Humans love maps – using them and making them. We like to have a strong sense of spatial awareness, a sense of the geography around us.
Think of your restaurant floor plan design as just that: a map of your restaurant’s physical space.
A well-designed restaurant floor plan can affect your restaurant’s profit margins by increasing efficiency, creating ease of movement, securing the safety of your staff and guests, and ultimately enhancing your customer experience.
Unlike your business plan and marketing strategy, your restaurant floor plan is something you’ll refer to on a daily basis, so it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that it’s worth spending some time and money on it.
What Is a Restaurant Floor Plan and Why Do You Need One?
It’s a blueprint that illustrates the distance and relationships between the rooms and physical structures of your restaurant space.
Restaurant floor plans denote the locations of fixtures like furnaces, sinks, water heaters, and electrical outlets. Occasionally, they will also include annotations on which materials are used to build parts of the space and how parts of the space are built.
Your architect or interior designer will draw up your restaurant floor plan. You can also use online software to help you design your own.
A well-designed floor plan will include:
- Walls and hallways
- Closets and storage spaces
- Windows and doors
- Set fixtures and appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, water heaters, etc.
- The purpose of each room / space
- Interior features such as fixed shelving, counter space, bars, etc.
- Other important items in your restaurant’s space
A well-designed floor plan will serve to:
- Increase efficiency and workflow
- Help you stick to your budget as you build your restaurant
- Help you train your staff to work as cohesively and efficiently as possible
More than just restaurants need floor plans:
5 Things to Consider When Designing Your Restaurant Floor Plan
Now that you know the what and the why, let’s get into the how.
You’ll need to consider a few things as you plot out your restaurant floor plan to make sure you won’t have to back track once you begin building.
1. Building codes
Look into your city’s building codes to make sure you’re accounting for requirements like emergency exits, adequate lighting and ventilation, occupancy, and more.
At the bare minimum, you need to follow requirements laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as any city-specific standards of accessibility. You’ll need make reasonable accommodations for individuals with accessibility needs, such as incorporating a wide enough space for customers using wheelchairs to access your washrooms.
Dig out your business plan and get ready to do some math: you’ll need to figure out how many people your restaurant will hold so that you’re meeting your profitability requirements.
Every aspect of your restaurant floor plan should be designed to improve workflow and efficiency between front and back of house. Your inventory should be able to move easily from the delivery truck into storage and then through prep, cooking, and plating. Your serving staff need a clear path from the kitchen to (and through) the dining room so they can deliver orders quickly and safely.
5. Aesthetic and ambiance
Your aesthetic and ambiance are where your restaurant floor plan intersects with your brand experience. Refer back to your business and marketing plans to make sure your interior décor and design reflect your concept and brand identity. Those documents should influence color schemes, furniture choices, and every other decision you make.
Hiring a Profession to Help with Floor Plan Design
Hiring a professional to assist you in the process of creating your restaurant floor plan is often a very worthwhile investment.
But where do you turn?
Both architects and interior designers will bring the following to the table:
- A skillful and knowledgeable approach to space planning
- Comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge of your state’s building codes and regulations
- Professional-grade design software and knowledge of how to use it
- An inherent creativity that can guide you to new ideas or new ways of looking at old ideas
- Foresight and problem-solving skills gained through trial and error, and past experience
- Connections with manufacturers
- A thorough understanding of building materials, finishes, furnishings, and building methods
Architects vs. Interior Designers
The main difference between architects and interior designers is that architects are trained to understand the entire structure of a building, while interior designers are focused on the – you guessed it – interior.
If you’re building a restaurant from the ground up, you’ll likely want to consider working with an architect. If you’re designing a restaurant within an existing building structure, you can work with either one.
Feeling especially handy? Kudos.
Here are a few of the best restaurant floor plan software options that can help if you’re determined to design your floor plan yourself:
CAD Pro: One of the most widely-used restaurant floor plan design tools, available for $99.95.
