By Roger Robinson, Ph.D., SCORE Mentor
Layout and design are major factors in your restaurant’s success. Typically allow 40 to 60% of space to the dining area, approximately 30% to the kitchen and prep area, and the remainder to storage and office space.
Make sure the kitchen allows efficient, effective food preparation and interaction between staff, safety in movement, dry and cold storage, dish washing, an area for staff’s personal items, convenient delivery zone, ease of cleaning and maintenance and proper ventilation.
Aim for a practical, useful layout, while setting the mood.
Make sure you have:
- Seating/waiting areas, serving room, cashier area, rest rooms, bar (optional);
- One or more areas from which you can view the entire restaurant;
- Lighting, signs and obstacle-free traffic flow;
- A variety of seating arrangements: 50% of customers come in pairs; 30% come alone or in groups of three; and 20% in groups of four or more; To accommodate the different groups, use
- Tables for two that can be pushed together in areas where there is ample floor space. This gives you flexibility. Place booths for four to six people along the walls.
- Adequate floor space – the suggested square footage requirements per chair are: 10-20 sq. ft in traditional restaurants, 10-12 in cafeterias, 7-17 in coffee shops;
Often inefficient–the result is a poorly organized kitchen and less than top-notch service. Keep menu production in mind as you determine space for receiving, storage, food preparation, cooking, baking, dish washing, production aisles, trash storage, employee facilities and a small office. Arrange your food production area so that everything is just a few steps away from the cook. Allow for two or more cooks to be able to work side by side during your busiest hours.
- Plan your menu early as the kitchen layout and equipment purchases depend on it. See if you can purchase used equipment or lease new to reduce initial costs. Taste-test all the recipes repeatedly until the kitchen can achieve consistency. A good way to check the food and service is to have a private opening for family and friends.
- Form a limited liability company or private corporation and be sure to define all key personnel responsibilities – in detail.
- Allocate the available space considering furniture and equipment to be included. Consider efficient flow and applicable regulatory requirements. Be specific for dining, kitchen, dish washing, prep, storage, bathrooms, administrative work areas and entrances/exits.
- Plan the layout for the dining area in detail. Remember to balance the desire for the maximum number of seats with customer comfort, and avoid seating in high traffic lanes or stuffed into corners. Avoid locating tables in the middle of the room like little islands and consider instead having low divider walls and hanging plants to break up the space.
- Don’t forget the graphics – from exterior signage to the look of the menus, graphic design plays an important part in the overall image to be portrayed.
- Pay attention to the lighting design. Focus dramatic light onto the tables to highlight the food, and compliment it with glowing background light to make the interior and customers look good.
- Decide whether to offer a full service bar as this will dramatically influence initial investment requirements. Periodically Arizona releases a limited number licenses such as Series 6, 7 and 9 liquor licenses – Series 6 is needed to operate a bar, Series 7 is needed to serve beer and wine, and Series 9 is needed to sell liquor at retail. Until recently, the only way to obtain a bar or liquor license had been to buy it from another business with prices reaching $90,000 for an existing Series 6 and up to $240,000 for a Series 9. This state intends to issue a total of 126 new licenses this year at the going market rate.
- Define your insurance needs. Restaurants are sources of potential accidents from fires to floods to food poisoning, and hundreds of other catastrophes. The NRA is an outstanding resource for guidance on related insurance coverage requirements.
- Select and train your staff early. Look for enthusiasm, good grooming and experience. Allow them enough time to become familiar with your concept as well as for cross training. Remember that the person greeting customers is as important as the person running the kitchen – and great service and great food is a winning combination for success.
- Set up a restaurant oriented bookkeeping and accounting system – more on this later on. Be sure to establish control over the meal checks as there are dozens of scams that dishonest servers and cashiers, especially bartenders, can use. In particular understand and document the entire process thoroughly, and watch the petty cash, cash drawer flow and check cashing processes. Get expert advice on how to prevent abuses.
- Designate several trusted employees to supervise storage areas. Stress that they must check in all deliveries and audit the food inventory carefully – document these responsibilities into their job descriptions.
- Read books and attend SCORE training seminars on managing a business. Take a class at a local university on restaurant management.
- Finally, decide on the restaurant’s overall look. Beware of trendy, contrived designs that are short lived. Attempt to provide a warm, friendly atmosphere tailored to the customer base you are trying to attract.
Dining room design will depend on your concept. This is where you’ll make the bulk of your money, so don’t cut corners. Visit restaurants in your area and analyze the décor. Watch the diners; do they react positively to the décor? Note what works well and what doesn’t.
Calculating Seating Capacity
Note relation of costs to gross and to menu pricing which are functions of number of seats, seat turns, average cover, seasonality (caveat summer), lunch covers, dinner covers, etc.
Estimate gross by number of seats times average cover reflecting these factors:
- Determine desired profit—convert to percentage of sales to get sales required;
- Determine number of operating days—divide number of days into sales to get average daily sales;
- Estimate volume percentages for meal periods (breakfast, lunch, dinner);
- Multiply figures in step 3 by average sales per day to get dollar volume per period;
- Determine average check per meal period;
- Divide dollar volumes in step 4 by average check for the number of patrons per period;
- Average seat occupation per meal period;
- Time per meal period;
- Divide time per period by average occupation to get seat turnover per period;
- Divide possible seat turnover into number of patrons to get number of seats required per period;
- Take the largest seating requirement in step 9 and add a 20% safety margin for the seating capacity.
This is part of a series: “So You Want to Open a Restaurant?”
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