11 Restaurant Interior Design & Decor Tips (+5 Examples)

11 Restaurant Interior Design & Decor Tips (+5 Examples)
January 29, 2020 Levi Olmstead

Implementing effective interior design in your restaurant is a fantastic way to build out your vision and achieve success.

If your restaurant floor plan is specially designed to make your desired customers feel welcome and excited to dine with you, you’ll be way ahead of the game. After all, customers turn back to their overall experience when leaving a review or deciding to return.

11 Restaurant Interior Design Tips

The following tips will help you make design and decor decisions for your restaurant.

1.  Develop Your Concept

To start, really get a grasp on your concept. Does your restaurant have a specific theme, or is it more of a “vibe”? Are you looking to evoke a particular geographic area or period of time? The answers to these types of questions can help you bring your vision to life by shaping the physical environment of your space.


Above: Example of a Mexican-themed restaurant concept from Tuco and Blondie’s in Chicago, IL

2. Manage Your First Impressions

You can make your guests feel at home the moment they enter your restaurant by curating your entrance area. Do you have enough space for some comfy couches? What about an eye-catching art piece or chandelier? Consult your concept and find a solution that works for you.

3. Take Your Time Choosing Colors

Our brains spend a lot of time interpreting information that we don’t think we notice. They even draw conclusions based on the colors present in a given space. For this reason, it would be wise to do a little research on the importance of color in interior design before going all out in designing your restaurant. Cool colors like blue are an appetite suppressant, warm colors increase appetite. Muted earth tones tend to be better than overly bright, distracting colors.


Above: Carnivale – an upscale restaurant in Chicago, IL

4. Shape Your Dining Room Space

Your dining area should certainly look nice, but it also needs to facilitate the movements of your employees and leave room for customers to move around as well.  You may need to do some research or experiment a bit to reach a balance between having enough tables to make a nice profit, and space for everyone to breathe. It is also important to consider ADA accessibility requirements to ensure customers of all abilities feel welcome. 

The seating capacity should ultimately align with your restaurant concept as well. More upscale restaurants often arrange tables more sparsely, while a fast-casual spot will allow for more customers to be sitting right next to one another. 

5. Front and Back of House Should Flow

Think of your restaurant as a delicate ecosystem that can be directly affected by all of its participants being able to comfortably and easily move through each area. 

Guests should be able to wait for their tables in the lobby without being packed like sardines and waitstaff should be able to access the kitchen without bumping into one another, or worse, into a diner. Make sure your restaurant’s overall layout leaves clear paths for all of your guests and staff to get to wherever they need to be.

6. Solve the Problem Areas

Problem areas are essentially places within your dining room where people don’t want to sit. This may be an area directly under an air vent or right next to swinging kitchen doors. To work around these issues, you may be able to incorporate portable dividers or use strategic plant placements to make them less noticeable.

If you can’t find an effective way to improve a problem area, you might decide to change its purpose completely by replacing a table with a wait station or a piece of art if it makes sense. A good way to find problem areas before your customers do is to personally test each table. That way you can find out how your customers might experience your restaurant differently based on where they’re seated. 

7. Get the Lighting Right

Many of your guests may not actively notice your restaurant lighting choices, but make no mistake: lighting has a lot to do with the atmosphere in your space. Are you looking to give your restaurant a darker, romantic feel? Or a light, airy one? Think back, again, to your restaurant concept and set your lighting to match.

8. Furniture

Of course you want to pick the right furniture for your restaurant, but be careful not to go overboard on spending if it’s not necessary. Choose pieces that align with your restaurant concept and, to make your life easier, are easy enough to clean, repair, or replace.


Above: Happy Camper in Chicago, IL

9. Incorporate Plants

Plants can offer a unique and comforting touch in a restaurant space. They signal freshness and often relax people. If you choose the right (read: low-maintenance) types of plants, you can use them as an easy and cost-effective way to spice up your restaurant’s decor.


10. Don’t Forget The Restrooms

Just because we don’t all love to dwell on restroom-related experiences doesn’t mean your customers aren’t paying attention when they use yours. The importance of interior design doesn’t stop at the restroom entrance. Your design concept should also be present throughout your restaurant, be sure to consider it when choosing elements like sinks, lighting, and additional decor. 

Perhaps the most important caveat: keep them clean! If your restrooms are filthy, your customers won’t notice your thoughtfully-chosen mirrors or faucets. 

11. Avoid Gaudy, Distracting Decor

If it doesn’t have a purpose, over-the-top decor can be distracting rather than helpful. Let the food speak for itself when possible and make sure every piece you choose for your restaurant is there for a reason, not just because it looks cool or unusual.

5 Examples of Uniquely Designed Restaurants

1. Lolly-Laputan Cafe

Location: Dalian, China


This cafe is designed to give children a fun and educational experience. This is China’s first educational family restaurant, designed by Wutopia Lab, whose website aptly describes it as a “Fairyland Premium Kids Cafe.”

2. The Gallery at Sketch

Location: London, UK


The Gallery at Sketch is was designed and decorated by British artist, David Shrigley. The walls are painted a vibrant pink and decorated with 239 of the artist’s works, and complemented by equally vibrant and pink furniture.

3. Hinoki & the Bird

Location: Los Angeles, USA


Hinoki & the Bird is a beautiful restaurant in Los Angeles, designed by Milo Garcia’s Studio MAI. This restaurant uses wide-open spaces full of cedar, glass, brass, and other timber to give diners a simultaneously luxurious and natural experience.

4. The Lobster Club

Location: New York City, USA


The Lobster Club is a stunning Japanese Brasserie in Midtown, New York City. It was designed with Picasso in mind, by architect, Peter Marino. 

5. Marisol

Location: Chicago, USA


This restaurant and bar found in Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary art combines a visual art experience with the products of prominent local chef, Jason Hammel’s culinary artistry.

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