Seven ways to modernize your restaurant’s interior design and decor

By Diane Chiasson

Look around at all the new restaurant and foodservice operations opening lately, and you will see a distinct trend in the interior design – modern, streamlined, white-on-white looks combined with rustic themes, a mixture of the past and contemporary.

Today, the goal of restaurant owners is to create a space that is comfortable and welcoming, sophisticated but not snobby. Restaurants are now lighter and brighter with lots of big windows and glass, and use more neutral colours. We’re seeing a lot more use of reclaimed wood and natural stone elements, and a lot more texture to the walls and floors.

It is possible to incorporate some of these new trends into your existing operation with the addition of a few small items, rather than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new design. Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm based in Toronto with a background in interior design, offers these tips to upgrading the interior design of your operation without completely redesigning your place:

1. Design for the customers not for yourself

One of the biggest mistakes that restaurant owners and operators make when designing their restaurants is that they tend to design according to their own tastes. Consider your target market and main client base, and design your restaurant for them. The operation is not your personal home, so take a good look around your operation and remove all the items that may mean something to you, but do nothing to enhance your customers’ experience.

2. Find a historical element

One of the big trends today is to decorate with antique and vintage pieces from the past, so check out your local flea markets or garage sales to find inexpensive pieces that could add some historical elements to your restaurant. Make sure that the piece has some relevance to the type of cuisine you serve or the style of your operation. For example, don’t buy an antique pasta maker if you serve Chinese food!

3. Change your light fixtures

Many of today’s new restaurants feature dramatic light fixtures that are meant to be the centre of attention. Many modern light fixtures are like pieces of sculptural art, and can add a lot of extra personality and attention to your restaurant. Consider replacing the light fixture in the centre of your room with a piece that is more interesting and exciting, and takes attention away from other parts of your restaurant that are aged.

4. Add a new rim to your carpets

Instead of replacing the carpet in your restaurant, consider removing the outer perimeter of the carpet (about one foot deep) and replacing it with wood, tiles or a mosaic. The outer perimeter of carpets tends to fray more quickly, so this method will help your existing carpets last for a few more years. Make sure you give your existing carpets a good shampoo as well!

5. Show off your chef

More and more, diners like to see who is preparing their meals. If possible, remove a portion of your kitchen wall so that your customers can get a sneak peek inside your kitchen. This will also motivate your kitchen staff to work in a more professional manner and keep a cleaner kitchen, as it is on display for all to see, and boost morale of the kitchen staff when they get a view of diners enjoying their dishes.

6. Bring in some greenery

You would be amazed at what a huge difference the addition of authentic looking fake plants, flowers and shrubbery will make. The added touch of greenery will help liven up your restaurant operation and give it an eco-feel. Use lines of potted plants to create “walls”, and add large bouquets of twigs, stems, bamboo etc. in large glass vases to create focal points.

7. Paint and clean

Last but not least, a fresh coat of paint and a thorough cleaning of your operation will probably create the most effect and cost you the least amount of money!

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Toronto. Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655, or visit