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Crafting an Efficient Restaurant Floor Plan

Crafting an Efficient Restaurant Floor Plan

A restaurant floor plan does not just lay down the foundation of your restaurant’s physical space but also defines the effective management of your business. This is because the restaurant floor plan is the very architectural layout that includes every aspect of your establishment, covering the dining area, kitchen facilities, storage zones, restroom facilities, and entry points. In other words, it serves as a strategic tool to harmonize operational workflows and convey your establishment’s unique identity to customers. Aligned with your restaurant’s specific concept, the layout may vary, yet adhering to the industry norm, a 40/60 proportion between the kitchen and dining area stands as the benchmark. 

When creating your restaurant’s floor plan, it’s crucial to keep in mind that the arrangement should allow for the smooth movement of various components within your establishment. Your ideal restaurant layout should feature the following aspects: 

  1. Movement of individuals: This includes your employees, guests, and suppliers.
  2. Movement of goods: This pertains to the delivery and sale of food and beverages.
  3. Movement of essential services and information: This covers electricity, water, air circulation, order details, and payment information.

Here’s how to design a restaurant floor plan in seven steps: 

Step 1: Assessing Your Requirements 

Every restaurant necessitates several operational spaces, each varying in size based on your restaurant’s style and whether guests dine in or opt for takeout. 

The fundamental operational sections within the restaurant floor plan include: 

– Entrance and Reception Area 

The entrance serves as a visual representation of your restaurant, effectively conveying its concept and enticing potential customers to step in. Once indoors, the configuration of the reception and waiting areas depends on the type of establishment you have. This aspect demands careful consideration for fine and casual dining, particularly when wait times are a factor. Conversely, it can be more streamlined for quick service and café setups, particularly if there’s a counter-service bar. It’s important to note that the entry points of all dining establishments should align with the accessibility guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

– Dining Areas 

In most cases, restaurant dining areas require around 60% of the total space to ensure proper seating arrangements and smooth customer movement. However, this requirement may vary for delivery-focused eateries or fast-service establishments. Additionally, if you utilize a point-of-sale (POS) system, it’s important to plan the strategic placement of terminals within the dining area. For more information, you can refer to our comprehensive guide on restaurant POS systems, along with specific guides for different types of establishments like cafes and quick-service restaurants. 

– Kitchen 

In the majority of restaurant floor plans, the kitchen occupies approximately 40% of the available space. While this might initially appear substantial for an area that customers rarely glimpse, it holds a pivotal role within your business. Kitchens require essential infrastructure like gas lines, water lines, electrical wiring, floor drains, and ventilation hoods to operate effectively. 

– Restroom Placement 

Consider situating the restrooms in proximity to the kitchen area, as this could result in cost savings by connecting to nearby plumbing and water lines. Depending on the dimensions of your space, it is advisable to include a restroom designated for staff use. Remember that ensuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is also essential for restroom design. 

– Delivery Entrances and Loading Docks: 

In many cases, the receipt of supplies doesn’t occur through the same entrances utilized by customers. For larger commercial establishments, dedicated loading docks or rear entrances are often designated for vendor deliveries. If your building lacks such a facility, considering the addition of a specific delivery entrance for your restaurant is a prudent step. This helps prevent the inconvenience of customers navigating around crates and other items to reach their tables. 

– Staff Areas and Back Office: 

The operational aspects of most restaurants necessitate a designated back office. This space serves the purpose of securely housing sensitive business materials, including personnel records, tax documentation, computer equipment, and cash reserves. Some municipalities also mandate the provision of break areas for staff members. When feasible, incorporating a staff locker room proves valuable. This feature enables your team to transition from casual attire to work uniforms and securely store their personal items while on duty. 

Suggestion: 

It’s recommended to allocate a designated space for your team to change attire and don uniforms. This practice serves as an effective measure to avert the introduction of foodborne illnesses and external allergens into your restaurant from the outset. 

In addition, there are optional sections that you may want to incorporate based on the nature of your restaurant concept. These comprise: 

– Bar and Service Counters: 

A bar area is crucial for restaurants that emphasize cocktails, coffee, or beverages. If you have seating at the bar, it’s important to ensure part of it adheres to ADA accessibility standards. Delis, sushi establishments, and other quick-service restaurants also necessitate counters or bar spaces. The placement of your bar or service counter is typically determined by factors like the availability of floor drains, electrical lines, and water connections. 

– Takeout and Delivery Zones: 

For restaurants with substantial takeout and delivery operations, it’s advisable to designate space for managing completed orders and facilitating efficient pickups. Full-service restaurants accommodating both dine-in guests and delivery orders should establish a clear separation between these two guest categories to maintain smooth operations. 

