10 Restaurant Design Mistakes That Are Costing Your Business Thousands

30 September, 2022



The success of any restaurant is often learned from businesses that unfortunately do not survive. Your plan to open and run a restaurant should consider avoiding these 10 common pitfalls at all costs in order for your restaurant business to survive and thrive even in times of economic recession, such as today.

What are the most common mistakes that restaurant owners make?

Every new restaurant business owner (and not just newbies) is bound to make mistakes. Some will be costly, but if you can keep a sense of perspective and learn from those mistakes, your business (and your mindset) will benefit you in the long run. 

In the early days of planning, it can be easy to get tunnel vision as you try to bring your idea to life. You can lose sight of your target market's preferences (the type of food, the atmosphere, the lifestyle), and their current habits (where they already eat) and even forget to keep an eye on your competition. 

Here are 10 expensive mistakes that new restaurants constantly make in the interior design of their premises.

TIP: Don't let this long list stress you out. Go through each point calmly and if you don't have much time now you can always review it later (Press Command + D to bookmark the page on Mac or Control + D on Windows).

If you face the most common restaurant design mistakes early on, you will probably discover valuable information that will allow you to take the right steps to reduce risk and prevent problems that could threaten your restaurant's survival. 

Don’t overlook the importance of interior design

Walking into a restaurant is like walking into the heart of an advertisement. Everything communicates. Unlike typical advertisements, which often only engage one, two or three senses at most, a restaurant touches all five human senses. This substantially raises customer expectations and performance levels needed to compete effectively today.

Creating the best dining experience for customers requires more than just excellent food and service. Most people who visit a restaurant do so for the experience. That is why creating a pleasant ambience and an attractive design is critical to success. Because there are so many aspects to consider when creating the interior design of a restaurant, it is easy to make a mistake that can ruin the dining experience. 

Creating the perfect restaurant design is a challenging task. Without careful planning and thought, it is easy to make a mistake that can spoil the experience. Whether it's in the form of inefficient design, poor lighting or a bad floor plan. While there is no magic formula for creating successful designs, we can point out some common restaurant design mistakes you should avoid. Let's get down to business!

Mistake #1.  Not having a concept (design)

One of the most common mistakes in restaurant design is not having a clear concept in mind. A lack of cohesion between your brand, your cuisine, your personality and the design of your restaurant can have detrimental effects on your success. Not only will it lead to confusion and missed marketing opportunities, but it can also affect your operational efficiency. What can you do to avoid this design mistake in your restaurant?

First, it is critical to define the design concept early in the restaurant design or refurbishment process. Make sure the concept reflects the theme of your restaurant, the cuisine and your brand. Decide on the colour scheme, materials, furnishings and ambience based on how you want to be perceived by diners. Give yourself time to consider various options, designs and concepts before making your decision.

Choosing the right concept for your brand will inform all other decisions you make when opening your new restaurant. It will define who your target audience is, what types of cuisine you will offer, whether or not you will serve alcohol and what equipment you will need. There is nothing worse than deciding to open a fancy new grill restaurant when the neighbourhood tastes are going crazy for Italian.

You will need to do some market research to see how many competitors you will have in your area and if the neighbourhood is a good fit for your concept. Try to implement the concept in a new way for your target customers, so that you offer them a value they cannot get anywhere else (in business speak, provide them with a unique value proposition).

This research step will lead you to the right-sized space and help direct all subsequent steps you take, so make sure you put a lot of effort into establishing your concept and your brand.

Mistake #2. Ignore the fact that your restaurant is a business, not just a good-looking place

Successful restaurant design requires a clever balance between aesthetics and functionality. Therefore, in addition to having an attractive interior, an efficient floor plan and layout is essential. An inefficient floor plan can hurt your business on several levels. 

When a restaurant's layout is not properly laid out, it can be a serious hindrance to both servers and customers. Not only will it decrease efficiency, but it will also make customers feel less comfortable. Nothing is worse than your customer feeling confused when they enter your restaurant. If you want to avoid making this common restaurant design mistake, you should focus on your floor plan from the beginning. 

