Restaurant Design Tips from the Pros

Five expert designers give you insider tips on how to design your restaurant so that its both fabulous and functional

Restaurant design is about aesthetics, comfort and atmosphere, but it also about functionality. There are so many moving parts in a restaurant, that it’s important to consider every restaurant design decision logistically. If a restaurant is beautiful, but it doesn’t function well, it’s going to be inconvenience to both the staff and the patrons. If you’re choosing to take on the task of designing your restaurant or cafe on your own, you want to read this. These experienced designers will tell us exactly what to consider so that your restaurant space will be both fabulous and functional!

on how to plan your restaurant layout 

The best design hack for a restaurant is to maximize covers without it looking too crowded. To do this you have to have a mix of different sized and shaped tables and booths, Having bar stools and counters if the style of casual dining is suited to this. Having clear walkways between table so they are all in rows is key to making it less cluttered and is more efficient for service staff.  Adam Watson | Head Designer, Decorelo

Many restaurant owners that I’ve consulted with want to get in as many seats as possible, but if navigating between tables is difficult for guests and staff, than the design is not a success. Customers will find the environment stressful and be much less likely to return. Paul Miller Owner| Designer, Make Nest Interiors  

on choosing the right furniture 

Even the chair sizes need to be considered as some chairs can be wider than others if it means you cant fit an extra person on a roundtable then it is one less cover. Adam Watson | Head Designer, Decorelo 

Select table tops that look clean and are easy to clean like stainless and light colored stone or quartz. Choose floors that do not show dirt and are easy to clean, like wood look LVT. Leslie Saul | Owner, Leslie Saul and Associates 

Choose durable materials like commercial grade vinyl for seating to make clean up easy.  Distressed materials for table tops, such as reclaimed wood, help disguise the small daily damages typical of a bustling restaurant. Paul Miller Owner| Designer, Make Nest Interiors  

Don’t skimp on the seating. I hate sitting on cold, uncomfortable, plasticky or cracked pleather chairs.. Get good quality, comfortable chairs that match your aesthetic. Erica Reiner | Owner, E. Leigh Designs 

on acoustics in your restaurant 

Acoustics are important and should match the style of restaurant, quieter as more luxurious, but even fast casual can be too noisy. Don’t be afraid of using acoustical ceilings, but use above the pipes and ducts. Leslie Saul | Owner, Leslie Saul and Associates 

One of the objectives we build into our restaurant design concepts is managing noise.  Textured tile as an accent wall or tufted backs on banquettes are ways to use texture to add visual interest, but as importantly to help improve acoustics. Guests naturally pitch their voices louder in noisy environments, creating a vicious cycle to makes the experience less than pleasing for business lunches or romantic date nights. Paul Miller Owner| Designer, Make Nest Interiors

on lighting

Lighting can set or destroy the vibe of your restaurant. Think about what should be lit, accenting art, for remote, is better than general down lighting. Leslie Saul | Owner, Leslie Saul and Associates 

A restaurant with carefully thought decorative lighting fixtures, that are somewhat theatrical, not only highlights the food and drinks on the table but makes people look great and creates a nice ambience. This is an important for restaurateurs looking to create social media hype. Dan Kwan| Executive Director,  Blueplate F&B Lab

Use wall sconces, uplights and even lamps to create ambiance. Always cover cords if needed with cord runner, painted the same color as what they lay on. Erica Reiner | Owner, E. Leigh Designs 

on color

In our designs, we coordinate with the restaurant’s marketing expert to determine a color palette that supports the branding of the business without being too matched to it.  The most fashionable restaurants today are typically painted in a light neutral, with accent color used to draw the eye to specific features like the bar, an entry space, or a series of windows with a good view.  For a more sophisticated design, desaturate the colors. For a whimsical restaurant concept, bring the vividness of the accent color up, but limit how much is used. Color can be intimidating, but keep in mind that the environment should never compete with the beauty of the plated foodPaul Miller Owner| Designer, Make Nest Interiors

Deep tones will begin trending for restaurants within the next few years. We’re also going to see more iterations of neutrals and shades of white.  Usually, With all that’s going on in a restaurant, bright or dark colors are usually not needed and not helping your decor. The more crowded or cluttered the space is the calmer the paint and ceiling design should be with cool neutrals.Erica Reiner | Owner, E. Leigh Designs 


The Contributors

Decorelo UK

Adam Watson has been an interior designer for 15 years and is currently the head of design at Decorleo where they have carried out numerous big restaurant projects. Follow them on Instagram 






Make Nest Interiors

Paul Miller is the owner/designer of Make Nest Interiors

The team at MakeNest bring their style and point of view to our commercial projects to craft public spaces that are functional and appealing. Follow them on Instagram 









Leslie Saul & Associates

Leslie founded Leslie Saul & Associates (LS&A) on December 21, 1992.  For 24 years LS&A has been providing architecture and interior restaurant design services to a variety of clients. Leslie and her team take both an artistic and logical approach to design special spaces.  Her projects have won local, national and international recognition and awards. Follow them on Instagram 







E. Leigh Designs

Erica Reiner founded and ran E. Leigh Designs for the last four years. She specializes in eco friendly restaurant design practices as well as remote design consultation. Reiner expertise is in creating beautiful spaces, using environmentally friendly products on a budget. Follow them on Instagram 







BluePlate Studios 

Dan Kwan is the executive director of Blueplate Studios – a speciality F&B lab that is part of Wilson Associates, an international interior design firm. Drawing from world travels, the team selectively integrates anything from eclectic cultural nuances to mainstream design trends.


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