SmartDraw: Customize templated floor plans for $9.99 per month or $119.40 for the entire year.
ConceptDraw: To access the Café and Restaurant Solution ($25) you’ll have to download ConceptDraw Pro, which costs $199.
15 Restaurant Floor Plan Examples to Inspire You
1. Everything and the Kitchen Sink
Your kitchen floor plan is so important to your bottom line.
A kitchen layout affects everything from food quality to speed of service, so it’s something you really have to get right.
The floor plan shown above illustrates a restaurant kitchen designed around an island. This type of design works well because it:
- Creates a lot of space for movement between workstations.
- Facilitates supervision and communication between your chef de cuisine, their sous-chefs, and the line cooks.
2. Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
In larger, more commercial kitchens, each staff member is responsible for only one or two stations, which makes staff movement around the kitchen less important than in the previous example. Staff stay at their stations, while the food does the moving.
The floor plan above directly illustrates how your food will move through each station as it is prepped and assembled, helping to creating an efficient workflow.
3. In the Zone
A third style of kitchen layout design is the zone layout.
As illustrated above, the zone layout breaks your kitchen area into work areas, much like in an assembly line setup, only it isn’t in a line or a circle.
This layout works well for small spaces where you have multiple people working together. While it doesn’t necessarily facilitate staff movement through the whole space, it creates individual stations your cooks can take ownership of and move within, enabling efficiency in each zone.
4. Lay It All to Rest(room)
Not the most glamorous topic for sure, but restrooms are a requirement in any sit-down restaurant, and an important part of customer experience.
Include cleaning tasks in your general workflow and consider carefully the placement of your restrooms in relation to the dining room.
The restroom floor plan above does a great job of considering accessibility by factoring in the space required for wheelchair access, as well as including change tables so parents with children are accommodated.
It isn’t shown here, but your restrooms’ location within your restaurant’s overall floor plan is also highly strategic. Consider the following:
- Proximity to the dining room (smells, people!)
- Atmosphere. Does it follow the vibe of your restaurant and add to your customer experience?
- Employee use! Will your staff use the same restrooms as your clientele, or will you provide a staff restroom for them?
5. Up Against the Wall
Bar Raval is a Spanish tapas bar that has quickly claimed a spot on the list of top Toronto bars.
In the above floor plan, you can see how the owners of Bar Raval had to make the most of a long and narrow space. Setting the bar and coffee station together against the sidewall frees up floor space so the servers can navigate through the high-traffic areas of standing tables, with plenty of room for their trays full of tapas and intricate cocktails.
6. Center of Attention
If ample space is a luxury you’re working with, placing your bar in the center of the room – like the one above – can spruce up your customer experience in a few different ways:
- A center bar increases the amount of seating available at your bar, which provides lots of room walk-ins to sit and try out your menu.
- Because of the extra seating, the central bar can replace a waiting area, allowing your customers to sit and have a drink while they wait for their table to be ready, directly (and effortlessly) increasing sales.
- A center bar also provides a stage for your bartenders, who can show off their flare while preparing drinks. Dinner and a show.
7. The Bar at the Back
On the other hand, placing a small bar at the back of your restaurant, as in the floor plan above, creates more intimacy. It’s a great way to facilitate relationship-building between your all-star bartender and their regulars – and loyal regulars help your profitability, providing a steady stream of business.
8. The Dining Room
Your dining room floor plan has the power to make or break the customer experience, which directly affects your sales.
Not sure how big your dining room should be?
Here are some guidelines for figuring out the average square footage you need per customer, depending on your venue type:
- Fine dining: 18–20 square feet
- Full service restaurant: 12–15 square feet
- Fast casual: 11–14 square feet
- Fast food: 11–14 square feet
In a 1,200 square foot dining space, you could fit up to 80–100 seats, depending on the experience you’re trying to create for your customers.
The floor plan above selected smaller square tables that tuck nicely against the wall around the perimeter of the room, creating an intimate space for small groups or couples. The middle of the room features round tables with ample space between, so customers don’t feel like they’re sitting with their neighbours and staff can move freely around the space.
