In modern restaurants, quality interior design is becoming as important as the food itself. Make guests feel comfortable and give their eyes something to feast upon in order to cultivate loyal, long-term relationships. Your interior design determines how many guests you can accommodate, and the level of service and comfort you can offer parties including strollers, wheelchairs, and luggage.

The best part is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Get inspired by expert designers and restaurateurs. These innovative design ideas offer a new perspective on how to best serve your target audience.


1. Your Online Presence Starts In-Store

Social media has changed the face of marketing, especially in the restaurant industry. How many #foodies have posted photos of #foodgasms they tried at your #restaurant this week? Encourage diners to post to social media by offering them photo opportunities. No matter how beautiful your dishes are, you can always help them along with a catchy, interesting background.

Candice Kaye saw success with this strategy when she created a floral pattern for the disposable cups at Maman, a cafe and bakery with locations in New York and Toronto. “Before we even knew that these cups were even going to be anything, when anyone was going to take pictures of them, we put these prints on the cups and then we put the print on the wall, then the fabric, and all this stuff,” she said in an interview.  “It just sort of came at the perfect time when people on Instagram were noticing design. They wanted their pictures to look pretty. They were taking pictures of these cups up against other prints. It just sort of blew up.”


2. Make Them Feel at Home

Laura Flam of Reunion Goods & Services says “The biggest trend in food has been accessibility to amazing chefs and fantastic food that wasn’t as accessible to as many people as it is now.” The setting for that incredible meal should be just as accessible. Flam says,  “More and more, as [great food] becomes accessible, we feel the design trends are the restaurants opening up that flexibility to people.”

Consider the unique needs of your restaurant’s community. Comfortable seating is a must – but what’s comfortable to a studying college student might be terrible for group of seniors. If most of your customers are parents of young children, they might appreciate a unisex bathroom with a changing table – whereas that same offering might be out of place at a bar hosting trivia night. Invest in the amenities that will invite your guests to sit down and stay a while.


3. Personal Space

Most restaurants adhere to a standard 12-15 square feet per person at maximum seating capacity. Sizes may vary, however, depending on your specific concept and floor plan. Interior designer Megan Freckelton writes about the requirements for dining halls in retirement homes and assisted living communities, suggesting that these spaces should allot more room for every guest – up to as much as 50 square feet per person, depending on the facility. This issue isn’t unique to older generations. Your restaurant may have similar concerns if your clientele are moms with strollers, travelers with bulky suitcases, or diners with service animals.

Making room for every guest means more than counting square feet. Most guests have a preferred table, and it’s up to you to organize your space to have as many desirable spots as possible. Common problem areas include tables near thresholds (like the kitchen entrance, the front door, and the restroom), and tables right in the middle of the restaurant. Guests prefer to feel anchored by sitting near a wall, but out of the way of a draft or a distracting scent. It’s easy to solve this issue by placing dividers, tall plants, or decorative columns in strategic locations.


4. It’s All About Flow

Your space should feel inviting, and not only to your patrons. Design a floor plan with enough room for your staff to feel comfortable at work. This means giving the host a desk or a lectern to receive guests, and a large enough entrance that they won’t get confused during rush periods. Servers should have a place to congregate when they’re not talking to diners – maybe a bench or break room that’s out of sight for the guests, but close enough to the dining room that they can come back to check on their tables every few minutes. Make sure to build in an area for yourself, so it’s easy to keep an eye on operations and get your own work done at the restaurant.

Experiment with the floor plan that works best for you and your staff, to keep everyone moving through the restaurant efficiently. And remember – depending on your aesthetic, efficiency doesn’t necessarily mean simplicity. Designers Jeremy Levitt and Andrew Cohen, for example, are going wild with their latest restaurant venture:  “We’re working a space right now where there’s a big lounge area, and you go through a secret passage. Then you’re in a game room where you can get burgers, and you go through another passage and you’re in a fine dining restaurant. It’s like, how much fun can we have with this experience?”


5. A Feast for All Five Senses

In this age of online ordering, guests come into your restaurant when they’re looking for more than a great meal. Give them the experience they crave by stimulating all five senses. Stephen Zagor, dean of business and management studies at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, told Westchester Magazine that warm colors like yellow, red, and orange are stimulants, whereas “Appetite suppressants are pale green, blue, and purple.” He also notes that smells can stimulate emotional attachment.

Numerous studies have been done on the impact of music on diners’ eating and spending habits, so do some research and choose the genre that suits your setting best. Classical music may inspire more spending, but that doesn’t mean you should hire a concert pianist for your dive bar.

Whatever design elements you choose, be sure they fit the overall concept and style of your restaurant. Ultimately your decor should make you, your staff, and your guests excited to come in. The more comfortable and accommodating you make your space, the more you’ll encourage guests to keep coming back.