We’ve all dined in restaurants that are laid out in an awkward manner or simply have an uncomfortable feel to them. It’s as if the restaurant itself was an afterthought. Spaces that are awkward create an uneasy feeling that disrupts the pleasure of dining out in the first place. Maybe the tables and chairs are just too close for comfort or the restaurant itself has oddly shaped or uneven spaces. One thing restaurant owners should always do is assess the space for maximum seating whilst retaining an ambience of comfort and style. Companies such as Nextrend offer consultations and tips for furnishing the most awkward of spaces. Here are a few things to consider.
See the Blank Space
To get a feel for the restaurant, remove all the furniture. Open the doors and remove window coverings of any sort. You’ll be hit with the stark reality of the room.
Look first at the ceiling. Check for any slopes or strange angles that add to the awkwardness of the room. Take note of narrow spaces as they relate to more open areas.
Traffic Flow of Restaurant
Draw a floor plan of the space and take measurements. Figure out the path of least resistance from door to seating, kitchen to tables and guests to and from the restroom. In other words, where will the heavy and constant traffic be taking place? Add this information to your drawing and include measurements.
Did the space come furnished and if so, is it in good shape or is it beyond the trendy shabby chic and just plain shabby? Is it possible to simply refinish what you already have or is it beyond repair? Often times, booths and chairs look brand new with a little polish and new upholstery covering. Most of the time, it’s best to start over.
Restaurants with tables and chairs allow more flexibility for accommodating large and uneven parties than booth only restaurants. Sometimes a mix of the two works best. Keep in mind that booths tend to look more casual than tables and chairs although if done correctly, can be a good fit in a fine dining establishment as well as a casual one.
Style & Brand
One of the most important things about restaurant design is making sure the style you choose matches your branding. Everything, all the details large and small come together to create an overall first and lasting impression that reinforces your brand. When you start out with an oddly shaped or awkward seating area, it’s even more important to create the right atmosphere. Focus on what makes your restaurant special and do what you can to enhance the dining experience.
Consider what can be done with color, both in the furniture and on the walls. Using contrast or an unexpected color palette can add a wow factor to an otherwise dull or weird layout.
For several years, the trend was to cover restaurant walls with all manner of things, related or not. Roadsigns, sports equipment, posters and photographs of famous people adorned walls from the corner pub to upscale eateries. Seafood restaurant walls were covered in line, nets, lures and anchors. In odd or cramped layouts, this style is often claustrophobic.
While your decor should match and enhance your brand and theme, a seafood restaurant doesn’t necessarily require nets and seashells all over the walls anymore than sports bars need only be field green.
The latest trends in restaurant interiors include color splashes in both furnishings and artwork. For instance, all your chairs can be white except 25% and those will be a bright contrasting color. This adds pop to an otherwise plain expanse of seating. Instead of covering the walls with anything you can think of in the way of decoration, consider showcasing artwork.
Fabulous art pieces are like good friends. People don’t get tired of seeing them. If you find it boring to have the same pieces on display, treat your walls like a gallery and sell them but always have replacements ready to hang. Or have a special section showcasing local artisan’s work and offer those pieces for sale on commission.
Play up your oddly shaped eatery with non-food sales. T-shirts and locally crafted specialty items are desirable, especially in tourist areas. This can be achieved without being cheesy or a souvenir trap by choosing carefully exactly what to offer. Maybe a sauce or signature dessert created by your chef would be a good start. Whatever it is, if anything at all, make sure it fits your style and branding. Don’t simply pile a bunch of junk purchased in bulk by the door and hope for the best. Plenty of souvenir shops exist for that sort of thing already.
One of the most important decorating tricks of the trade is lighting. The right lighting makes all the difference in any restaurant and certainly for one with an awkward layout. It needs to be bright and focused enough that people can read the menu but not harsh and glaring. Pay attention to the angle of the sun throughout open hours as well. There are plenty of blinds and shades made especially for blocking direct sunlight while not blocking the view.
Music is nice and even expected in most restaurants. Whether you go with soft background music or something more contemporary depends on the type of establishment. One thing to remember though, unless it’s a nightclub or honky-tonk of some sort, stay away from blaring ear-piercing music. If customers can’t talk without yelling across the table, the music is too loud. Oddly shaped spaces may require more acoustical preparation for sound than the average boxy space.
The key to an overall excellent experience is everything coming together despite the odd or awkward space. Comfortable pleasant surroundings plus excellent food and top notch service will leave guests eager to visit again.