12 Restaurant Design & Decor Ideas to Inspire You in 2020

Choosing an aesthetic for your business can be overwhelming. There are a lot of restaurant design and decor ideas out there! To help you narrow down your options, we’ve compiled a list of twelve design ideas for restaurants along with tips to help you decide on which look is right for your menu, location, and target customers.

Check Out These 12 Restaurant Design and Decor Ideas

1. Typography

When done right, typography as decor is always a hit. Bold graphics, marquee letters, diagrams, and charts are all fun (and informative) ways to add type to your design scheme. Old-school neon signs are a big hit right now, too – try getting one custom made with a quote or phrase that reflects the vibe of your restaurant.

2. Support Local Artists

If you have a lot of open wall space that you want to design on a budget, reach out to local talent for help. By featuring a new artist or group of artists either monthly or quarterly, you get a rotating collection of unique decor and local artists get their work seen and potentially sold.

3. Murals and Wall Art

If you want to showcase a local artist but aren’t into the gallery-inspired idea above, hire an artist whose work you admire to create a mural. Guests won’t be able to resist a selfie with this Instagram-worthy piece of art, giving you added publicity in the form of user-generated content. No room inside for mural-sized art? Put a mural on your building’s exterior instead!

4. Go Green

Indoor plants are having a moment right now, so decorate your space with lots of greenery. Not only are plants beautiful and relaxing, but many help purify the air. They also make a visual connection for guests about the freshness of your ingredients.

5. Open Up the Space

Make the kitchen itself part of the decor, especially if you have a unique focal point, like a wood-burning oven for pizza. If opening up the kitchen isn’t a possibility, consider an exposed wine “cellar,” whiskey tunnel, or something else to give guests a glimpse of the BOH. Inviting people to get close to your products gets them talking and the more they learn, the more they tend to spend.

6. Pick a Theme

Themed restaurants have a reputation for being a bit overboard, but they don’t have to be. Try to pick a theme that isn’t too trendy – it will look dated in just a few years. Instead, pick something that reflects your menu or brand and incorporate your theme in a modern way, like Ladybird’s 1970s-style summer camp theme.

7. Modern Minimalism

If you’re looking for a less-is-more vibe, go with a minimalist look; think clean lines, natural materials, and a simple color scheme. Remember that going simple can sometimes be more difficult because every little detail matters and will be noticed.

8. Embrace the Classics

Certain looks are classics for a reason, as long as it works with your restaurant’s menu. French bistros, ‘50s-style diners, or a classic pizzeria look with the checkered tablecloths can all lend a sense of nostalgia while still having a modern twist.

9. Community-centered Design

Food is the great equalizer and restaurants can bring a community together. To create a community-centered experience in your restaurant try adding a communal table, removing TVs, or offering board games for guests to play while they wait.

10. Location-based Design

Sometimes your decor will decide itself. A seafood restaurant on the water is going to call for blues and whites, light wood, and tasteful nautical touches while a BBQ joint in Texas is going to set an entirely different set of expectations. Take a look around you and think about what customers will expect when walking into your restaurant.

11. Be Mindful of Lighting

Good lighting creates ambiance for your guests. Think about what type of environment you want to create and how you want your guests to feel in your restaurant. Besides the feel of the restaurant, other things to consider when choosing your lighting is energy efficiency, staff safety, and whether you want customers to be able to get a good shot of their plate for the ‘gram.

12. Functionality is Key

Function can be far less fun to implement than design, but a well-functioning restaurant can make a huge impact on your bottom line. Hire a professional designer to plan your layout and maximize function. A small space doesn’t necessarily need to feel crowded or cramped!

More Restaurant Design Tips From HGTV’s Taniya Nayak

From acoustics so bad you wish earplugs were on the menu to clichéd decor, hackneyed—or just plain bad—restaurant design can leave a bad taste in a guest’s mouth. When it comes to dining out, the ambiance can be as important as the cuisine, and unpalatable design should never compromise the experience.

We tapped award-winning Boston-based designer Taniya Nayak—who has lent her refined eye to hub hotspots like Lower Mills Tavern and starred on the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible along with a number of HGTV shows—to school us on some of her go-to pro-tips for intelligent restaurant design.

Take a seat

“One of the best tips I can offer is to sit in every seat [in the restaurant]. Sometimes this needs to be done mentally as you work off of your drawings. Be sure that every guest, in every seat, is looking at something nice!”

Bright lights, big problem

“Bright lights are for cafeterias. Ambient lighting is everything when it comes to a proper dining experience. Set the mood with lighting that is dimmable and adjust it accordingly throughout the day. Leave the fluorescent lights in the kitchen.”

Don’t hide the host

“I often see a host stand set up in an area where they cannot see the guests—or the guests cannot see them—as they enter. A warm hello and welcome greeting is the guests’ very first impression of the place. This should never be overlooked or deemed as unimportant.”

Consider sound and materials

“Tile and wood look great together but they often send sound waves bouncing off the walls. Be sure to incorporate some type of soft seating (upholstered banquettes, bar stools or dining chairs), acoustical ceiling tiles, or even soft drapery to help absorb the noise. Plus, it looks great!”

Read between the lines.

“If you’re designing a restaurant, don’t forget to read the menu or chat with the chef! The design [of the space] should always have a tie to the food that is being served. Let’s face it: eating sushi in a country kitchen could seem a little odd.”

Let history repeat itself

“I always try to grab hold of a piece of history of that space or the area. Locals and tourists always seem to appreciate a good story. My husband and I just opened up Yellow Door Taqueria in Dorchester, Massachusetts. It used to be an iconic antique store for over 20 years—a favorite corner shop in the neighborhood. In coming up with the design concept, we wanted to hold on to the history by designing a taqueria that has the look and feel of an old antique shop. The place turned out great and, more importantly, the guests seem to really appreciate that we went in that direction.”

Don’t forget where you came from

“Start out with a really strong concept board. Sometimes things shift and get sidetracked during the process because some fabrics are no longer available or the budget constraints require finding alternatives. It is always good to check back to the original intent.”

Restaurant decor helps you stand out from the crowd. If you have 5 minutes, you can learn the ins and outs of restaurant interior design.

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Stephanie Resendes

Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.

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