Small restaurant layout

You may dream of opening a quaint little restaurant that offers something different from the cookie-cutter interiors and services of the big chains. However, the small square footage of such a restaurant may come with challenges. How can you use your limited space in a way that makes your interior functional, efficient, and easy to navigate? How can you keep such a restaurant airy and fresh, instead of stifling and crowded? Below, you’ll find a few suggestions on how to create well-organized layouts for small restaurants, and benefit rather than suffer from your lack of space.

Cafe counter with stools

1. Embrace the compactness

First, consider what you have and make peace with your space. Small restaurants offer an intimate dining experience, so embracing the coziness can lead to innovative design solutions that maximize space and efficiency. Start by creating a detailed floor plan that takes into account the dimensions of the space and the flow of customers and staff. Use this plan to strategically place furniture, fixtures, and equipment to optimize space utilization. By thinking creatively about your layout and design, you can create a welcoming and efficient space that maximizes the potential of your small restaurant.

Compact restaurant design layout

2. Focus on the flow

Well-designed layouts for small restaurants ensure a smooth flow of customers and staff. Create distinct zones for dining, bar, and waiting areas, considering the natural movement from the entrance to these areas, as well as to the kitchen and restrooms. It’s important to think about the layout from the perspective of both customers and staff. For customers, the flow should be intuitive, with clear signage and convenient access to amenities. For staff, the layout should facilitate efficient service, with well-defined work zones that provide easy reach to the kitchen and dining areas. A well-thought-out circulation path allows customers to move around without congestion and enhances the overall dining experience.

Example of how to create simple layouts for small restaurants.

3. Maximize seating capacity

In a small restaurant, every square foot counts. Optimize your seating layout to accommodate as many diners as possible without compromising comfort. Consider using space-saving furniture such as bar seating, booths, or banquettes along walls, and avoid overcrowding the dining area. Communal tables are a creative seating option that maximizes seating capacity while creating a unique dining experience.

Flexibility is key when designing layouts for small restaurants, so use movable furniture or partitions that can be easily reconfigured to accommodate different group sizes or events. Consider the use of versatile furniture that can serve multiple purposes. For example, a table that can be extended or folded to accommodate different group sizes can be particularly useful in a small space. You can also create flexible seating arrangements that can be easily reconfigured for different types of diners, such as families, couples, or solo diners. By maximizing the flexibility of your seating layout, you can ensure that your small restaurant is able to accommodate a wide range of guests comfortably.

Counter seating in a small restaurant.

4. Go custom-built

Consider using built-in or custom-designed furniture to fit specific areas of your restaurant. For example, banquettes can be custom-built to fit along walls, maximizing seating without taking up extra space. 

Another way to use compactness to your advantage is by creating vertical storage solutions. Install shelves or cabinets that reach up to the ceiling to store supplies, glassware or decor items. Think creatively about your storage needs and choose pieces that not only provide ample storage but also enhance the visual appeal of your restaurant.

Wine displayed on custom-built shelving in small restaurant.

5. Utilize the outdoor space

When creating functional layouts for small restaurants, consider every square foot available. If your small restaurant has outdoor space, extending your seating area outdoors can significantly increase your overall capacity and create a unique dining experience for your guests. Outdoor seating also provides an opportunity to enhance the ambiance of your restaurant with fresh air and natural surroundings, making it a desirable destination for diners.

Using the outdoor space to extend the layouts of small restraurants.

6. Bring in the magic

The greatest advantage of running a small size restaurant is the ability to create a sense of intimacy and exclusivity through the design. Consider using dividers, screens or curtains to create private dining areas within the restaurant, allowing for a more intimate dining experience. Use artwork, decor and branding elements strategically to tell a story and create a memorable and immersive environment for diners.

Lighting can make or break the ambiance of a small restaurant. Use a mix of ambient, task and accent lighting to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Consider pendant lights over tables, wall sconces for ambient lighting, and track lighting to highlight artwork or architectural features.

Small restaurant design

7. Give it character

When your restaurant is small, you have to make it look intentional. Creating an unforgettable space where customers don’t notice the limitations of your square footage is crucial. First, ensure that your restaurant’s brand identity is reflected in every design element. From the color scheme to the choice of furniture and decor, maintain consistency with your brand’s personality. A cohesive brand experience leaves a lasting impression on customers.

Second, every restaurant needs a focal point, a visual anchor that draws customers in. This could be a stunning bar, a chef’s table, or a feature wall showcasing your brand’s story. Use lighting and color to highlight this focal point and create a memorable impression.

Third, small spaces offer a unique opportunity to experiment with patterns and textures. Consider using bold wallpaper, textured fabrics, or statement flooring to add depth and character to your restaurant’s design. Mix and match different elements to create a visually stimulating environment.

Finally, incorporating plants into your restaurant’s design not only adds a touch of nature but also improves air quality and creates a calming atmosphere. Consider hanging plants, potted plants, or even a vertical garden to bring life to your space.

Plants in restaurant design

If you are thinking to open a new business or are in the process of rebranding and remodeling your existing business, contact us to get a free consultation from Mindful Design Consulting. Click HERE to price your project design.

Also, take a look at the “Branding By Interior” e-book, the only book written on this subject at this time. It brings insight into how you can turn your business into a market-dominating competitor by using human cognitive responses.

See our Small Store Design Extravaganza: Commercial Interior Design and Branding 01 book about branding small businesses from logo design to construction, with colorful images, offering insightful explanations every step of the way.

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