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19 August 2019
Shalini John

Key Considerations for Retail Design of Restaurants

The customer is always right, and that’s why customer experience drives profits in any retail outlet. This is especially true in restaurants, frequented by those who want to relax, socialise, strategise and dine. For optimum customer comfort and enjoyment, retail design for restaurants is a multi-faceted discipline for which there are a multitude of considerations. Among several other key considerations, retail store layout design, or in this case the restaurant’s layout, is crucial to its ultimate success. With efficient and accurate BIM (Building Information Modelling) services, effective layout designs can be provided through the creation of BIM retail design.

A restaurant’s layout must facilitate operational workflow and effectively communicate the restaurant’s brand attributes. This makes it crucial to consider several primary areas in a restaurant floor plan. They include the following:

Kitchen

Typically, the kitchen should occupy 30-40% of the entire floor space, to enable hassle-free preparation, cooking, plating and service workflow. In restaurant design, the kitchen layout is of prime importance. Three prime commercial kitchen designs that most restaurants use are: Assembly Line, Island and Zone.

Assembly Line Layout

1. Three distinct areas for food production

2. Transfers food through parallel stations, for prep, cooking, plating to server pickup

3. Staff remain in defined workspaces, less movement between stations

4. Considered most efficient for busy restaurants or institutional kitchens

Island Layout

1. Allows ample staff movement and supervision between stations

2. Cooking equipment, such as ovens, grills, fryers, are centralised, other work areas are on the kitchen perimeter, enabling a circular flow of food production

3. Good for a large kitchen

Zone Layout

1. Allows for staff movement and supervision between stations

2. Ample server access to both prep and cooking zones

3. Adapts to different kitchen sizes, shapes

4. Good for limited spaces

In addition to the kitchen layout, the entire restaurant should present a layout that entices diners to walk through the space and look around, also known as ‘visual merchandising’. The space that is viewed increases the value of the restaurant brand, its products/dishes and services, thus increasing profitability. Dining areas in restaurants should ideally create both a physical and psychological relationship. Space management strives to do so while influencing dining preferences.

Dining space design dictates diners’ experiences – their comfort levels and moods. The use of plastic cups, loud music and Formica tables create an ambience that contrasts considerably with the setting of a restaurant with fine china, jazz and linen tablecloths

Dining Space

The space around tables and chairs must be adequate enough to comfortably access, pull and push chairs and walk around. In general, the dining space should be approximately 60 percent of the entire restaurant floor plan, with tables and table placement reflecting the restaurant theme. To more efficiently plan seating space and unhindered traffic around tables, dining space layouts can attempt to fulfill the following guidelines:

Type/Concept Sq.ft./person
Fine Dining 18-20
Full Service Casual Dining 15-18
Countertop Diner/Bistro/Café 12-15

For table spacing, recommended space allocations are as follows:

Space between occupied chairs 18-20 inches
Parallel tables 15-18 inches between sides
Tables on a diagonal 12-15 inches between corners

Fine dining restaurants typically have more distance between tables.

When the walls of a dining space are used wisely, such as including booths and table/chair settings, diners will experience a spacious feel and waiters will find it easier to navigate the floor. Adding countertop-high tables adds to the visual variety and makes the entire space more inviting.

The dining space is where the theme and concept of the restaurant is most effectively communicated. Retail design for this space should use colours, materials, textiles, finishes and tabletop choices to showcase the restaurant brand.

  • Restrooms- Positioning restrooms near the kitchen can save money, as the corresponding plumbing and water lines will be close by. Restrooms must be close to, but separate from, the dining area, and they must be spacious, not cramped, as this will have a negative effect on patrons. Depending on the size, staff-only restrooms and areas may be included.
  • Entry & Waiting- This space communicates the restaurant’s brand/concept and lures passers-by. For fast dining and café concepts, this space is very small. Bench seating is an effective option in tight spaces. Entry signage, wall textures and door treatment should be customized to reflect brand features.
  • Bar or Countertop- A bar area may be used as a comfortable waiting area (encouraging the sale of drinks while waiting) and adds seating for casual dining, even when no alcohol is served. This area is known as a small-footprint dining space, as there is less elbow room than at a table. A bar and kitchen can share an interior wall to tie in the plumbing for bar sinks. Also, the bar can have a window to the kitchen to pass food.

A cost-effective way to provide an ambience of timeless, home-cooked food is to use chalkboards. Patrons are known to like them. For elegance on a budget, vintage pieces can be used as focal points or combined with textures to define serving and seating areas.

Restaurant Design Challenges & Solutions:
  • a) Challenge: No one wants to sit near the kitchen entrance, restrooms, front entrance or right in the middle of the dining space.

    Solution: Placing dividers, wood partitions, tall plants, screens or wait stations strategically can separate tables from these areas.

  • b) Challenge: Kitchens produce a significant amount of heat, odours and smoke.
    Solution: Commercial cooking ranges should have adequate ventilation, the proper hood, exhaust fans, etc. The dining space should have ventilation and air conditioning that ensures the comfort of diners.
Restaurant design attributes that overtly or covertly influence the dining experience include the following:
  • Colour- Subtly causes moods and cravings
    Eg. Red colours increase appetite, while blue slows the metabolism.
  • Décor- Certain styles can influence appetite
    Styles with more glass features, steel, rigid shapes and forms can reduce hunger.
  • Lighting- Creates atmosphere and influences behaviour
    Clever lighting can highlight furniture, hide faults, entice passers-by, encourage soft conversation and suggest a pleasurable dining experience. Cold, intense lighting can cause diners to raise their voices and curb their appetite.

By using BIM (Building Information Modelling) technologies, these facets of retail design for restaurants can be efficiently represented. Retail BIM modelling for restaurants can let project stakeholders view both the interiors and exteriors with customised features, such as lighting, colours, furniture and detailed spacing between chairs, tables, etc. using Revit BIM

In addition to the design considerations mentioned above, modern restaurants are keen to incorporate technological advances into the dining experience they offer. These advances need to be displayed in accordance with the theme and concept of the restaurant.

Advances in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have made successful inroads into the restaurant industry. Augmented reality helps check calories in food, and some restaurants use AI-based chatbots to message clients about their favourite dishes. The use of AI (artificial intelligence) can help design menus as per customer preferences during a normal day or during a match, for sweet, savoury or spicy choices, or preferences at the end of the month, when wallets are lighter. Nutrition information can be clearly communicated to diners using AR, and through VR, dining establishments can become virtual culinary advisors and virtual cooks can communicate with customers.

Clients can join the kitchen and try their hand at cooking through VR or even play with marine life in a sea-themed restaurant. Using VR helps bartenders and servers be more efficient. They may even learn how to carry four plates at a time.

Retail design for restaurants will need to consider VR features in the coming days to enhance the dining experience, as these are just a few examples of how these technologies are altering the food industry. With the right partner, preferably with experienced and trusted offshore resources, technically precise Revit BIM services can be a cost-effective option, helping those in the restaurant industry maintain and increase profits.