that’s just the basics. Following are the seven most important things to consider when designing your restaurant’s layout:


One: Building Codes and Accessibility

Every city in the United States has its own building codes. So, before diving into construction, check-in with your local jurisdiction. City codes outline requirements for things like emergency exits, maximum occupancy, adequate lighting and ventilation, and much more. In addition to city-specific regulations, you’ll need to follow specifications laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA calls for reasonable accommodations for individuals with accessibility needs. For example, appropriate countertop height that allows for a person with a physical disability to comfortably utilize the working surface; or, spatial allotments that allow for a person in a wheelchair to navigate the space with ease. When it comes to adequate planning with building codes and accessibility, working with an interior designer or architect can help relieve stress and overwhelm.


Two: Circulation and Egress

In the restaurant design industry, “circulation” refers to the movement of people throughout a space and “egress” denotes a means of exit. How your staff and customers enter, navigate and exit your business – without obstructions or complications – is important for overall flow. You’ll definitely need to consider spatial solutions that allow servers to move quickly with food and beverages while still leaving room for guests to walk about freely. Generally, there are two parts to a restaurant: The “back of the house,” which includes the kitchen, pantry, storage, administrative and other staff areas, and the “the front of house,” encompassing the dining room, bar and lounge. The needs and functionality of each area vary, and should be accounted for in the overall circulation path.


Three: Methods of Service

Generally, there are two service types to choose from – staff-served or self-service. In quick and casual restaurant settings, you’ll sometimes find a combination of both. Your chosen method of service correlates directly with the restaurant layout and implementation of an ordering system. Will your POS systems be mobile or fixed? Does the guest pick-up their food at the counter, or is it delivered to their table? If it’s a self-service model, will additional orders beyond the first one take place at the order counter, or via waiter service? Determining this upfront allows for an efficient operational procedure that’s also conducive to the environment. Otherwise, you could inadvertently create a chaotic system that wastes not just space, but also time and money.


Four: Optimized Use of Seating and Types of Seating

Logistically speaking, the layout of your seating area should focus on three primary elements: 1) The customer’s level of comfort 2) An efficient circulation pattern for both the customer and staff 3) Optimization of seat count – each “butt in a seat” equates to a specific dollar amount. Which aspect of your restaurant do you want to draw the most attention? If it’s the bar, then a central bar will increase the amount of seating around it, but minimize dining area space. If food is your primary focus, a concentrated dining area with a small bar at the back of the restaurant may be a better fit. Also consider the type of dining experience you’re creating. Fine dining tends to offer more space for each customer (18 to 20 square feet) while fast-casual eateries provide less room (11 to 14 square feet).  


Five: The Kitchen Layout

In case you weren’t already aware, your kitchen layout correlates directly to your bottom line because it affects everything from quality of food to speed of service. When designing a kitchen, we advise our clients to provide ample space for movement between workstations and recommend they take into account adjacencies that can create a seamless workflow. For example, inserting a dishwashing station next to the kitchen door allows for faster drop-off and cleanup. Also consider whether your kitchen layout allows for effective supervision and communication between the chef de cuisine and their sous chef or line cooks. Working with a chef or kitchen consultant is a foolproof way to draft a functional layout that matches your restaurant’s unique needs.


Six: Restroom Placement and Design

It’s not necessarily the most exciting topic, but it’s hands-down one of the most important. When deciding on restroom design, the first thing to think about is its placement in relationship to the dining area. The restroom should be accessible, yet out of eyeshot from the dining room. Is there a separate restroom for staff members? If not, consider their pathway to accessing it during operating hours. Where will cleaning equipment and the janitor’s sink be placed? When cleanup is needed during hours of operation, you definitely don’t want to see staff dragging a mop bucket across the dining room. Does the restroom’s atmosphere follow the vibe of the restaurant, or is it an afterthought? Sometimes the restroom can be the very last impression, so it’s important that it be congruent with the rest of the aesthetic.


Seven: IT Room and Storage

Our recommended best practice is to create a control center that is a designated IT room. It can be a closet within an office, or even just a lockable closet within the open dining or bar area. The most important thing is that your valuable equipment – camera systems, music control, internet modem and lighting technology – is centrally located and in a secure space that’s inaccessible by customers.

A designated storage room, outside of a temperature-controlled kitchen storage room, is equally as important. Items like dry goods, utensils, signs and banners, high chairs and extra dining chairs all need a place to “live” that won’t take up valuable real estate. A storage space can be a stand-alone room or a large closet. No matter what, your storage solution should integrate with your workflow, not work against it.

Did we miss anything? What questions do you have about designing a restaurant floor plan? Leave them in the comments below!