It’s not uncommon to overlook the importance of a floor plan when you’re starting a restaurant. Menus, meals, service and interior design take the front seat, leaving the layout as an afterthought.
What is the importance of a restaurant floor plan?
A floor plan acts as a map of your restaurant business in its physical form. It helps you understand where everything is, and how this impacts the flow of customers, serving speed, the rate of accidents and incidents and general aura of the space.
Whether or not your floor plan helps staff and customers circulate around your restaurant directly impacts table management and the money you make. Customers who find it hard to get in, make their way to a table, find the toilets and so on, are likely to find the experience stressful. This affects how long they stay, how much money they spend and the likelihood of them coming back in future.
For your team, movement is all about being able to flow seamlessly between the kitchen and tables without obstacles (furniture or people) blocking their way or slowing them down. Front and back of house staff should be able to communicate and collaborate easily, and there should be space for them to comfortably take payments at tables or the point-of-sale.
A poorly laid-out restaurant is also a danger to staff and customers alike in the case of an emergency. It’s a legal requirement to carry out a risk assessment, and a floor plan will help you identify and understand areas of risk, then make changes to remove them.
There’s a correlation between your customers’ comfort and the money you make that can’t be ignored. It’s telling that the Michelin Guide ranks restaurants’ comfortableness with its “fork and spoon” rating — one fork and spoon to represent a “comfortable” restaurant, and five for “luxurious”. The layout of your restaurant has an effect on this, all the way from how dimly lit and noisy it feels, to the size and quality of the furniture you can fit. Your floor plan is the solution, helping you create comfort in terms of light, noise, space, air quality and temperature.
Getting the most from your space
Efficiency is everything in a small business — you’ve got to maximise what you’ve got, even when that feels like a little. But that isn’t always easy, especially when you have to balance that efficiency with movement and comfort. Without a restaurant floor plan, your understanding of how everything fits together is limited. You can only see the space from certain angles, and you have no way to test what happens when changes are made.
Visualising the restaurant layout in a dimensional form (that is, with measurements) lets you immediately understand where space isn’t being used to its maximum potential, how furniture and fittings can be moved to solve that and even if you could alter the building structure.
The result is being able to add more tables, create a longer bar, extend your kitchen space and so on — all without negatively impacting the atmosphere, safety and wider performance of your business.
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What makes a good restaurant floor plan?
With all those factors in mind, let’s take a step back to think about how a restaurant floor plan actually helps your business. There’s no point doing this without clear goals, metrics and measurement tools. Here are some that your small business could aim for.
||What to look for (metrics)
||How to measure success
||Increase in sales volume and increased transaction amount
|Better table management
||Increased table turnover
||Table Turnover Rate = Number of Seatings ÷ Number of Tables
||Returning customers and positive customer feedback
||Customer directory and customer feedback tools
|A stronger brand
||Increased brand awareness
||Social media engagement
|Improved safety & security
||Fewer accidents and incidents
||Improved risk assessments
How to Create Your Restaurant Floor Plan
Now that you’re clear on the purpose of setting yourself up with a floor plan, it’s time to create one. Here’s the process step-by-step.
1. Work out your budget
Before you jump into the practical tasks, you need to know how much money is available to fund any alterations. Simply moving a few tables and chairs can make all the difference, so it is worth your time to create a floor plan even when no budget can be allocated.
2. Think like your customers
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and experience your restaurant as they would. That means approaching the building from the street, coming through the entrance, waiting to be seated and so on. Go through the journey as many times as you can, making notes on what is currently working and what isn’t in terms of comfort and movement.
3. Plan around your team
Next, it’s time to think about how your team use the space. Explore the kitchen and watch your staff as they move between the back and front of house to serve tables. Are there any obstructions? How fast are they moving? Are customers getting disturbed by movement around their table? Speak to your team as a group to explore the difficulties they experience, as well as the arrangements they wouldn’t want to lose.
4. Get it down on paper
Armed with all your observations, notes and team feedback, you can start visualising your floor plan. You might start by sketching it out on paper then use free software like:
5. Bring it to life
Depending on how drastic the new floor plan is, you might need to close your restaurant for a day or two whilst the changes are made. If this is the case, turn the inconvenience into a positive — a restaurant revamp is a marketable event. Use social media, email, local newspapers and window signage to create hype around your alterations, re-engage your staff by getting them involved and use any downtime to set yourself up to measure impact.
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