A study by researchers at the University of Missouri found that the design of a restaurant’s waiting area influenced diners’ willingness to wait for a table.

A beautiful environment has been proven to be a deciding factor when people frequent a cafe/restaurant or bar, but there are 5 other influencing factors that will contribute to that decision: service, comfort, price, food quality and cleanliness.

Earlier this week we planned to check out a new restaurant in town where we’d heard the food was amazing… On arrival we were initially ignored by the waitress, then told we should just sit where we liked outside as there were no free tables inside (though it wasn’t busy, just 2-3 people at a series of tables designed for 6-8 people). There were several free tables outside but no heaters in close proximity (and it was a pretty cold evening) so we returned inside where it was suggested we could sit and eat at the bar or share the other end of a 6 seater table with a couple who were currently outside smoking… um, no thanks.

So, service, comfort and design functionality… FAIL. Needless to say we left and instead went to an adjacent restaurant that we have frequented in the last 6 months.

Moral of the story? A new venue is always a novelty and will attract patrons initially… but in order to retain them as regular customers you need to address all of the following: aesthetic appeal, service, comfort, price, food quality and cleanliness… and offer them consistently.

And from a design perspective, here is my recipe for a successful restaurant:

Create a ‘wow’ factor in the design of the environment… some sort of feature, something a bit different, clever/interesting detailing or a talking point that your initial customers are going to be inclined to remember and tell others about.


green wall in a japanese restaurant

Think about the usability and flexibility of your space… Are you providing flexible settings and zones that will cater for a variety of patrons… different sizes and types of groups who will be visiting for different reasons/occasions.

Think about comfort, cleanliness and longevity when selecting your furniture… Are you wanted patrons to eat and go quickly, or do you want them to settle in  and work their way through the menu? And while some furniture options may be appealing for their cost effectiveness, are they going to last in a commercial environment or you going to end up paying much more in the long run because you are replacing them so regularly?

mixed seating options

mixed seating options

And PS: If the majority of your tables are outside, then provide enough heaters so they can actually be occupied over the colder months!

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