When you’re planning to open a restaurant, one of the most important and yet overlooked details of the process is making a restaurant floor plan. Your floor plan will determine how many customers you can serve at a time, how efficient your employees are, and, ultimately, how much revenue you bring in.
Your floor plan will detail every area of your restaurant, not just the customer-facing parts. It also needs to include your kitchen, storage areas, maintenance areas, and any other space your restaurant has within it.
During the pandemic, floor plans became even more important to restaurants that remained open, as they had to distance their seating to keep customers safe while also trying to minimize impact on customer capacity. Even as the pandemic winds down, it’s important to make sure you have a floor plan that keeps your customers and employees comfortable and safe.
An average restaurant size is about 4,000 square feet of space. That’s probably less space than you think, so it’s important your restaurant layout is as efficient as possible.
It may be a good idea to hire an interior designer to help. Cultivating an interior aesthetic is a must to create a good atmosphere and attract customers, and is an essential part of restaurant promotion. Interior designers can also help you maximize your use of space while also making your restaurant look inviting.
However, if you’re trying to open a restaurant with no money and need to limit expenses, you may be stuck making your own floor plan. Whether or not that’s the case, here are some essential tips for designing your restaurant floor plan.
What to Include in a Restaurant Floor Plan
While every restaurant is unique, based on its own unique restaurant concept, most share similar characteristics. Obviously, every restaurant has a kitchen, but that kitchen needs several defined spaces in order to operate both safely and efficiently, as does every other area of the restaurant. Let’s go over some essentials to include in your floor plan.
Entrance — When someone walks past your restaurant, the entrance is the first thing they see. Creating a welcoming environment will attract more customers. If you’re a high-volume restaurant, your guests may have to wait for a table for a while, so make sure to implement ample and comfortable seating for them in the waiting area.
Dining Room — When designing your dining room, you need to give your customers space to feel comfortable while also making sure you can include enough tables to accommodate as many as possible.
If you’re planning to open a full-service restaurant, your servers will also need space to move around and serve your customers effectively. Your dining area should take up about 60% of your restaurant’s total floor space.
To maximize your seating capacity while ensuring comfort, Selected Furniture suggests leaving 42 inches between the edges of square tables, or 60 inches between square tables with service aisles. An average restaurant has about one seat per 15 square feet of dining room space to avoid overcrowding.
Bar — If your restaurant has a bar, make sure to design it in a way that looks inviting enough to attract customers to enjoy a drink.
In some restaurants, the bar can also serve as a waiting area while customers wait to be seated. For high-volume restaurants, this can be integral for keeping guests happy when they experience long wait times. If you plan to use your bar as a waiting area, make sure it’s spacious enough to serve many customers.
Restroom — Your restaurant’s restrooms should be easily accessible to everyone in the restaurant, but the doors would ideally be out of sight from the dining area. If you have a particularly large dining room, it’s a good idea to either add multiple restrooms or make it easy for customers in any part of the dining room to access the restroom.
One Point Partitions also recommends meticulously planning your restroom layout, putting the sink and paper towel dispenser as close together as possible to reduce water drip, and using warm lighting to make customers feel more comfortable. A restaurant’s bathrooms are one of the most important facets of a customer’s experience.
Point of Sale — This is where the transactions will take place, and your customers’ orders will be entered; this is what keeps your restaurant in business. Your restaurant’s point of sale can vary depending on the restaurant’s concept.
Full-service restaurants typically have points of sale set up out of customers’ way, but still positioned where they can easily be accessed by servers to take orders and run a customer’s credit card. Quick-service restaurants usually have points of sale systems at the front counter.
There are a variety of ways to set up your restaurant’s point of sale, and you’ll need to choose a POS system that handles the transactions. One such option is self-ordering restaurant kiosks, which will allow customers to place their order on a touchscreen and pay by themselves, eliminating a cashier entirely.
Kitchen — This one’s a given, but it’s important to lay out your kitchen properly. The more people you plan to employ, the more space they’ll need to operate.
If your employees are packed too tightly, accidents can happen causing dropped food, injuries, and more. Not only is this bad for your employees, but it can hurt your business. The kitchen will also need to be separated into a few main areas to ensure safety and efficiency:
1. Food Prep Area — This is where anything involving food other than cooking takes place. Washing, slicing, and preparing produce, chopping fresh ingredients, and marinating meats all happen in the food preparation area. If raw meat is being handled here, it’s important to split the food prep area into smaller sections to ensure no cross-contamination occurs.
2. Cooking Area — This area is the lifeblood of your kitchen. Your stoves, fryers, and ovens will be here, and it’s a good idea to keep clean cooking equipment stored around here for easy access. Once meals are finished here, they’re ready to go to the customer, so this area should be kept close to your dining area.
3. Storage Areas — Your restaurant will need dedicated spaces to store food, drinks, dishes, cleaning supplies, and more for it to operate efficiently. Tucking cleaning supplies in the same area you keep food can cause a major health hazard. If your restaurant has limited floor space, try to maximize space while also prioritizing safety.
There are laws in place determining what can and can’t be stored together in restaurants, so do some research to find out where you can store all of your necessary restaurant supplies.
4. Dish Area — Especially in high-volume restaurants, it’s integral that the dish area be planned out to be as efficient as possible while being kept separate from food prep and cooking areas. If it takes too long for the dishes to be cleaned and reused, it can cause major delays in service.
