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Top expert tips for designing the perfect interior of your restaurant, bar and cafe.

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Starting a hospitality business is no easy feat. It requires careful planning, a lot of hard work, and attention to detail. Beyond the obvious requirements of serving quality food, maintaining a clean space, and providing exceptional customer service, creating the right atmosphere that draws in and keeps customers is essential. The ambience of your restaurant is what sets it apart from others, and it can be the deciding factor for your business's success.

To help you plan your restaurant, bar or cafe interior design to perfection, follow these 5 expert tips for designing the perfect interior space.

1. The layout

The layout of a restaurant is a critical factor that can significantly influence its overall success. At COR, we truly believe that an efficient circulation of both staff and customers is central, as it directly impacts productivity and the overall dining experience. A meticulously planned arrangement of key areas such as the bar, kitchen, and seating zones is the cornerstone of achieving this delicate balance without compromising aesthetics.

The layout should be designed to make it easy for customers to navigate and find their way inside, while the waiting staff should have a clear and unobstructed path to and from the kitchen and around the tables. This is what we take into account when we design a successful hospitality layout:

Bar Traffic Flow Analysis

Wine Bar Traffic Flow Analysis - Credit COR London Studio

Efficient Workflow: A well-designed layout ensures that staff can move efficiently in the restaurant, which is crucial for the prompt and effective service of food and beverages. This includes clear pathways for servers and a well-organised kitchen.

Customer Comfort: Adequate space between tables and seating arrangements that provide privacy and comfort are essential for an enjoyable dining experience. A well-spaced layout prevents customers from feeling cramped and promotes a relaxed atmosphere. What we do as a good practice is leave an 80cm distance between the tables for maximum comfort and privacy.

Capacity Optimisation: Maximising the seating capacity while maintaining comfort is essential in the food and beverage business. The layout should show a balanced number of tables and the space required for each, optimising revenue potential without overcrowding. We always consider the client's requirements when defining the business capacity.

Aesthetics and Ambiance: The layout contributes significantly to the overall ambience and aesthetics of the restaurant/bar/cafe. A well-designed layout enhances the theme or concept, creating a visually appealing environment that complements the brand.

Traffic Flow: Efficient traffic flow minimises congestion, ensures easy access to restrooms, and prevents bottlenecks near the entrance or the bar. A smooth flow improves customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

Accessibility: Compliance with accessibility regulations for the food & beverage industry is essential to accommodate all customers, including those with disabilities. This includes providing ramps, wide entrances, and accessible restrooms on the ground floor.

Safety and Compliance: Ensuring the layout adheres to building and safety codes is crucial. Compliance minimises the risk of accidents and legal issues and can affect the restaurant's insurance rates.

Zoning and Segmentation: Proper zoning of different areas within the restaurant, such as the bar, dining, and waiting areas, creates a logical flow and enhances the overall dining experience.

Bar Design: The design of the bar area is essential, as it often serves as a focal point. A well-designed bar layout encourages social interaction and entices customers to order drinks. We always consider the bar the focal point of all our projects, and you should do too.

Kitchen Placement: Proper placement of the kitchen, prep areas, and storage is crucial for efficiently preparing and serving meals. It should be strategically located to minimise delays and maintain food quality.

Furniture Selection: Choosing the right furniture, including seating and tables, is a key aspect of restaurant layout. Furniture should align with the overall design and be comfortable for customers.

Lighting and Acoustics: The placement of lighting and acoustic elements should be considered in the layout to create the desired atmosphere. Adequate lighting and sound control contribute to the dining experience.

Flexibility: We always consider how you can adapt the layout of your restaurant/bar/café for different occasions or accommodate various group sizes since we consider this a must in the hospitality industry. Flexibility can help maximise usage and revenue.

Visual Sightlines: Ensuring customers have pleasing views within the restaurant/bar/cafe adds to their enjoyment. This includes views of open kitchens, attractive decor, or outdoor spaces.

Waste Management: While designing space for the food and beverage industry, we also consider the waste disposal and recycling facilities, ensuring they are discreet yet accessible to staff.

Exterior Design: The layout extends to the restaurant's exterior, which is the first impression for potential customers. An inviting and well-planned exterior can attract more customers.

A well-designed restaurant layout is essential for a successful dining establishment. It influences the operational efficiency and the overall dining experience, making it a critical aspect of restaurant management and design.

