How to Visually Maximize a Small Restaurant Space

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Real estate is such a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to the success of a restaurant, especially in a food city that offers tons of dining options. If you manage to nab a great location, especially in one of these bustling, shoulder-to-shoulder cities, chances are the venue space isn’t huge (we’re looking at you, New York). Regardless, it’s important to keep diners coming back into your establishment and to create an atmosphere that is open, friendly and spacious — even if your venue isn’t made up of the square footage you were hoping for. It’s a tough life for a restaurateur, filled with several challenges, all of which can come at a hefty cost. 

So, to spare you some time (and money), we teamed up with Brad Belletto, CEO at Vision 360 Design in Dallas, to pick his brain on how to maximize your restaurant’s venue space. Belletto has been in the biz for more than 35 years, with a portfolio that includes the first sit-down Popeye’s Chicken restaurant, high-end establishments in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and a vast assortment of hotels, theaters, and nightclubs.

Here’s what he shared:

Want to Maximize Your FOH Space?

To drive home the illusion of making your front-of-house space look bigger, choose light paint colors, said Belletto. Light colors are known to make walls recede in appearance. Using stretch fabrics in the ceiling to create dimension helps, too, as well as strategically placing mirrors to add depth. In order to round out the space and create some volume, high ceilings are key. If you’re in the process of checking out real estate for a new venture, you at least have the advantage in knowing beforehand to look for high ceilings — if it’s an option — in an already-small space.

What’s Currently Trending in Restaurant Design?

You’ve probably noticed some consistent design elements throughout your own dining experiences on a local level, but nationally, these have been some of the most prevalent throughout the past few years.

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

  • Community Tables, Chef Tables, and Owner Tables — Concepts spanning from McDonald’s to Momofuku have integrated communal tables into some of their establishments, and Chef/Owner tables have heightened the dining experience as a more luxury component.
  • Floor-to-Ceiling glass
  • Rollup garage doors with inside/outside dining
  • Original artwork
  • LED lighting
  • Recycled materials — The rise of sustainability, “going local,” and reducing your carbon footprint make this trend come as no surprise.

Important Takeaways When Purchasing a New/Empty Space

When deciding to purchase a new or empty space, there are a few important things restaurateurs need to keep in mind. For starters, make sure to have an architect or a compliance consultant do a survey for you before you sign the lease (code compliance). Also, when hiring a designer, make sure he/she has experience working in a restaurant or bar — “this will help minimize mistakes,” said Belletto. And last but certainly not least, work very closely with operations people to do schematic design — the first design phase — which usually includes plumbing and electrical functions. 

These tips will save you both time and money, and hopefully prevent you from having to push back your projected opening date.

For more content on restaurant logistics and in-depth knowledge of starting a restaurant, check out Foodable's Rock My Restaurant series.