Starting a Business

The Essentials to Consider When Designing and Equipping Your Restaurant

The Essentials to Consider When Designing and Equipping Your Restaurant
Image credit: Klaus Vedfelt

The following excerpt is from The Staff of Entrepreneur Media's book Start Your Own Restaurant and More. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

The two key parts of your restaurant are the produc­tion area, where the food is prepared, and the public area, where your customers either dine or make their carryout purchases. The major factors to think about in terms of a restaurant’s design are the size and layout of the dining room, kitchen space, storage areas and office. Dining space will occupy most of your facility, followed by the kitchen and preparation area and then by storage. If you have an office on the premises -- and you should -- that will most likely take up the smallest percentage of your space.

The customer service area is important because it determines the first impression your restaurant will make on your guests. It must accurately convey the atmosphere of the restaurant in a way that takes advantage of the space available. Your customer service area should include a waiting area for customers, a cashier’s station, public restrooms and a bar, if you choose to have one. Other than fast-food or quick-serve establishments, most restaurants have bars or at least serve beer or wine.

Most upscale restaurants don’t have a cashier area where patrons walk up and pay. Instead, the waitstaff typically collects the payment at the table and takes it to the bar cash register. They then bring the change back to the table or return with the credit card slip to be signed.

You can use your cashier’s station as the host or hostess station, or you can set up a separate station at the threshold between the customer service and dining areas. A host or hostess stand usually consists of a small wooden podium with a ledger or computer keyboard and monitor for recording the names of waiting guests.

Related: What You Need to Know Before Starting a Food Service Business

The waiting area itself should have a few benches lining its walls. Don’t skimp on these seats. They should be cushioned, unless your theme dictates otherwise, so your customers are comfortable during their wait. If the wait turns out to be long, and if your seats are hard and uncomfortable, chances are you’ll lose customers and generate some bad word-of-mouth.

In many restaurants, a bar will generate a good portion of the operation’s revenue. Generally speaking, you should have one bar seat for every three dining seats. For example, if you have 150 dining seats, your bar should have about 50 seats, including bar stools and seats at tables. Allow about 2 square feet of floor space per stool. Your tables should have about 10 to 12 square feet per customer.

A bar also provides an additional waiting area for your restaurant. It’s a good place for your customers to relax and enjoy themselves while their table is being prepared. You can also serve food at the bar, which is especially beneficial when you have a long waiting list. Also keep in mind that many restaurants either take a guest’s cell phone number or provide an electric electronic pager to contact their waiting guests.

Dining area

This is where you’ll be making the bulk of your money, so don’t cut corners when designing and decorating your dining room. Much of your dining room design will depend on your concept. It might help to know that studies indicate that 40 to 50 percent of all sit-down customers arrive in pairs, 30 percent come alone or in parties of three and 20 percent come in groups of four or more.

To accommodate various party sizes, use tables for two that can be pushed together in areas where there’s ample floor space. This gives you flexibility in accommodating both small and large parties. Place booths for four to six people along the walls.

The space required per seat varies according to the type of restaurant and size of the establishment. For a small casual-dining restaurant, you’ll need to provide about 15 to 18 square feet per seat to assure comfortable seating and enough aisle space so servers have room to move between the tables. People don’t like being crowded together with other diners. Keep in mind that while you want to get in as many people as possible, you also want return customers. It is often said that 80 percent of business comes from return customers. If people are crammed in and don’t enjoy their dining experience, they won’t be likely to return.

Related: How to Start a Restaurant

The furniture and fixtures in your dining area should match your concept and be appropriate to the market you’re trying to attract. For example, a family-style restaurant needs to have comfortable tables and booths that can accommodate children’s booster seats and highchairs. A fine-dining establishment should be more elegant, with tables situated to provide your patrons with privacy.