– Outdoor Areas: 

Outdoor spaces should not be overlooked. While some restaurants may only have an outdoor area at the entrance, those in temperate climates often seek to expand dining capacity through outdoor patios or sidewalk seating. 

Compile a comprehensive list of the functional areas your restaurant requires. Evaluate the number of individuals who will need to work or dine in each section simultaneously, as well as the duration of their occupancy. Allocate more space in your floor plan to sections where larger groups will gather for extended periods. Naturally, in full-service restaurants where customers typically spend around two hours per meal, dining rooms will need to be more spacious compared to establishments focused on quick takeout like burger joints. 

Suggestion: 

In line with prevailing practices, it is customary for 60% of the restaurant’s physical space to be dedicated to the dining area, with the remaining 40% designated for the kitchen. However, for establishments offering counter service, this distribution is reversed 60% is allotted to the kitchen, and 40% to the dining section. This arrangement is particularly applicable to restaurants that feature drive-thru services. 

Step 2: Assess Your Available Space 

Before finalizing a specific restaurant layout, it’s essential to identify the placement of electrical and water lines, load-bearing walls, and suitable locations for floor drains. Obtain the blueprints of your restaurant premises or consult a contractor to determine optimal spots for kitchen equipment, restrooms, and bar facilities. Additionally, reach out to your landlord and local zoning board to understand any constraints that might influence your decisions. 

Prior to creating your restaurant layout sketches, these key aspects need to be taken into account: 

– Utility Locations: 

The presence of gas lines, electricity connections, ethernet cables, phone lines, and water lines will significantly impact the arrangement of your restaurant area. 

– Fixed Interior Elements: 

Certain walls or columns within your restaurant space might be immovable. It’s crucial to identify elements that can and cannot be altered before outlining your plans. 

– Landlord Specifications 

Commercial buildings often have regulations concerning delivery areas and the positioning of entrances and exits. 

– Zoning Regulations 

Zoning rules primarily concern outdoor signage and concepts aiming to introduce drive-thru service. Local ordinances might restrict drive-thrus or necessitate special permits for sidewalk seating, patios, and kitchen ventilation. 

Suggestion: 

Adapting an existing restaurant to your requirements is usually more cost-effective than starting from scratch with a new commercial space. Hire a commercial real estate professional with restaurant expertise to help locate an ideal restaurant site for renovation. They can also offer insights into potential loans and financing opportunities. 

Step 3: Developing Your Kitchen Layout 

When it comes to your restaurant, the kitchen carries the most significant technical requirements. This is why starting with the kitchen is essential. Many restaurants allocate 40% to 60% of their total space to the kitchen, ensuring ample room for food preparation, cooking, and server pickup areas. If your restaurant involves catering, drive-thru services, or large-scale production, your kitchen’s size will naturally increase. However, there are more factors to consider besides food alone. 

A restaurant’s kitchen must facilitate a smooth flow for several elements: 

* Food: Unprocessed ingredients must seamlessly enter the kitchen, while prepared dishes should efficiently exit. 

* Staff: The cooking and cleaning teams require an effective workspace, and the service staff needs a well-organized pickup area. 

* Information: Cooks must swiftly process incoming orders and monitor those leaving the kitchen. 

* Waste: Cooking byproducts like fumes, steam, and smoke need proper ventilation, and measures for disposing of wastewater and cooking grease are necessary. 

To maintain safety and hygiene, a restaurant kitchen necessitates: 

– Gas Lines 

Most restaurant kitchens operate using gas stoves. While induction cooking is growing in popularity, gas lines are still vital to power cooking equipment. 

– Electrical Lines: Reliable electricity is essential for cooking appliances, ventilation systems, refrigeration, freezers, and POS equipment such as printers and kitchen display screens. 

– Water Lines: Dishwashers, sinks, specialty beverage equipment, and fire suppression systems require water and drain lines. 

– Floor Drains: Properly draining freezers, ice machines, refrigerators, and sinks is typically mandated by building codes. Floor drains help prevent contamination and maintain sanitation. 

– Grease Trap: A pivotal component for commercial kitchens, grease traps prevent cooking fats from entering public sewer systems. Many jurisdictions mandate their use in restaurants. 

After identifying the optimal location to accommodate your kitchen equipment, it’s time to consider the kitchen’s internal layout. Three primary commercial kitchen designs are commonly employed: Assembly Line, Island, and Zone. 

– Assembly Line Kitchen Layout: This layout divides food production into distinct zones, including preparation, cooking, and plating/pick-up. Staff members remain within designated workspaces, minimizing movement between stations. Assembly line layouts suit high-volume full-service, pizza, and institutional kitchens. 

