Feng shui may have only hit the shores of the United States in the 1970s. But the conflict between a purely profitable or a pleasing restaurant floor plan has been around much longer than that. In the name of profits, too often restaurants have crowded tables into the dining room or left little room for the staff to work. Too often restaurants have built inefficient kitchens that slow down service. Restaurant floor plans help to correct these impulses and should guide restaurant owners in balancing the two different pulls in optimizing space in a restaurant.

Floor plans lay out where everything goes in a restaurant in as much detail as possible. At their best, floor plan outline an efficient and elegant use of space. Although each restaurant has a unique set of physical characteristics, thoughtful floor plans help to organize efficient seating and use of space, provide easy access to key equipment, accommodate traffic-flow pathways for servers and guests and facilitate deliveries of supplies.

Your restaurant’s floor plan can simplify operations or place extra burdens on the staff and customers. No single approach works for all restaurants, but the general principles of creating a floor plan help restaurant designers organize space in the most efficient way possible.

Designing a proper floor plan begins with an appreciation of space because the plan affects the profitability of the restaurant. If traffic is congested, service and table turnovers are slowed. Customers will feel cramped and uncomfortable, so they might not return.

Floor plans are important for both the layout of the seating area and work areas like the kitchen. Although you may be tempted to put as many seats in your restaurant as possible to maximize sales, comfort and seating configuration can be equally if not more important. You might include optional seating and make adjustments for busier periods, but you also have to be careful that the added seats don’t affect your level of service and efficiency. It is a balancing act that should be approached systematically.

Online Software Applications Offer Design and Drawing Resources

Owners and managers can create professional designs by using floor plan templates, and management can use these blueprints when applying for construction permits, health department approvals and insurance coverage. Accurate plans help you make detailed financial projections and impress potential lenders and investors, so include a detailed floor plan in your business plan.

Restaurant layout influences service speed, food quality and sanitation. Designs try to minimize the distance between the supplies and the staff members who will use them.

Each piece of equipment has specific requirements. Movable equipment needs cleaning, so put heavy equipment on casters to enable easy cleaning and quick access. Leave enough room to transport the equipment to and from storage areas. Machinery needs breathing space to operate efficiently, so ice machines, Vulcan ovens and flat-top grills need space between their backs and the walls for cleaning access and airflow.

Your preparation starts with a tape measure and getting accurate dimensions. Measure interior space accurately, and obtain the specifications for all furnishings and equipment so that floor plans include features at the proper scale. Seating arrangements require various sizes of tables, booths and chairs to accommodate different-sized parties of diners. Restaurants typically need to rearrange tables to get the most efficient seating configurations.

Start with a general sketch, and remember to include doors, windows, plumbing and fire exits. Floor plans are needed for kitchens, dining areas, takeout counters, waiting areas, bars, server stations and restrooms. Designs should leave enough space around tables for customers to sit comfortably while allowing clearance for servers and guests to get to each table.

Style of Cuisine

Regardless of restaurant type, floor plans help to eliminate crossing paths among servers and guests. For example, cafeterias work in one-way directions, channeling guests through the serving lines to the tables and cash registers. Circular traffic flows in one direction to eliminate head-on collisions and facilitate smooth movement of supplies, food and guests, working on the same principle as traffic circles.

The faster the service, the greater the need for efficient design will be. Fast food restaurant kitchens need to supply food quickly to serving staff, so the floor plan should organize easy-access paths between the kitchen and dining room for the service staff. Restaurants that sell lots of takeout food need drive-through windows or dedicated parking spaces close to the entrances to encourage sales. Open kitchens require the highest levels of sanitation and safe food-handling practices, so the floor plan needs should take into account what restaurant processes guests can see and those that shouldn’t be viewed.

If your restaurant offers tableside cooking, you’ll need to store supplies nearby and leave clear paths that carts can negotiate. Paths to fire exits must be kept clear at all times for safety and to satisfy fire and insurance regulations. Remember that some busy restaurants often generate lines at cash registers, seating areas and restrooms, especially during lunch service when guests have limited time to eat.

Tips for Planning

Each aspect of planning helps to encourage faster service and guest turnover, which proves crucial to profitable operations. Tips that help restaurant designers focus on speed, service and sanitation include the following pointers:

  1. Place beverage stations and supply cabinets close to dining rooms so that servers can reach them easily.
  2. Mobile equipment needs clear pathways from storage areas to where it is used.
  3. Restaurants receive lots of deliveries, so design floor plans that make it easy to receive big orders.
  4. Diner-style eateries encourage friendly interaction by removing barriers between guests and staff.
  5. Formal dining rooms keep back-of-the-house operations hidden from guests.
  6. Cafés and coffee shops need comfortable gathering places with appealing décor.
  7. Maintain visibility around tables for guest interaction.
  8. Consider how your guests will react to downdrafts from ceiling fans and blasts of air from HVAC ducts.

Restaurant floor plans help to organize seating, reception areas and takeout service. Creating accurate floor plans and using space for maximum efficiency provide the best ambience for all types of restaurants. Stay true to both your concept and brand while offering elbow room for both customers and staff. Whether you’re starting a restaurant or remodeling, an accurate floor plan can maximize efficiency and increase your chances of creating a successful restaurant operation.