To maximise both design and functionality, you will need to create a detailed floor plan of the entire space. Decide how many customers you can comfortably serve in the space available and lay out the dining area accordingly. The choice of restaurant furniture and tables will be crucial in this process. By selecting appropriate seating based on your objectives, you will be able to effectively manage the number of seats while communicating the desired atmosphere for your customers.

Mistake #3. Underestimate kitchen space, no more tiny kitchens!

The kitchen space in a restaurant is often miscalculated and does not reflect the number of customers the restaurant can accommodate. This can lead to slow service because the kitchen does not have enough space for the required number of orders, so customers receive their food or drinks late and employees become frustrated. This is only the beginning of a complex sequence of problems.

The kitchen and its annexes for food preparation should, for a fair balance, occupy 40% of the entire restaurant. Tackling the restaurant menu as early as possible in the planning stages will avoid modifications and thus delays during the design process.

A specialist kitchen designer should study and anticipate the functioning of a restaurant, know the product and take into account the user experience before sketching the kitchen equipment layout. 

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Mistake #4. That table that is always empty.

Have you noticed that in almost every restaurant there is always one or two tables where nobody wants to sit?

It may be because it is next to the bathroom, or next to the kitchen, or maybe it is located next to the front door, where customers experience drafts. Having to readjust your chair every two minutes or having a cold or uncomfortable draft pass you every two minutes will make the dining experience in your restaurant dreadful.

While serving as many customers as possible maximises revenue, it is essential to make the most of each area of the restaurant, finding a balance between the number of seats that fit comfortably and aesthetically, and the customer experience.

Staff and customer comfort should be considered at the design stage. Look at the traffic flow throughout the restaurant to ensure maximum efficiency, check that there are no obstacles for staff on the way to and from the kitchen. The same goes for access to the toilets. Think about how you want customers to move around the restaurant from one space to another.

Consider using flexible or modular tables so that they can be easily moved to accommodate larger groups. There should be adequate space between tables so that customers feel comfortable and can enjoy their own dining experience without disturbing the customers at the next table.

To really evaluate each part of the restaurant, put yourself in the customers' shoes and think about every seat in the restaurant. Think about the ambience of each seat, the environment, the view from the table and from the table, the smells and noises you perceive, the temperature of each area and the location of the toilet. Consider using dividers or plants to enhance the ambience and make less desirable seating areas more attractive. This will not only optimise the layout, but also allow the client to feel more at ease and have a sense of privacy.

Mistake #5. Wrong lighting. 

Poor or dim lighting is a mistake that can ruin the entire customer experience in a restaurant. No one wants to make an effort to read a menu or see what is on their plate. Instead, lighting should highlight the product, like a painting in an art gallery.

Rethinking the lighting system can often save a restaurant. We pay more attention to the architectural light than to the shape of the luminaires. This light should focus on the table and other specific places that we want to highlight.

The type of lighting should correspond to the character of the interior. Lighting is different for casual restaurants and different for luxury restaurants. Creating the right ambience for customers is a challenge, so both the intensity of the light and its colour are crucial. Inadequate lighting can make the space unwelcoming and the dishes served unappetising. It is worth using different types of lighting to make the interior look good both day and night. 

Natural light is often the best option. Consider using large windows to give your restaurant a more open feel (remember that blinds during the brightest hours of the day are a must). In addition to visual pleasure, sunlight affects people psychologically and influences health. Natural sunlight not only provides illumination but benefits human beings psychologically and physically, so they will feel better eating in your restaurant.

Another common problem is a sound system that is unsuitable for the nature of the venue, which should be well thought out at the design stage. Sometimes it is worth taking care of details such as, for example, hiring an expert acoustician to help you distribute the sound sources correctly throughout the venue.

Depending on the theme of your restaurant and the sensations you want to evoke, the lighting and sound system can certainly have a big impact.

Mistake #6. When the table size does not match the menu, the customer and thus your revenue will suffer.

Restaurant furniture is incredibly important from both a functional and design point of view. While choosing furniture for your restaurant is exciting, many things can go wrong during the process. And choosing inefficient or low-quality furniture is, in fact, a common design mistake we see restaurants make - and one that greatly affects their ROI.

