We've all experienced a restaurant with a bad layout: finding the restroom is a struggle, customers and servers must lean out of the way to let others pass, and chairs are so close they might as well be bumper cars.
As a restaurateur, creating the perfect restaurant floor plan is one of your first opportunities to ensure that your operation is enjoyable to both guests and employees.
In this guide, we'll show you just what perfect restaurant floor plans look like and how you can create your own.
What Is a Restaurant Floor Plan?
A restaurant floor plan is essentially a map of your restaurant's interior. This includes the dining room, table layouts, restrooms, kitchen, staff areas, and all of the entrances and exits. If your restaurant has an outdoor space, it's part of the floor plan too.
Think of restaurant floor planning as a sort of choreography, or air traffic control, crucial to orchestrate all the hustle and bustle of customers coming and going while staff deliver and clear endless plates, bowls, silverware, and glassware.
Do guests have a clear path to the restroom? Is that separate from the route servers must take from the kitchen? Does kitchen noise overwhelm nearby tables?
Getting your restaurant's floor plan right the first time means you must consider your available space, your desired capacity, and the type of restaurant experience you want customers to enjoy. The ultimate goal should be to provide a clean, comfortable environment for your customers and a functional place for employees to work.
More importantly, floor plans are required by most local health and building departments before opening a new restaurant or an existing one expanded. As long as you're providing the correct agencies with a drawing of the space, use the chance to finetune how the physical layout can help execute your intended menu and tone as well as meet all the legal regulations.
Restaurant Floor Plan Basics
Before we get into the core elements that should be included in your floor plan, let's look at the factors that will fuel your layout decisions:
Customers and Brand
Who is your target customer? And who do you envision frequenting your restaurant? Is your establishment a quick stop after work? If so, you'll want to prioritize a clear path to the counter and ample room to wait for the order. Or is it a place to linger over weekend brunch? Make the seats comfortable. Unsure of who your target customer is? Check out this guide on restaurant market research tactics.
Is your concept located in a busy urban setting with high turnover? Make sure your mix of tables allows small parties and solo diners. Are you a date night spot? Consider the placement of light fixtures on tables for an optimal atmosphere. Set your goals and let them guide decisions that affect aesthetics and ambiance such as décor, lighting, and table set-up.
Building Codes and Regulations
The laws affecting your restaurant business can change at any time — note regulations on predictive scheduling in some locations. That's why you will need to familiarize yourself with federal and local building codes and health department regulations for food service operations.
In most places, you will need to submit your floor plan for approval so that appropriate departments can sign off on operational elements such as maximum occupancy, fire hazards, ventilation, food surface types, sink placement, ventilation, restroom regulations, and more.
Building codes and regulations by state
Need building codes and regulations for your specific state? Buildings Guide developed a comprehensive guide to American State building codes for every state.
In 1992, the Department of Justice passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that employees and customers with disabilities have the same access to basic services as other people. ADA regulations can affect everything from doors, general layout, countertop and table height, and parking.
When you are designing a restaurant, the space is going to be a big part of your business. If your restaurant floor plan design doesn't have enough capacity, it could mean lost sales.
That being said, there are some variables that should be carefully considered when determining what your capacity limit will be. For example, how much will weather affect your capacity? How many waitstaff do you need on hand to accommodate that kind of crowd? Answering these questions and others like them will help you determine just how many people your restaurant can hold at any one time.
Establish a budget for what you can pay to design a proper floor plan — and don't skimp on this step. Floor plans can affect everything from operational efficiency to whether customers return to eat at your restaurant.
When laying out your dining room, you'll also need to crunch some numbers to calculate how many Sales per Square Foot or Restaurant Revenue per Seat is ideal to make sure you have enough tables to turn a profit. (Read a rundown of key performance metrics here.)
Flow and Efficiency
Central to a good restaurant floor plan is how it directs flow and foot traffic. Make sure you consider all possible routes: where deliveries come in and how they are taken to storage, how chefs move from storage to food prep, how servers pick up orders and bring them to tables, how servers access POS systems, etc. Keep an eye out for any areas where bottlenecking or crowding could occur.
