restaurant design

Your restaurant’s renovation: It’s time for design

By Judy Henderson

Last time, we discussed the importance of planning for your restaurant renovation. Hopefully you heeded my warning – failing to plan is planning to fail. So, your work-back schedule is gently optimistic, the bar is perfectly positioned and scaled to the size of the space, and you’ve established a flow for the movement of food and guests. Now comes the fun part. The canvas is now set for design.

Reinforcing your food concept and brand

Start by defining a colour palette for the space. Incorporate your brand colours as best you can. If you’ve gone for fire-engine red in your logo you might want to use it sparingly, but don’t shy away from it either. Add to the palette by reflecting the mood you want to create – do you have a fresh lunch spot (think greens and yellows) or a late night lounge (brass and velvet)? Most importantly, have fun and be bold in your colour choices.

Next, create hierarchy within the space. Think creatively about including a bold feature to anchor the design. For example, consider a centre table with large feature light above. It’s these features that warrant a bigger slice of the budget.  One prominent light fixture for $4,000 combined with nine simpler pieces for $200 each provides more design impact than 10 light fixtures at $600, and it’s less expensive.  Sorry to bring math into this, but it leads me to my point:

Impactful design has prominent features (our single light fixture) combined with other secondary and tertiary elements, and so on. When budgeting for your design, splurge on the dramatic, or even custom, pieces and go with off-the-shelf for others to balance the books. And of course, these kind of choices are exactly why you should hire a designer, if you can. Designers go to great lengths to make sure the design supports the brand and allocate the budget to give you the biggest bang for your buck. We also work from experience – one of my pet peeves as a diner (and a designer) are wobbly tables! Designers know to order self-adjusting table bases – please do the same to save all our sanities!

Consider the size and shape of your restaurant when planning for the furniture. There’s savings to be had by repurposing or refinishing existing pieces, but make sure they are made from solid materials that will last. You’ll also want to carefully plan your accessories, from the paintings on the wall to the music that’s played. Along with these accessories, your dishware, silverware and napkins should continue the theme of your brand – look to your colour palette for inspiration.

Lastly, don’t neglect the entrance area to your new restaurant space. The entrance is just as important as the inside. Use bold graphic signage, lighting and flowers to make an attractive welcoming entrance. After all, it is the first area your customers see.

I could go on for hours about design. I could write an entire post about selecting chairs for a restaurant – how to consider their comfort, esthetic and height in relation to the table, maintenance, mobility, etc. Alas.

To stand out in an already crowded industry, your restaurant must provide not only good food and service, but also a unique dining environment to enhance customer satisfaction. Be bold in your design choices and creative with your budget.

Next time, we’ll talk about construction, and how to bring all your planning and design work to fruition.

About the author:

Judy Henderson is the owner of Inside Design, focusing on modern hospitality design. Based in Vancouver, BC with a list of global clients including; Hilton, Western and Coast Hotels, Inside Design’s experienced team has a reputation for innovative design and precise project management.