The National Restaurant Association's Manage My Restaurant has articles in categories such as Marketing and Sales, Workforce Engagement, Food and Nutrition and Operations. Visit Manage My Restaurant here for this and other helpful tips.
A good floor plan not only takes into account seating efficiency but also enhances the customers’ dining experience. Set the stage with a winning floor plan, and you’ll encourage customers to return for a repeat performance.
Whether you’re opening a new operation or redesigning your current space, here are some tips on how to arrange your dining room.
One size doesn’t fit all
- Be true to your concept. “Each concept is unique and has its own needs. There’s no rubber stamp when it comes to floor plans,” says Lee Simon, principal of Innovative Foodservice Design Team in Tampa, Fl. For example, a restaurant that specializes in romantic dinners has different needs than a casual, family-oriented eatery.
- Get a better feel for your mix. Analyze your reservations or POS (point-of-sale) reports to get a sense of the mix of parties you typically attract. This will help you configure your tables for maximum use.
- Be flexible. Moveable tables can help you accommodate parties of different sizes and reduce wait times. For example, place a table-for-two next to a four-top so that they can be easily moved together to seat up to eight.
- Booths maximize space. “With real estate at a premium,” says Frank Stocco, owner of National Restaurant Design in Forest Lake, Minn., “booths give you the best bang for the buck.” Another alternative is to place dividers between freestanding tables that back up to each other, suggests Simon. He recommends dividers that are 4 to 5 feet tall and semitransparent near the top.
- Reduce the schlep. A rule of thumb is to have no table more than 60 feet from the food pickup area. In general, having your servers travel farther than this is an invitation to slow service, cold food and poor online reviews.
- Anchor your tables. Guests prefer to sit with at least one side of their tables “anchored” by walls or other structures. “Patrons like to look out at the dining room, rather than sit at a table feeling as though they’re on display,” says Simon.
- Give guests elbow room. In a national survey by researchers at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, customers overwhelmingly responded that spacing banquette tables as close as 12 inches or less was unsettling. In fact, the research shows that guests generally dislike banquette seating—where tables are placed along a bench attached to the wall—and spend less money per minute there. In another study, at a New York City fine-dining restaurant, the same researchers found that parties at closely spaced tables spent less per minute than those at widely spaced tables. Patrons seemed uncomfortable when freestanding tables were set as close as 17 inches apart and were more comfortable when the distance was closer to a yard apart.
- Create some cozy spots. Consider dividing your restaurant into several small dining areas. “People want to feel like they’re in a place that is busy,” notes Simon. “There’s nothing worse than being a party of two sitting alone in a big dining room.”
- Don’t blow them away. If you are starting from scratch with your restaurant’s build-out, work with your mechanical engineer to make sure that supply air is not being dumped directly over guest tables or waiting areas.
- Maintain visibility. People feel more comfortable when they have some idea of what is happening in the space around them, so don’t make booth backs too high to be seen over from a sitting position. A good maximum height for most booth backs is about 52 inches.
RestaurantOwner.com contributed information for this piece. Receive free business plans, restaurant server training manual, and restaurant “Profit Tip” of the week at www.RestaurantOwner.com.