9. A Round Table Discussion
Your dining room floor plan is as much a document to help you design your space as it will be a map for your staff to navigate sections and table numbers.
The layout above follows a simple grid pattern that will be easy for staff to memorize and navigate in a restaurant with so many tables.
10. Counter Offer
Whether you’re slinging bottles of your in-house hot sauces or selling branded t-shirts and tote bags, a retail area requires space, and your space requires planning.
Where you place your retail space within your restaurant will depend on the type of space you have, but the retail space itself should feel distinct from the dining room itself and follow retail sales principles that encourage browsing and product pairing.
The layout above has multiple display options, lots of room for browsing, and makes it easy for counter staff to keep an eye on what’s happening in the space.
11. But First, Coffee
We tend to think of our space in square footage, but if you cubed that footage, consider how much space you could gain.
Floor plans in 3D are a great way to explore the ways you can use vertical space. The kind of art and light fixtures you choose – which contribute to your over ambiance and aesthetic – are directly affected by the height of your ceilings, so getting a 3D picture will help you plan.
This 3D floor plan of a small cafe allows the owners to get a clear visual of what the finished product will look like, how choices for the wall decor, window signs, and lighting keep the venue on brand and make a limited space feel more open.
12. Make a Lasting First Impression
They say you form an impression of a person within the first three seconds of meeting them. So why should it be any different stepping into a restaurant?
There are a million ways to make a great first impression, but the one that matters most is how the design of the entrance helps welcome guests to your restaurant.
The floor plan above gives the host or greeter – or even cashier – a chance to welcome customers in a separate, controlled area before introducing them to the noises and smells of the dining room. There’s also a waiting area where customers can sit down, away from the door and restaurant traffic, until their table is ready.
If you want your guests to experience a calm, relaxed ambiance, consider carving out ample space for this kind of separate entrance area.
13. Working Hard or Hardly Working
The thing about employees, is that they’re human – at least for now – and humans tend to come with baggage. Literally.
Are you planning to provide staff with an area to store coats, bags, and extra pairs of shoes?
Take a hint from the sample floor plan above, and see how you can make use of space at the very back of the kitchen – a space that isn’t as ideal for moving or storing inventory. Your staff will be grateful to have a place to safely store their belongings and take a break – without that break happening in front of customers, which helps you maintain the restaurant’s ambiance.
14. Think Outside the Box
If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of outdoor space – and have a climate that makes it useable for more than a couple of months a year – you can really maximize that space. And, as a result, your profit.
This patio floor plan combines diagonal and booth seating to make the most of the extra dining space. They also threw on some outdoor-appropriate decor elements like natural greenery and a fountain to create ambiance even outside the restaurant’s dining room.
15. Working the Angles
Not all spaces are created equal. Sometimes, the space you have to work with is angular and strange. There’s no reason you can’t use that to your advantage in creating a unique space like in the floor plan above, which includes original seating options like rounded and snakelike booths that still leave plenty of space for staff to navigate the dining room floor efficiently.
POS-Script: A Note About POS Stations
Anything that empowers your work more efficiently can have a huge impact on your bottom line. Your POS system is your server’s best tool in providing high quality and efficient service to customers – but that doesn’t mean it should take up a chunk of your dining room.
Modern POS solutions include smaller designs than a traditional POS, so stations take up less space in your layout.
Or, you could opt for tableside ordering, which means your POS devices portable and you don’t have to factor in how your servers will move through your layout as they go from table to POS and back again. They can simply carry the POS with them, providing faster, more accurate service.
The reality is that certain elements and details of your floor plan will naturally change and evolve over time, but the basic structures and foundations you lay down in the beginning will likely stay the same.
Create space in your budget to design a floor plan that helps your kitchen work efficiently, your servers offer top notch service quality, and your customers get experience they can’t beat. Everyone will appreciate it – including your bottom line.
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