Recommended Reading: 7 Restaurant Management Tools for Maximum Productivity
If the pandemic has taught us anything about floor plans, it's that you need to build in some flexibility. Every restaurant was forced to reimagine its layouts to accommodate increased takeout orders, the distance between tables, and more. Consider creating some more space in-between tables and providing more space for staff to take breaks. You also rework exits and entrances to cut down on physical contact. Use a floor plan to identify other locations where too much contact may occur, and make adjustments accordingly.
Design and Aesthetics
The vibe and feel you're going for in your restaurant are important to recognize as you build the floor plan. If you want an open kitchen to showcase your top chef talent, that will have to account for that in your floor plan. If you're a date spot with a lot of two-tops, or you have a communal vibe with big tables, that should be reflected in your floor plan, too. The same goes for things like a stage for live music. It can be hard to change the restaurant's floor plan after it's set, so make sure it reflects the feel and features you want your restaurant to have.
Restaurant Layout Examples, Components, and Templates
Next, let's review the essential components to tackle while working on your restaurant layout:
You want to start by outlining the kitchen space, which many in the industry think should occupy about 40% of your total square footage. The layout should optimize quality, speed of service, and safety. You will ll also need to make sure storage spaces are set up in a way that prevents cross-contamination of food.
Typically, kitchens are organized in one of three layouts: assembly line, island, and zone. The most popular is the assembly line model in which food moves through a series of parallel stations from prep, cooking, and plating to server pick-up.
Meanwhile, island-style kitchens allow for more movement and supervision between stations and are better suited for large operations. When kitchens have limited space, the zone model is used to allow access to multiple stations.
An example of a restaurant kitchen floor plan from CADPro
There's an industry rule of thumb that says your dining room should take up about 60% of your total square footage. Next, consider your local building code's maximum capacity for the space and compare that to the target number of tables you'll need to meet your bottom line.
In designing the dining room layout, consider how customer and server traffic will flow, particularly at peak times. Consider the sightlines for all the seats in the house. Will your customers have to leave their seats to find their server? Also, consider how flexible the layout is (and how nearby tables are affected) if and when you must accommodate a large party.
When placing tables, refer to this handy chart of suggested area per diner that ranges from 12 to 20 square feet depending on whether your operation is fine dining, full service, or bistro service. There is also a helpful guide about how much space should be between chairs that are occupied, diagonal or parallel.
Plan to devote some time to figure out what kind of table size and configuration best serves your target clientele.
Over the past year, many restaurants have turned their eyes to the patio more than ever before. While designing your restaurant floor plan, it's important to look outside your four walls and set up your outdoor seating for success. Give it the same attention you would to the interior, and pay attention to the flow of traffic, the position of and distance between tables, as well as paths to restrooms and accessibility. Your outdoor experience is an extension of your restaurant. Make sure it reflects the same care and attention.
An example of a floor plan with outdoor seating from CADPro
Entrance and Waiting Area
While your kitchen takes up 40% of your square footage, any additional space — waiting, bar, coat rack, restrooms, etc. — should be taken out of the 60% allocated to dining. Your restaurant's entrance and waiting area is the first impression you will make with guests.
Ask yourself: When customers dip in to take a look at the menu, will they stay and dine? If your operation requires a waiting area, consider ample bench seating by the front door or simply direct customers to the bar while they wait for a table.
A full-service bar that is centrally located can function as a visual focal point, an overflow for those waiting to order sit-down service, and a place where servers pick up drink orders. Make sure to accommodate room for those standing waiting to order as well as for those socializing nearby. Experts point out that lines — whether at the bar, outside the restroom, or by a buffet — are the tell-tale signs of bad design.
Recommended Reading: Opening and Owning a Bar: Everything You Need to Know
The trick with including an ideal space for restrooms is that access should be straightforward and intuitive but the space should feel separate from the space where customers are dining. Some will opt to place the restrooms by the kitchen to make sure of existing water and plumbing lines. Others include a staff-only bathroom that is separate from the one for guests.
Accessibility will come into play here so make sure you adhere to ADA regulations. Also, make sure to familiarize yourself with any local and county regulations that dictate how many specific locations and gender designations are required in your restaurant's restrooms. In some cases, small operations (i.e. those will less than two dozen seats) may not be required to have a restroom for customers.