There are many things that can go wrong when furnishing your restaurant. From choosing furniture that is too small or too large to fit your restaurant, to compromising on quality. In turn, poor quality furniture will hurt your business in numerous ways. Uncomfortable or poor-quality furniture will ruin the dining experience and cost you money in the long run. So what can you do to avoid filling your dining room with poor-quality furniture?

Firstly, it is crucial that you really think about the cuisine you have chosen (whether it is a cuisine that is characterised by sharing multiple small plates or more of a one-plate per person approach) and the menu you are aiming for. Communication with the chef is essential at the beginning. Together, you will decide on portion sizes, plates, the minimum and the maximum number of dishes that can be on a table at the same time, and then decide on the size of tables and chairs. Once you have a clear understanding of your needs, it will be much easier to choose the right furniture.

You can opt for commercially available or custom-made furniture. Regardless of your choice, be sure to choose only high-quality furniture that will stand up to constant wear and tear. Choose furniture that is neither too comfortable nor too uncomfortable for your customers, depending on how much time they spend in your restaurant. Last but not least, make sure that the furniture suits your theme and the concept of your restaurant.

Mistake #7. Neglecting the restrooms is one of the most common restaurant design mistakes.

Bathroom design shows respect for the customer and rounds off their pleasant experience in your restaurant. Due to incorrect planning, bathrooms are often the most neglected part of the design. We frequently see cramped restaurant bathrooms with insufficient facilities. 

Bathroom doors that push inwards instead of outwards are a nuisance to customers. When designing a restaurant, pay attention to detail. Most restrooms are located in an area where the door can be opened outwards as easily as inwards. Customers prefer the first option because they do not have to touch the bathroom doorknob on the way out. However, if the restroom is in a location that requires the door to open inwards, place a waste bin right next to the door on the inside so that visitors who do not want to touch the doorknob can throw away the paper towels they have used to open the door.

Don't forget to adapt toilets for people with disabilities. 

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Mistake #8. Decorating the space just for the sake of it.

Restaurant décor is vitally important when it comes to creating great restaurant designs. Having decorative elements in the dining room that support your brand, your cuisine and your design goals is essential. They will help create a pleasant ambience and add character to the space. However, restaurant owners should be careful about the amount of décor they use in the dining room. An over-decorated restaurant can seriously damage your business.

Less is more when it comes to restaurant décor. If you want to avoid this common mistake in restaurant design, make sure you choose your decorative elements carefully. When creating restaurant décor, it is crucial to first establish a common theme. This will help you choose the direction in which you can take the decoration later on. Selecting decorative elements that suit the theme and cuisine of your restaurant is what will allow you to create a complete restaurant design.

Linked to this, one of the worst design mistakes a restaurant can make is to have a cluttered dining area. When customers walk into your restaurant, they form an instant impression based on the design. And what could be more demoralising than a messy place? 

One of the main objectives when planning and designing a restaurant is to create an environment that helps diners relax and makes them feel welcome. Clutter in the dining room will undoubtedly prevent you from achieving that goal and make the guest feel overwhelmed.

Mistake #9. A boring façade, a typical restaurant design mistake.

And the first impression guests get of your business will be actually formed long before they set foot in your shop. Rather, it will be formed when they first see your restaurant facade from across the street. All elements of the restaurant's exterior design will be crucial to their perception of your business. Still, neglecting the exterior design of a restaurant is one of the most common restaurant design mistakes we see every day.

What can you do? First of all, you need to know what your restaurant's exterior design should be aligned with your concept. Ideally, the exterior of your restaurant should reflect your brand and give diners an idea of your business. A person looking at your restaurant from across the street should have a vague idea of what kind of restaurant you are and what to expect if they decide to come and pay you a visit.

So if you want to make sure that the facade of your restaurant really speaks to people, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, make sure that your restaurant is easy to spot even from a distance - without ruining the streetscape. Make sure the outside reflects the inside, as well as your brand and your cuisine. Paying attention to your logo and exterior signage can help you achieve that goal. Also, promoting the use of glass windows that allow you to see inside the dining room is a good idea, or perhaps going the other way around and having only one door will make your potential customers curious about what is on the other side of that door. 