– Island Kitchen Layout: Characterized by a circular arrangement, the island kitchen layout enables better cook movement and supervision across stations. Cooking equipment is centralized, while storage, food prep, and washing stations surround the perimeter. This format is excellent for chef-owned restaurants, offering a clear view of all kitchen stations and accommodating flexible staffing. 

– Zone Kitchen Layout: A zone layout segments the kitchen into equally sized squares for each task, from food storage to cooking. Clearly defined zones facilitate staff movement and provide easy access to prep and cooking areas for front-of-house staff. It’s ideal for compact spaces and food service setups like coffee shops, where staff handle both food preparation and order processing. 

– Ghost Kitchens & Cloud Kitchens: 

Ghost kitchens, also known as cloud kitchens, are delivery-focused restaurants that rely on third-party online ordering platforms. Unlike traditional restaurants, they don’t require amenities like dining areas or public restrooms. They operate similarly to stationary food trucks. Incorporating a drive-thru window, if feasible, is a smart addition for ghost kitchens reliant on delivery services. Any of the three kitchen layouts mentioned earlier can work for ghost kitchens, depending on business volume. 

Regardless of the chosen kitchen layout, it’s prudent to test the plan before installing permanent equipment. By having staff walk through workflows, you can identify potential traffic issues or space constraints and make necessary adjustments before finalizing the setup. 

Suggestion: 

Consider designating specific entrance and exit points within your kitchen area. This helps establish clear traffic pathways and minimizes the risk of accidents. In cases where incorporating two distinct doorways is not feasible, opting for a double door equipped with conspicuous “in” and “out” markings on both sides can serve the same purpose effectively. This arrangement contributes to a safer and more organized kitchen environment. 

 Step 4: Crafting Your Restaurant’s Dining Room Layout 

The dining section of your restaurant commonly occupies approximately 60% of the total available space. The arrangement within this area hinges on the nature of your restaurant. To initiate this process, it’s prudent to consult your local building permit office to ascertain occupancy directives for your premises. Simultaneously, a thorough review of ADA guidelines concerning accessibility is recommended. Being well-versed in these details from the outset guarantees that your dining area layout and floor plan align harmoniously with relevant regulatory standards. 

Suggestion: 

Many restaurants’ Point of Sale (POS) systems and reservation platforms offer user-friendly tools for customizing table layouts. These tools also function as simple restaurant floor plan creators. If you’re utilizing a POS or reservation system, you can explore the integrated floor plan features to assist you in discovering the optimal arrangement for your tables.

– Examples of Restaurant Dining Room Layouts: 

  1. Full-Service Bar and Restaurant Arrangement

A well-designed bar and restaurant necessitate the presence of two distinct seating zones, typically separated by a visible partition that clearly demarcates the bar area. These informal spaces can efficiently incorporate booth-style seating and standalone tables to expand seating capacity and provide customers with various choices. In this layout, the kitchen is fully enclosed, creating a smart solution, especially if the kitchen experiences high activity, and heat, or relies extensively on fryers. 

  1. Layout for Quick Service Restaurants

Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) require immediate access to the kitchen, as many QSR staff members are responsible for both food preparation and attending to customers. This layout also offers the advantage of clear visibility for the team across the entire dining area, enabling them to efficiently manage cleaning tasks, and a clear view of the main entrance to warmly welcome customers. This design suits cafeteria-style setups, burger eateries, barbecue joints, and customizable meal concepts (like burritos, salads, combos, etc.). 

  1. The Open Kitchen Concept

In the open kitchen floor plan, the boundaries of the kitchen extend into the dining space, allowing guests to observe the chefs at work while allowing the chefs to engage with the customers. This arrangement is especially favored by pizzerias and restaurants that focus on delivery, as it showcases captivating culinary skills such as tossing dough while also allocating adequate room for forming queues. Open kitchens are particularly well-received in establishments featuring celebrity chefs or offering a high-end dining experience, where guests anticipate a captivating culinary performance. 

Suggestion: 

While creating a dedicated lounge for delivery drivers, akin to Chick-fil-A’s recent initiative (as covered in the news: Chick Fil -A opens a lounge for delivery drivers), might not be a necessity, it’s prudent to allocate space for drivers within your floor plan if you conduct a substantial amount of delivery sales. This thoughtful consideration ensures a smooth and accommodating experience for your delivery partners. 

  1. Outdoor Dining Area Layout

Similar to your indoor spaces, it’s important to ensure that the main outdoor pathways are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs passing through. Allocate ample space between tables and any umbrellas, if used. If you intend to facilitate tableside orders and payments, consider incorporating a Wi-Fi signal booster to ensure connectivity. 

Additionally, bear in mind that lighting, POS hardware, and certain outdoor heating equipment might require access to electricity. Strategically plan for these electrical needs. While utilizing any available outdoor space for a patio might seem convenient, avoid placing it near exhaust outlets or dumpsters, as this could negatively impact the customer experience. 