In addition to the five key areas — kitchen, dining, entrance, bar, and restrooms — your restaurant floor plan should include other features such as walls and hallways, closets and storage space, windows and doors, set fixtures, and appliances.
Staff Areas + Backoffice
Staff areas such as locker or break rooms, as well as your back office, deserve a spot on the floor plan, too. It's important to see where they are in relation to the rest of your restaurant, to make sure they aren't accidentally accessed by guests, or too close to where diners will be eating. Ideally, these areas should be clearly marked as well as accessible.
Payment Station and POS System
Your POS and payment station is the brain of your entire restaurant. Make sure it's easily accessible from all parts of the floor. If you can, try placing it in a place as central as possible—equidistant from all areas of your restaurant. You don't want servers to have to walk long distances to input orders or process payments. By keeping it as central as possible, you can keep the flow of traffic to a minimum and make your team's lives easier.
Adding a takeout area to your restaurant floor plans lets you save space and money. You've got to be able to deliver on everything, from the moment that a customer walks in the door until the last time they see your establishment.
If a restaurant has multiple floors, you can use the lower level to house a takeout area and storage room that saves space by not having to provide seating for customers who want to pick up their food on the way home. Customers with large orders can also be handled in the takeout area because it's easier to cut large orders down into smaller ones when they're not consuming the table space that customers with smaller appetites would use.
The takeout area can also serve as an additional way of providing service that doesn't require an employee to leave their post in the dining room, where tips are often larger for servers and bartenders.
Emergency exits should be located near the entrance of your restaurant and at each employee entrance. The exit should also be placed near a fire alarm system so that it will alert workers of an emergency.
Also consider how many employees use this exit each day and what types of situations might arise? For example, if there are only two entrances in your restaurant and one employee uses them every day, then you may want to consider making this exit accessible only during busy periods when there are more customers coming through the door at once.
You may also want to add a second set of stairs at either end of your restaurant as well as at least one other staircase near the middle of your restaurant if you have several floors above ground level.
Complete Full-Service Floor Plan Example
An example of full-service floor plan from Raymond Hadelman Designs
How to Create a Restaurant Floor Plan
If your restaurant will be located in an existing building with its own unique set of complications, make sure to hire an architect who can address the total picture over an interior designer who will only focus on your specific space.
To find the right professional for the job, ask fellow restaurateurs in the area for references but don't stop there. Make sure you ask them about their experience using the designer or architect, how they approached challenges in the process, how long the process took, and whether they would use them again.
Once you have a couple of positive references, take the time to visit the actual restaurants to walk through their layouts. Next interview the potential architects and designers, and don't forget to ask to see a portfolio of work.
Consider the Space's Current Blueprint
This will help you understand the layout of your restaurant. For example, if you have a large dining room with a bar in front of it and then a kitchen in the rear, then this will be a great layout for your restaurant. Similarly, if there are large windows in the restaurant, make sure they don't clash with any furniture or decorations that you may have installed on your walls or around your tables.
The space's current blueprint also allows you to see what type of decorating ideas and styles would work best for your business. By knowing these things before starting on any design projects, it will make it easier for you to create a professional-looking restaurant floor plan that people want to visit.
Restaurant Design Software
Or maybe you're the hands-on type and feeling ambitious? Some restaurateurs feel confident using restaurant floor planning software To create a restaurant floor plan themselves. Some examples of software are:
With restaurant design software you can choose from existing designs or start your floor plan from scratch after viewing gallery layouts for inspiration.
In most applications, you enter your structure's dimensions and then drag and drop features such as tables, half walls, and fixtures. Going DIY with floor-planning software will give you the freedom to continually tweak and modify the floor plan throughout the process.
Map Workflows for Efficiency
While the purpose of a floor plan is to give the customer an idea of what the restaurant looks like, one must also consider how this will affect other aspects of the business. For example, if you want your restaurant to make more money, then you need to make sure that your floors are laid out in an efficient manner.
