Restaurant design is only slightly less important than restaurant food when it comes to getting diners to come through the door. Your customers’ decision to eat out can often be made on the basis of seeking a particular atmosphere as much as not cooking, so when choosing a restaurant they may subconsciously decide on the ‘feel’ of the place, its ambiance – the decor, the lighting, privacy. - as much as the food itself. And it may determine whether they decide to return.
You can simplify a lot of design decisions if you start by identifying and describing clearly your target market, their lifestyle and expectations. For example, young urban professionals who are used to dressing formally will be attracted to a pared down, elegant restaurant interior design.
If this is your first restaurant, employ a specialist restaurant designer to make sure your concept flows seamlessly throughout your restaurant. Or, at the very least, budget to run your ideas past an expert to get the benefit of their experience.
Ambiance is determined by numerous factors, but the two most critical are lighting and sound. Lighting sets mood. Correct lighting can make a dramatic impact on the mood of the restaurant - critical for reflecting your restaurant’s concept.
Once the basic illumination is in place – generally include recessed down lights in a ceiling or pendant lights in an exposed structure – it’s time for the fun part. You can use spotlights to highlight focal points in your operation - menu boards, an open kitchen, pieces or art, or advertising on your walls. Dimmer switches are excellent for adjusting your lighting to the time of day and can work for nearly every restaurant type. The intensity of your lighting fixtures also depends on the height of your ceiling, the colour of your walls and floors, your tiling and carpeting, and your furniture arrangement.
Your lighting should be evenly spread out over your dining area so that there are no pockets of excessively bright spots or dark spots. LED lighting is considered to be 85% more efficient than incandescent bulbs and designed to last 50 times longer so if installed, you would end up saving thousands of dollars over time. Track lighting with LED bulbs can be used to create various moods and colours. Don’t forget exterior lighting. The outside lights often make the first impression your customers have of your restaurant and they can attract customers passing by into your establishment.
Sound is not just a matter of choosing what sort of music to play. The sounds coming from the kitchen, people talking in the restaurant, even the humming of fluorescent lights, all contribute to the background noise, destroying attempts to create low key, relaxing sound. But not all noise is nasty. Understand your target audience. For example, if you serve fast-casual food geared at families, noise may give off an aura of ‘busyness’ which shouts how popular you are.
Limit the colour palette. Use neutrals with browns and greys so that the food is the focus. Then put some drama back to your decor with a bold colour accent.
Written by Jason Smith. Jason is a interior designer who enjoys blogging about shopfitters, decor, and photography.