Customer Experience

How to Make Better Use Out of a Small Restaurant Space

By Alex Fainblum

Compact interior of small restaurant space with bold coloured furniture and large ceiling lights

Real estate prices can be a massive barrier to opening a restaurant. Big city rents are not for the faint of heart, and you may have found yourself opening a spot that was half (or a quarter!) of the size you originally envisioned for your business.   

But the good news is you’re not alone, and many restaurateurs are doing some amazing things with small spaces. Here are four ways to make your small space work for you.

1. Keep Your Line Moving

If you’re a counter service venue, the last thing you want is for your tiny space to feel even smaller than it is – and your long lines aren’t helping.

Give your customers some room to breathe by partnering up with food apps like RitualNowait, and Grabb. These mobile apps let your customers skip to the front of the line when picking up their online order.

2. Set Dinner Seating

You know the rhythm of your restaurant. If you’re a higher end place, you can reserve the right to set dinner seating with your customers when they reserve a table.

Make sure to be flexible with your scheduling and give your customers some leverage with their reservations, but also don’t assume that each reservation is going to require two hours. Pay attention to patterns in scheduling to find out how long each reservation needs. If you notice that your earlier reservations are in and out 25 minutes faster than your later ones – schedule more time for your late night customers.

3. Layout Is Everything

It’s important that your customers are comfortable in your space. We know you’d love to seat them all, but your small space may put a stop to that.

That’s why you have to take advantage of all the seating space your restaurant has to offer, even if it’s close to your kitchen. Set up counter-side seating to increase guest capacity and encourage staff-to-customer engagement.

Double Michelin Star restaurant Minibar is known for its tiny tasting table, and we can see why. To help maximize their small space, they built seating around their restaurant’s kitchen. Sitting up to four seatings of six guests per night – they’re able to give their customers a one of a kind experience by showing them how they make their signature dishes.

When setting up your small restaurant, remember that less is more. Make sure you don’t overcrowd your space with 20 tables when it can only fit 12. Your customers don’t want to be pushed up against each other, and your servers will hate bending over backwards to serve their tables.

4. It’s All in the Decor

Wish expanding your restaurant was as easy as changing the color of its walls? Well, it might just be your lucky day! Paint your walls a soothing shade of white to make your space feel big and bright.

You want to maximize the amount of light that enters your restaurant. Add floor-to-ceiling windows and hang some light fixtures to make sure your place is well-lit.

Interior of a small restaurant space from high up in a building

Shifting your patrons’ focus upwards will help make them feel like they’re in a larger venue. Hang shelves and framed images near your restaurant’s ceiling, and you’ll have everyone looking up.

You don’t need to relocate to grow your space. By making minor design adjustments, adhering to seating times, and forming the right partnerships – less can be more. 

Photo of Alex Fainblum
by Alex Fainblum

Alex is a Marketing Coordinator at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant dining experiences. She’s a lover of all things chocolate covered but her true passion lies in late-night eating.

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