What does good restaurant design look like?
Understanding customer motives is key to running a successful business. For restaurant owners, the overarching reason people eat out is (1) the food and (2) the experience. In some case one may be more important to an individual than the other, however to become a true industry leader both must be deliberately addressed. Food satisfies a customer’s basic needs, yet the experience and visual interior plays a key factor in overall satisfaction and repeat customer.
Point of entry
After the external appearance of the restaurant, the first point of entry fulfils customer engagement needs, and develops initial impressions on the ethos of the restaurant. Where the point of entry is, how it occurs and who meets you pieces together these factors and may be considered the most important aspect. You know that pithy saying: You only get one chance to make a first impression. It matters when you are the diner walking into an unknown situation.
Basic strategic planning of seat structure within a restaurant can be at the core of restaurant design, yet sizing can be everything too. Scale of tables in relation to the plates, glasses, cutlery is all part of the skill.
Designers look at numerous things when designing seating and tables.
• Will the fabric on the booth create static cling when you stand up? Not a good look.
• Does the chair have arms so that someone larger than the average bear will be uncomfortably asking for another seat? Huge no no.
• Will it stand up to years of abuse, or crumble under a diner after three months?
• Does the table have legs that will interfere with human legs?
Lighting can be everything. You don’t want your customers to feel glared at, but you also don’t want them to be squinting just read the menu. Getting this combination and layering can be difficult, but you’ve got to nail it on the head.
Yes, there needs to be enough light to make the pathway from door to table clear. That's called ambient light. It lights the room overall.
But once at the table, a little more directed light is required to see the table top, the menu, the food when it arrives. And maybe there is some decorative light in various locations around the restaurant to highlight art or a wall or something that illustrates restaurant concept.
Never light the diner from above — that weird ghostly look with deep shadows under your eyes won't impress your date.
If the restaurant has many windows, a designer will have considered how to protect from glare. If you're staring at your date and all you see is a silhouette, then someone wasn't paying attention to design.
Yes, the outside sign guiding diners into the restaurant is important for the initial impressions, but the graphics don’t stop there.
When you're sitting at your table, how do you know which way to go to get to the restroom? There is usually a sign, but does it fit with the decor? Is it easy to read? Is it visible from most places in the dining room?
The restroom signs in all three restaurants did all three — they fit, they were legible, and they were visible. And the menus, while each was unique, fit the decor and concept of each restaurant.
Restroom design is a big deal. No diner is going be satisfied with paying 60pounds for a good slab of steak if the restrooms look like they belong in the petrol station down the road. If this is the case, it’s safe to say no creditable designer was involved in the planning.
Sometimes the restroom acts as a comfort hiding away from the table, where ladies can check their glow and men can have a solid man-chat. Therefore, a well aligned design can be the difference between a repeat customer and a defected one. But beyond all, are they clean and well kept?
Is it really all that important?
The chef may be gifted and the food beyond expectations, but the aesthetics create the experience, and if the two clash you may be losing customers faster than you think.
The tables are being too low for the chairs, no welcoming host giving guidance, worn graphics, lights that blind you? Are you really going to return? Well that’s up to you…
but here a thought- A restaurant is beautifully designed holding expectations high, but the food was overcooked, tasteless and cold- it’s unlikely you are going back. Now think about that the other way around. A great chef, needs to be embellished by a perfectly designed restaurant- create that experience, it’s worth those extra pennies.