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Before a potential customer even enters your takeaway, and long before they taste the food, they make a judgment based on what the premises look like. If your outlet is well presented with decor and branding that reflects the values of the business, people are far more likely to come through the door.

McDonald’s recently redesigned many of their restaurants to make them more café-like with dark wood replacing bright red and yellow plastic. This more modern and sophisticated look reflects changes to their menu with lighter menu items and quality coffee.

Irish diner chain Eddie Rockets launched a slick-looking spin-off called Rockets with a stripped-down menu and a more modern visual look while keeping similar colours in their branding.

Looking at interesting re-designs like these will give you inspiration – below are a few ideas to keep in mind.

Ideas for great design.

1 – Develop a vision for your brand
While having a vision may sound like obvious advice, not all owners know exactly what they want to do with their restaurant at the outset. Try and figure out what the core concept behind the business is and try and get the decor and branding to reflect this. The colours used in the decor and branding should ensure that when customers enter the premises they have a good idea of what’s happening inside. If you have images of the sea and fishing boats and you don’t serve fish, you’re doing something wrong.

Chimac – a Korean chicken and beer concept restaurant in Dublin featured elsewhere in this issue – has a clean bright interior and images of chicken and beer on the walls.

A branding company can help with this if expressing the vision is proving difficult. Once the vision of the brand is clear it can be applied to the architecture, decor and marketing materials. A common mistake is to closely copy other successful brands. You need to try and find what makes your restaurant unique and bring that to the branding.

2 – Find your flow
Lucozade had a recent TV campaign all about finding your flow. It suggested that when you’re in the right zone you can do everything naturally. This concept can be applied to the layout of your outlet. The right design can allow your customers to flow easily through the restaurant from point of sale to service and on to the seating.

The layout and visibility of the menu board, as well as the placement of the ordering line, are important considerations. Ideally, the customer can easily view the menu in the queue and can then order quickly from the teller. Another thing to pay attention to is where the queue is in relation to the seating – you don’t want a queue right beside where your customers are trying to enjoy their food. You also might want to try and have the queue visible from outside to show how popular the place is.

3 – Small can be beautiful
There’s nothing less atmospheric than eating in a large empty restaurant. Be realistic about the amount of people likely to be in your outlet and design it accordingly. It’s better to have a small, full restaurant with a few people waiting than a cavernous hall that looks sparsely populated even with a good crowd. A packed restaurant communicates that the food is good and will attract custom.

If yours is takeaway only without a seating area, think about where people are going to stand as they wait for their food. Can you make this an attractive and relaxed area? Can you provide stools? Wi-fi? What music will you play? Is the counter designed in a way that enables banter?

4 – Try to be original but accessible
These days there’s a fashion in restaurant design for plain wood, brick, and stone which is widely used to communicate quality, comfort, and contemporary style.

But there’s a danger these design trends have become too saturated. It’s probably better to take these styles as a starting point but add a dose of your own business’ personality to it – which could be to do with your most popular food item or a family story about the founding of the business.

Remember the customer experience starts when they walk through the door so artwork, murals and graphics should all reflect the personality of the restaurant. Ideas can come from the local area or even from the building itself – has it always been a restaurant or can its previous incarnation inspire aspects of its contemporary use as a restaurant? In Rathmines, the people behind Fallon & Byrne have taken over Lenehans hardware store – a landmark store which traded for over 70 years, and plans to open it shortly as a restaurant. They’re keeping the name and apparently the décor will gesture to its previous use.

5 – Don’t be afraid to take a risk
If there’s some aspect of modern culture or art that captivates you don’t be afraid to use that in your design. If you fully commit to it, it can work.

In Killarney, Co Kerry, there is a Lord of the Rings pub complete with medieval tankards, murals and a replica of the ‘one ring’. This might be too specific a concept for a restaurant but if it’s something that inspires you it can translate to your brand.
A scary concept – Zombie Burger

In the US, Iowa-based chef and restaurateur George Formaro is a lifelong horror fan who was originally inspired by the Universal Studios horror monsters, as well as the German Expressionist film The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari. The inspiration led to Zombie Burger + Drink Lab.
Zombie Burger aspires to be edgy without being bloody, while also being family-friendly. In the original location, there are three murals by artist Ron Wagner depicting the Zombie Apocalypse in Des Moines, which are creepy without being graphically gory. Other design components include a 19th-century wicker coffin, a zombie clown, and a couple of life-sized zombies with whom customers can get their picture taken.

“When I told my partners what I wanted to do, there wasn’t a model for me to look at for this,” Formaro says. “We were just going to have to create this thing and hope for the best. But we’re really able to push it further now. We have the scary zombies up front totally decked out in what I call ‘apocalyptic chic.’ We have these chain-link fences hanging all over the dining room. There are barred-up windows and a lot of different textures.”
Formaro’s gamble for something edgy and fun is paying off. “It’s hard to explain to people what to expect, but when they get there, people love the place,” he says

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