Keys to a Compelling Restaurant Floorplan

By Ray Chung Director of Design, The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry | September 23, 2018

For every restaurant, large or small, the keys to a good floorplan are based on providing on the one hand, efficient paths for the server and on the other, a rich experience for the guest. Being able to balance these needs is an art that requires an understanding of both how service works and what diners expect.

First and foremost, the plan should have the kitchen in the right place, with clear paths leading from the kitchen to each seat. However, a plan with just efficiency in mind can feel factory-like. The plan should also provide guests with an interesting, varied experience without being labyrinthine and confusing. There should be a diversity of seating types, arranged so that guests can see each other and feel a part of the whole restaurant. In the end, the goal is to create multiple comfortable spaces for guests that are served seamlessly and create feeling of a public, shared experience.

Not every project affords the restaurateur the luxury of deciding where or how big the kitchen should be. But for those that do, the importance of locating the kitchen correctly cannot be overstated. To begin, allow for the correct amount of space and assume that the ratio of back-of-house spaces (kitchen, mostly) to front-of-house (dining room) will be 40/60.

Undersizing the kitchen with the hope of increasing guest capacity can lead to unrealistic revenue models that can end up shuttering a restaurant. In terms of location, the kitchen naturally needs to be adjacent to the dining room, and it needs convenient routes for deliveries and trash that are completely hidden from guests. For projects where the kitchen is already given, be sure to study the existing relationship between kitchen and dining room carefully and consider adjusting the wall and door locations to fit your concept.

In the front-of-house, in order to scale down a larger space into more comfortable zones, aim to create a mix of areas that are easily understood. For example, the entry area would be distinct from the dining room, and in the dining room, a wall of banquettes might stand apart from a group of two- and four-seat tables, with distinct lighting and materials. Making the room (or rooms) easy to understand allows guests to orient themselves quickly and feel more at ease. To that end, the entry area is key to setting expectations and creating a sense of anticipation. From the entrance, guests should be able to see at least some of the major features of the restaurant-spectacular views, an open kitchen, a lively bar, or a signature piece of art, for example.

The entry area needs to be large enough to accommodate a host stand and waiting area. This zone will also act as a buffer against noise, traffic and sometimes bad weather just outside the front door. As a non-revenue-generating space, it can be tempting to minimize this area. The key is to accommodate all the necessary functions without compromising the guest experience. A coat check room, for example, can be fit into an otherwise unwelcoming corner, and concealed storage for high chairs and booster seats can be integrated into the vestibule.

Nestled in the stadium seating itself, Molly B's Cookhouse at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, provides open, sweeping views of the game from the edge of the dining room. A signature bar at center organizes the space, and distinct zones within the rest of the restaurant—an open kitchen, a buffet island, private booths and more—provide a variety of experiences in one action-filled space.
At Angeline's at Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel, Charlotte, guests are given a variety of seating types and groupings with great views of the bar, the expo kitchen and the park. A private dining room provides an intimate setting for small gatherings.
A dramatic fireplace anchors the host stand at Merchant & Trade at Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel, Charlotte. A curving bar looks out across the city from the top of the hotel, and outdoor rooms offer options for different kinds of gatherings.
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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.