Creating an efficient floor plan can be difficult because it requires not only knowing how much space each area should take up but also knowing how those areas relate to each other. This can be done using a process called workflow mapping which uses a series of steps to help you create the best possible flow for your restaurant floor plan.
While there are many different ways of creating workflows, one popular method is called "flowcharts." These charts show where every single thing in a building goes and how they relate to each other so that they can be easily managed and moved around when necessary.
Best Practices for Creating Restaurant Floor Plans
Evaluate Key Areas for Functionality
In addition to basing your floor plan on a 40/60 split between kitchen and dining, industry experts also suggest taking the time to view the floor plan through the eyes (and tasks) of everyone in your restaurant. Ask yourself:
- What is the approach to the kitchen like for the delivery driver?
- Will your chef be able to see servers approaching for pickup?
- Will servers have an easy view of all their tables and customers?
- Do bussers have ample routes and room to service tables?
Before your grand opening, take the time to sit in each seat to identify floor plan challenges such as gusts from open doors, bathroom sounds and odors, and lack of elbow room and cramped seating. Also consider the perspective of the host or hostess, who must find the table floor plan easy to navigate to seat guests and accommodate a range of party sizes.
Most operations now use a digital floor plan tied to the operation's Point of Sale system. Despite the time you spent creating the best floor plan, issues will arise as customers and staff use the space so make sure you have a plan to make appropriate changes.
And finally, while it is essential to get your restaurant's floor plan right from the get-go, even the best layout will only get your business so far. You must also hire the right staff, offer adequate training, and schedule crews appropriately to unleash your expertly crafted floor plan's maximum potential.
Back of House
One such key spot is the back of house (BOH). This is the area where all of your kitchen equipment, cooking areas, and storage are located. It's also where you'll find the prep area and storage for dishes and serving ware. Thus, this section of the floor plan will contain all of your equipment such as sinks, equipment racks, refrigerators, prep tables, and other items that are needed to make food.
When designing your BOH floor plan, you need to consider how your employees will use the space as well as any special equipment or features that may need to be included in the building design. For example, if you have a walk-in cooler or other equipment that needs to be placed in a specific area, it is important to keep this in mind when designing your kitchen layout.
The layout of your BOH should also take into account how much space you have available for each task. For example, if you only have enough room for one person to work on an inventory job while another person works on making sandwiches at the same time, then using those two spaces separately would make sense. However, if there are three people working on inventory at once, then using one large space would be more efficient because everyone can work together without bumping into each other.
Front of House
There are many ways to create your front of house in restaurant floor plans.
The first is the most obvious; you can create a sectional layout, which means that the kitchen is placed at one end of the bar and the dining room is placed at the other end. This gives you plenty of space for both spaces, as well as allows you to keep your kitchen and dining room separate by using different materials in each area.
Another option is to use a sectional layout, but instead of having two separate spaces, you have a single large space with dividers between them. This can be great for smaller restaurants that don't want two separate spaces or for larger restaurants with limited space, but still want separation between their kitchen and dining room.
Another possibility is to use one large space with multiple sections or rooms in it. You could create a large area with multiple entrances from different parts of your restaurant, or even create an open-concept design where everything flows into one large area from all sides.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should you create your restaurant floor plan?
Ideally, you should create the floor plan as you're building out and opening your restaurant. This also goes for any sort of construction or remodel. You can also change up your floor plan while your restaurant is open as an adjustment to the realities of running your business.
Which layout is best for your restaurant?
The main reason why so many people choose a certain layout for their restaurants is because they want to attract more customers. However, it's important that you know what kind of food your restaurant serves before you decide on a particular layout. For example, if you're planning on opening a bar that specializes in brewing original beers, then it's best to have an open floor plan so that customers can see all the inner-workings of a brewery.
How do you make the final decision on a restaurant floor plan?
Once your floor plan has all of your needs met, you can set it up. As you're laying out the physical aspects, some things may change — make sure this is reflected in your floor plan. Nothing in the restaurant industry is ever truly final, but you can get pretty close.
Why do restaurants need a floor plan?
Floor plans are a map of the restaurant you want. Restaurants should use a floor plan to make sure everything is arranged in a manner that reflects productivity, comfort, safety, and the overall experience you want your team and guests to have.
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