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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