Interior of an ultra modern fine dining Chinese cuisine restaurant

People can get a cheeseburger anywhere. Your restaurant might serve the best burger in town, but customers aren’t just coming to you for the food. You need to provide a complete experience that leads to a night out they can’t get anywhere else. A key part of this is your restaurant floor plan.

There are plenty of predetermined restaurant floor plan templates and “best practices” available on the web, to tell you the best way to map out your space. But ultimately, it comes down to your available space, your desired capacity, and the type of restaurant experience you want customers to enjoy.

Still, here are a few restaurant floor plan rules of thumb to follow:

1. Dedicate 60% of floor space for seating

Right from the outset, you need to look at the space you have at hand. Whether you’re a cafe or a cafeteria, proper allocation of the available real estate will play a large role in how comfortable your restaurant is for guests, and how efficient it is for staff.

Various restaurant publications will give you some baseline numbers for allocating space per section, per table, and even per customer. But ultimately this decision will come down to your desired specs. The most-common number seems to be roughly 60% of available space dedicated to seating, with the remaining 40% divided between the kitchen, storage, service, and restroom facilities. This can be a challenge – especially if you’re working with a small restaurant floor plan.

But you also need to consider a little customer “feng shui” – e.g., if your space can accommodate 10 more people, but it would put others too close to the restrooms or a busy front door, is it still an ideal setup? Will customers come back if they need to wear a coat indoors during winter months because the table is too close to the breezeway? Do wait staff have room to get around tables without having to worry about spilling food and drinks on guests? These are all pertinent questions.

As for how many seats your restaurant should have, it will depend on how much space you’re working with. According to Total Food Service, which covers the New York City food industry, most restaurants and coffee shops average about 15 square feet per person. So if you are working with a restaurant floor plan with dimensions of 4000 square feet of space and 60 percent of it is for your dining area, that’s 2400 square feet for your dining area. Divide that by 15 square feet per person, and you should be able to seat 160 people comfortably.

nice restaurant with white table cloths

There is no “right” square footage for your restaurant. Whether you’re opening a large capacity diner or a small French bistro, you have to think about all of the same logistics. In fact, Foodable Network points out that there’s been a rise in restaurants buying up the smaller footprints of closed retail spaces to create compact food and beverage concepts. “The old adage of restaurants needing 2,500 to over 5,000 square feet of space has diminished over the past five years (minus the recent surge in shared food halls). It is becoming more common to see a 600 to 1,500-square-foot restaurant,” says the article. Whether you have a large or small space, the challenge is in thinking about how to maximize your revenue based on the number of patrons you expect to have.

One more thing: Don’t forget to also read up on the ADA guidelines for accessibility, and consider guests of all sizes when installing booths or choosing seating.

2. Build some flexibility into your restaurant floor plan

When thinking about your restaurant lay out it’s important to consider not only square footage per person, but rather how that table space adds to the experience. In other words, when evaluating restaurant layout floor plan samples, think about how every table will be situated within the restaurant. Can customers see the décor and enjoy the restaurant as you intended? While larger groups like being “sectioned off” to add to the sense of privacy, many want to enjoy the busy flow of your establishment. If all tables face in the same direction, the overall experience might be lost.

Looking for more information on starting a restaurant? Check out our everything-you-need-to-know guide on Licenses and Permits.

Another item to consider is if your restaurant floor plan is adjustable. If a large party comes in, have you built in the ability to accommodate a slightly different layout? Will these arrangements negatively affect the other patrons? You should look for scalable restaurant floor plan templates that have a wide range of setups without losing sight of the overall experience. 

Remember, just putting a few tables together can significantly alter the flow of the room, for both customers and staff. If a party of 10 makes 15 other customers uncomfortable, it might be time to reconsider your seating plan.

3. Plan your kitchen space

For all this talk of restaurant customer experience, food is still the key driver for your restaurant. If there isn’t enough space for your kitchen staff to make memorable, high-quality dishes, your dining room will be too empty for anyone to notice the layout.

Your kitchen needs to have ample space for chefs to craft their meals. Servers need enough room to move in and out quickly. And food storage needs to be an adequate distance from cooking areas to ensure there’s no cross-contamination. 

Fulton interior of the restaurant

Health and safety regulations will help you map out the initial floor plan, but your menu should also play a role. For instance, if you’re serving equal parts hot and cold food, it might be best to set up your kitchen in sections, so raw products aren’t mingling with cooked dishes, and to keep food moving without any confusion.

Don’t forget – you also need adequate room in your restaurant floor plan to store supplies, nonperishable food, and fresh food as well. Plus, you need space for washing dishes.

Most importantly, the kitchen needs to be laid out in a manner that promotes fast service with no bumps or mixed-up orders. You can set it up as either an assembly, or as an island where everyone can work around the main center stations.

4. Don’t forget about waiting areas and restrooms.

There should be a comfortable space with some seating for guests who are waiting to be brought to a table.

As for restrooms, cleanliness is the most important factor, but you also want to make sure it’s placed away from most diners. Again, think about accessibility for disabled guests, and space for parents to change diapers.

Ultimately, only you will know what will work best for your goals in the service industry. But as long as you keep your desired dining experience in mind, both in and out of the kitchen, you’re well on your way.

restaurant licensing and permits guide cover

When all is said and done, to obtain even just one of the proper licenses and permits can cost as much as 10,000 dollars. Luckily, the only resource you’ll need to open your doors with the right licenses and permits is here.

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Written by   |  
Brad Bortone is a writer, editor and content marketer, published in areas ranging from content strategy to music reviews, and seemingly everywhere in between. Brad's love of the food industry began during his tenure with Johnson & Wales University's web team, writing countless pieces about - and enjoying countless lunches from - the school's esteemed culinary program.