Regardless of the type of operation you choose, the quality of your chairs is critical. Chairs are expensive, and how comfortable they are -- or aren’t -- is the second most common source of environmental complaints in restaurants (the first is noise). But while your seats should be comfortable, they shouldn’t be too soft, either -- you don’t want customers falling asleep. They should also allow for ease of movement. Diners should be able to get up and down easily and slide across seating surfaces without tearing clothing or hosiery. And they need to be sturdy. When an overweight customer sits down or even tips a chair back on one or two legs, the chair shouldn’t break. Also, choose materials that can tolerate abrasive cleaning products as well as the abuse of being stacked and unstacked.

Develop a uniform atmosphere all through the public areas of your restaurant. That means the décor of your waiting area, dining room, bar and even restrooms should match. Also, be sure your waiting area is welcoming and comfortable. Whether your customers are seated immediately or have to wait awhile for their tables, they’ll gain their first impression of your operation from the waiting area, and you want that impression to be positive.

Production area

Too often, the production area in a restaurant is inefficiently designed, and the result is a poorly organized kitchen and less-than-top-notch service. Your floor plan should be streamlined to provide the most efficient delivery of food to the dining area.

Generally, you’ll need to allow approximately 35 percent of your total space for your production area. Include space for food preparation, cooking, dishwashing, trash disposal, receiving, inventory storage, employee facilities and an area for a small office where daily management duties can be performed. Allow about 12 percent of your total space for food preparation and cooking areas.

Keep your menu in mind as you determine each element in the production area. You’ll need to include space for food preparation, cooking, dishwashing, trash disposal, receiving, inventory storage and employee facilities, plus your office area.

The food preparation, cooking and baking areas are where the actual production of food will take place. You’ll need room for prep and steam tables, fryers, a cooking range with griddle top, small refrigerators that you’ll place under the prep and steam tables, a freezer for storing perishable goods, soft drink and milk dispensers, an ice bin, a broiler, exhaust fans for the ventilation system and other items, depending on your particular operation.

Arrange this area so everything is only a couple of steps away from the cook. You should also design it in such a way that two or more cooks can work side by side during your busiest hours.

You’ll want to devote about 4 percent of your total space to the dishwashing and trash areas. Place your dishwashing area toward the rear of the kitchen. You can usually set this up in a corner so it doesn’t get in the way of the cooks and servers. Set up the dishwashing area so the washer can develop a production line.

To make your production area as efficient as possible, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Plan the shortest route from entrance to exit for ingredients and baked goods.
  • Minimize handling by having as many duties as possible performed at each stop -- that is, at each point the item or dish stops in the production process.
  • Eliminate bottlenecks in the production process caused by delays at strategic loca­tions. When things aren’t flowing smoothly, figure out why. Be sure your equipment is adequate, well-maintained and located in the proper place for the task.
  • Recognize that the misuse of space is as damaging to your operation as the misuse of machinery and labor.
  • Eliminate backtracking, the overlapping of work and unnecessary inspection by constantly considering possibilities for new sequences and combinations of steps in food preparation.
  • Set up the dishwashing area so the washer can develop a production line. The per­son responsible for washing dishes should rinse them in a double sink, then place them into racks on a small landing area next to the sink. From the landing area, the racks full of dishes are put through the commercial dishwasher, then placed on a table for drying. The size and capacity of your dishwasher will depend on the needs of your operation.

Receiving and inventory storage spaces will take up to about 8 percent of your total space. These areas should be located so they’re accessible to delivery vehicles. Use double doors at your receiving port, and always keep a dolly or hand truck available. Locate your dry-storage area and walk-in refrigerator and freezer adjacent to the receiving area.

Related: The Ingredients of Restaurant Success

Because most food-service businesses require employees, you should also have a private room for them that includes a table, a few chairs, a closet or garment rack (to hang coats and street clothes after staffers have changed into their work clothes), lockers for safe storage of personal belongings and valuables and a restroom. The staff facility should not take up more than 5 percent of your total space.

You’ll also need a small area where you or your manager can perform administrative tasks, such as general paperwork, bank deposits and counting out cash drawers. This space is essential even if you have another office at home where you do the majority of your administrative work.

Edition: December 2016

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