Webstaraunt Store provides example layouts that keep a restaurant’s back-of-house operations running smoothly. Your restaurant will also have to meet specific criteria to receive required restaurant licenses and permits, so make sure your restaurant layout aligns with the rules dictated by your local health department.
Special Considerations for Restaurant Floor Planning
When opening any business, you have to follow legal requirements for implementing disability access. Beyond legal obligation, you should want your restaurant to be as welcoming and accommodating for as many customers as possible.
ADA requirements state that aisles between fixed seating must be at least 36 inches wide and table or countertops must be between 28 and 34 inches high. There must be at least one restroom for each sex with disability access, or one unisex restroom with disability access.
The entry door must have at least 18 inches of clear space on the pull side, next to the handle. The door must also open to at least 36 inches of space.
Your restaurant’s parking lot must provide accessible parking spaces at least 8 feet wide, and the number of required accessible spaces depends on the total number of parking spaces. If your restaurant has a stairway to the dining room, there must be an alternative entrance, such as a ramp or lift.
This is hardly an exhaustive list of requirements. To ensure that your restaurant floor plan is ADA-compliant, the Disability Law Center has a checklist of restaurant requirements.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is seemingly (and hopefully) coming to an end, it has likely changed the way consumers act when in enclosed public spaces like restaurants.
While many states and localities have lifted social distancing requirements, it’s still a good idea for restaurant owners to grant guests more open space than what is required. Customers may still feel unsafe if they’re packed too close together with other guests, and this could turn away potential business.
Limiting customer interactions with staff can also make customers feel more comfortable dining out in public. Most businesses, including restaurants, are still requiring staff to wear masks, but masks are not 100% effective at stopping the spread of diseases. This may make customers vulnerable to COVID-19 complications hesitant to go out to eat.
In the digital age, there are solutions that reduce staff and customer contact.
- Self-ordering kiosks: self-ordering restaurant kiosks allow customers to place orders and pay without having to interact with a cashier. Kiosks allow customers to quickly order the items they want, make any necessary customizations and send the order off to the kitchen, all with no risk of virus transmission.
- Digital menu boards: Digital menu boards can be used to replace paper menus, saving on material costs as well as reducing the risk of transmission. They also allow for the restaurant management to instantly make changes to the menu as needed. Not having to touch a reusable menu may help customers feel more at ease.
- Digital kitchen display system: Using a digital kitchen display system to track orders can eliminate the need for paper tickets, which employees have to touch. In addition to reducing contact, these systems can be combined with self-ordering kiosks to improve restaurant efficiency.
Not only does automation improve efficiency and save money, but it promotes the safety of both your customers and your employees.
Six Examples of Real Restaurant Floor Plans that Work
- Wendy’s Standard Restaurant Layout
(Courtesy Wendy’s)This is a floor plan for a Wendy’s built in 2018. Wendy’s franchises have a relatively standard layout for a quick-service restaurant, but they follow all the rules of a good floor plan. The dining area is about 60% of the total area, with ample space between tables and dedicated disability-accessible seating. Restrooms are easily accessible but are separated by a foyer from the dining room, where it’s also accessible to employees.
- Union Square Café Floor Plan
(Courtesy Architectural Record)The ground floor plan of Union Square Cafe, an iconic New York City eatery, overcomes its small space limitations with a variety of seating options designed to maximize the number of customers it can accommodate. Even so, all of the guests aren’t packed into one single dining room, avoiding a feeling of overcrowding. Maximizing your guest count is important, but keeping your guests comfortable is what will keep them coming back.
- Longhorn Steakhouse Standard Floor Plan
(Courtesy Longhorn Steakhouse)The floor plan of this Longhorn Steakhouse provides several seating options as well as a spacious waiting area for customers waiting to be seated. The back-of-house includes dedicated storage areas and a large kitchen to accommodate the large number of workers necessary for a high-volume restaurant. A large dining room is important to increase guest capacity, but a large kitchen helps to prevent any avoidable slowdowns in service.
- Bahama Breeze Floor Plan
(Courtesy The Bokey)Bahama Breeze Caribbean Restaurant’s floor plan makes use of its large space by providing guests with outdoor seating. The indoor dining areas are smaller, but the large lobby with a bar ensures that guests who’d like to wait for indoor service won’t get too antsy. If possible, providing customers the option of outdoor seating can attract extra business during temperate weather.
- Capital Grille Standard Floor Plan
(Courtesy CleanPNG)This dining room floor plan for The Capital Grille, an upscale steakhouse chain, gives its guests a feeling of importance by separating them into several rooms, creating a smaller and more intimate space, and providing private rooms for special events. Be sure to customize your floor plan based on the clientele you plan to cater to — it’s sure to attract more repeat business.
- Krispy Kreme Standard Floor Plan
(Courtesy 42 Freeway)Every restaurant’s business model is different. For cafes and bakeries, which primarily see customers take items to-go and often in bulk orders, reducing dining room capacity in favor of a larger back-of-house can be a good decision. It increases the volume of products your restaurant can produce, ensuring your customers don’t face any shortages. This Krispy Kreme floor plan takes that into account. As guests will primarily be utilizing the drive-thru or pickup orders, it limits its dining space to provide a more spacious kitchen and storage area.
Some Final Advice
It’s important to ensure that your floor plan fits your restaurant’s unique needs. While floor plans usually follow these general guidelines, they’re not one-size-fits-all. Take into consideration your restaurant’s menu, targeted clientele, and aesthetic as you design your floor plan to make it as effective as possible.