Mistake #10. Forget about Signages and Wayfinding.

Attractive signages and wayfinding elements, both inside and outside the restaurant, are more important than people often realise. In addition to helping diners navigate the space, signage is also one of the most effective marketing tools. When done well, signage can help businesses grow tremendously. But, at the same time, there are many ways in which signage can ruin the experience. Lack of signage or too much obvious signage is one of the most common restaurant design mistakes we see during our practice.

So how do you create really good signage in your restaurant? Again, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to signage design. But making sure that people and customers can easily and safely find their way around the dining room is crucial. All interior and exterior signage should be easy to see, but at the same time should not overshadow the facade design. Make sure that the font, colour and design of the signage fits the brand identity of your restaurant and contribute to making it truly unique.

How to avoid the most common mistakes in restaurant design?

The interior design of a restaurant is one of the factors that influence customer satisfaction. To stand out in an already saturated sector, your restaurant has to offer not only good food and service, but also a unique dining environment that enhances customer satisfaction.

The design of a restaurant is as important as the personality of a human being. The key word is personality. More than good-looking interiors, the design of a restaurant should communicate its brand and personality through the ambience….. People go to restaurants for the experience as a whole. This experience is excellent if all the crucial factors are met: food, service, ambience and consistency.

Your brand communicates through your personality and interior design is an extension of your brand identity, service style, core product, effectively everything you stand for. Your interiors should immediately convey what you want your customers to know and remember about you and enhance your brand love. If you are a high-end restaurant, your design elements should immediately appeal to the most discerning tastes of your target clientele. A casual restaurant, on the other hand, should be welcoming, friendly, informal and unpretentious. The design of an establishment should reflect elegance, speed, cleanliness and efficiency in its design.

Food and design are not options, but complement each other, and a sensible and harmonious mix is crucial. For example, Starbucks or Lime Tree may never win awards for simplistic design, but they attract regular customers because of their "product and personality". We say focus passionately on the food and create an atmosphere that is intimate, welcoming, comfortable and, above all, identifiable with the core offering.

Why do most restaurants fail?

The restaurant business is competitive, but that is not the main reason why restaurants close their doors. The main reason a restaurant fails is because inexperienced owners and investors make many avoidable mistakes in this business. As the old adage goes: "If you don't plan, you plan to fail". It's as simple as that.

How do you solve common restaurant design problems?

We've covered the most common restaurant design problems we have found in our practice, but don't let this blind you.

What consumer surveys repeatedly show is that they will keep coming back to their favourite venue faithfully for a combination of good food, good service and good ambience. In that order. Invest in your product and service and back it up with a welcoming atmosphere.

We teach our customers and partners to always keep in mind the core philosophy: "Repeat customers are what you need to stay competitive in the food business. People may come to visit you once or twice to admire the "insides", but to keep them coming back again and again you need to focus on great food and memorable products, an identifiable brand, a welcoming atmosphere and efficient and intelligent service, …. When you have all the right formula, you build "longevity" into your brand, ultimately boosting your much-needed brand love.

Feeling lost in the restaurant design process?

Creating a good restaurant design is certainly a complex and sometimes challenging task. There are many aspects to consider, all of which must come together seamlessly to create aesthetically perfect and highly functional designs. And when so much is at stake, it's easy to make a mistake.

In today's post, we talk about some of the most common restaurant design mistakes we experience during our practice. We hope our article will help you avoid some of these mistakes and create truly unique designs. But if you still feel lost in the process, you can contact our team at Tanic Design for help.

At Tanic Design, we have an experienced and professional team who are experts in creating exceptional restaurant interior designs. We can help restaurants reach their full potential through smart design by offering a wide range of restaurant design and refurbishment services. So if you need help redesigning your restaurant, or solving some of your design problems, contact us today. We're always happy to help.


Yaiza Martinez

Founder and Lead Designer

We're not just creating spaces - we're creating experiences. We're blending strategy with design, hospitality with innovation, and wrapping it all up in a package that's as unique as your brand. So, if you're ready to shake things up and make your mark, you're in the right place. Let's make some magic together!

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