– Incorporating Restaurant Technology 

Beyond facilitating smooth operations for both your staff and customers, an integral aspect of your restaurant’s dining area is the seamless flow of information. Whether you utilize a cash register or a POS system, transmitting order details from customers to the kitchen and processing payment information accurately is essential. Thus, ensure the inclusion of strategically positioned POS stations within your dining area layout. Of course, remember to position these stations near available electrical outlets. 

For those employing a cloud POS or iPad POS system, the layout should consider the signal strength of your Wi-Fi connection. Minimizing the number of walls between your POS terminals and the Wi-Fi router will help maintain a strong signal. While an open floor plan is conducive for cloud POS users, you can still incorporate partitions and cozy nooks into the design. Simply factor in Wi-Fi signal boosters to fortify your connectivity. 

Step 5: Arranging Restrooms, Entryways & Waiting Areas 

All customer-accessible sections of your restaurant must comply with ADA regulations. Consequently, it’s prudent to design these areas collectively. Entryways must be wheelchair accessible, and at least one restroom stall in each bathroom should be designed to accommodate wheelchairs.

– Rest Rooms 

Positioning your restrooms in close proximity to the kitchen can result in cost savings for plumbing connections, as they can utilize nearby water and drain lines. However, relocating the restrooms farther from the kitchen can alleviate congestion in areas with heavy foot traffic. Thus, the placement of restrooms warrants meticulous attention, given that their relocation within the space can be challenging. 

Moreover, it’s crucial to approach the placement of restrooms with consideration for ADA compliance. Adhering to ADA guidelines usually entails providing a minimum of 60 inches of space for wheelchair accessibility between fixtures. In the case of smaller restaurants, adhering to ADA standards might mean having only single-occupancy restrooms due to space limitations. 

– Entrances 

The entrance of your restaurant plays a vital role in conveying your restaurant’s concept and brand identity. It serves as the initial visual and sensory encounter for your guests as they step into your establishment. It’s important to ensure that the design decisions you implement within the dining area also extend to the entrance. Alternatively, you can opt to tailor the appearance of your entrance to align seamlessly with your signage and overall brand concept. This consistency creates an inviting atmosphere for your customers. 

– Waiting Areas 

For café, bistro, and diner themes, a simple entrance can work well, especially if you have a bar or countertop where customers can wait. If you require a designated waiting area up front, consider arranging it in a way that allows easy movement in and out, and if feasible, include seating. Incorporating a few comfortable chairs is effective, and utilizing bench seating along the wall can maximize limited space. Additionally, if suitable for your location and weather, including outdoor seating in the waiting area can be a valuable addition. Stylish patio chairs or benches can serve this purpose attractively. 

Step 6: Incorporate Bars, Service Counters & Delivery Areas 

Integrating bar or countertop dining areas into your restaurant floor plan can significantly enhance its appeal. If you haven’t yet explored this option, it’s worth considering, especially if your available space allows for it. Such an addition proves to be a more economically viable utilization of space compared to a sizable waiting area, as guests can conveniently place drink orders while waiting. Moreover, it introduces a compact dining area, as customers typically expect less personal space at a bar than at a traditional table. 

For strategic placement, positioning a bar or countertop against a shared back wall with the kitchen is a particularly effective approach, particularly in smaller spaces. This arrangement offers the advantage of tapping into existing plumbing for bar sinks or establishing a pass-through window connecting to the kitchen. This design choice holds immense potential for establishments embracing diner, cafe-style coffee houses, or bistro restaurant concepts. 

Step 7: Incorporate Staff Areas and Back Office

In the final stages, it’s crucial to allocate space for managerial and staff functions. While these areas don’t necessitate substantial dimensions—given that they don’t directly contribute to revenue and are intended for shorter stays—they should be meticulously planned. 

– Staff Entryway and Changing Room 

A dedicated entryway for staff usage serves the dual purpose of preventing congestion between staff and guests, as well as serving as a point for deliveries. The inclusion of a separate changing area ensures that staff belongings are kept apart from work zones during their shifts, thereby enhancing team concentration. It’s noteworthy that external items introduced into your restaurant environment could potentially pose food safety risks. As a result, health inspectors often note breaches in hygiene practices when personal items like backpacks and mobile phones are spotted in areas involved in food service. 

– Back Office Space 

Although the size of your restaurant’s back office need not be expensive, security remains a prime consideration. This area houses sensitive documents such as hiring records, tax details, and business licenses. Additionally, valuable assets including the back-office computer, security system hub, and safe find their place here. To ensure stringent security measures, it’s recommended that there exist at least two lockable barriers separating the safe from external access. Therefore, the office door itself should possess solid construction and the capability to be locked from within.

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