2. Materials

Particularly when it comes to a F&B (food & beverage) business, the materials should be carefully selected. Depending on various factors, it might require certain certifications and rating, such a fire-retardant fabric and paint, slip-resistant flooring, IP rated lighting fixtures and so on.

Also, the materials’ choice plays a significant role in shaping the ambience and influencing your customers' experience. You should select functional, durable, and low-maintenance materials to create a long-lasting space. An interior designer can help you balance between beauty and practical materials. Here are some key considerations we account for when selecting materials for the hospitality industry:

Restaurant Samples Board

Samples Board - Credit COR London Studio

Aesthetic Appeal: The materials used in a restaurant/bar/cafe should reflect the desired style and colour scheme. For example, wood and natural materials can create a rustic or cosy atmosphere, while sleek metals and glass provide a modern and minimalist look.

Durability: Restaurants/bars/cafes experience high traffic and often must endure spills, stains, and heavy use. Materials should be chosen for their durability and resistance to wear and tear. For example, we always select commercial-grade flooring materials, stain-resistant upholstery, and scratch-resistant tabletops.

Cleanliness: Easy maintenance and cleanliness are essential. We always recommend selecting materials that are easy to clean, such as non-porous surfaces for tables and countertops and washable wall coverings, such as tiles, which can help maintain hygiene.

Comfort: Comfortable seating materials are crucial for a positive dining experience. Upholstery and cushioning should be not only aesthetically pleasing but also comfortable for guests. COR team always takes into account the level of comfort of each seating material to ensure the best experience for hospitality projects.

Sustainability: Many modern consumers prioritise environmentally friendly choices. Recycled or sustainable materials, energy-efficient lighting, and water-saving fixtures can help reduce the environmental impact of a restaurant.

In summary, the choice of materials in restaurant design is a multifaceted decision that requires consideration of aesthetics, functionality, durability, and sustainability, all while staying within the budget and ensuring compliance with regulations. The materials selected should work harmoniously to create an inviting and memorable customer dining experience..

3. The Lighting

While most people consider food, drinks, and service as the primary aspects of an excellent customer experience, few realise the importance of lighting in creating the right ambience for diners. Lighting arrangement is an essential element that contributes significantly to the atmosphere and mood of your restaurant/bar/cafe. We carefully select the right combination of colours, intensity, and styles, and this is how we create an unparalleled experience for your guests.

Covent Garden Bar lighignt scheme

Lighting Scheme - Credit COR London Studio

On top of significantly enhancing the customers’ experience, there are other considerations when designing a lighting scheme for a commercial business. Based on the UK’s regulations, we have to be mindful of sustainable solutions, and utilise dimmable systems for those warmer and brighter days. Here are a few of key points to consider:

Ambience: The type of lighting you choose can significantly impact the ambience of your restaurant/bar/cafe. Soft, warm lighting can create a cosy and intimate atmosphere, while bright, cool lighting can give a more modern and energetic feel.

Task Lighting: Different areas within your restaurant/bar/cafe may require different levels and types of lighting. For example, the dining area may benefit from softer, ambient lighting, while the bar or kitchen areas might need brighter task lighting for functionality.

Decor: Lighting fixtures can be integral to the decor. Choosing fixtures that complement your overall design theme can enhance the visual appeal of your hospitality space.

Dimmers: Installing dimmer switches allows you to adjust the lighting to suit different times of day or special occasions. Dimming the lights during dinner service can create a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere. Dimmer lighting is also a legal requirement in the UK for all commercial spaces, including restaurants, bars, and cafes.

Natural Light: If your restaurant/bar/cafe has direct access to natural light, we always consider how to maximise it. Large windows, skylights, or glass walls can add a beautiful, natural element to your restaurant/bar/cafe ambience.

Colour Temperature: The colour temperature of your lighting can affect the mood. Warmer temperatures (2700-3000K) create a cosy and inviting feel, while cooler temperatures (4000K and above) are more energising and modern.

Energy Efficiency: We always consider energy-efficient lighting options like LED bulbs, which save on energy costs and have a long lifespan.

Lighting Zones: You can use different lighting zones to create moods within the same space. For example, you might have separate lighting for the bar, dining, and outdoor seating.

Ultimately, the lighting arrangement in your restaurant/bar/cafe should align with your brand, the type of cuisine you serve, and the kind of experience you want to offer your customers. It is important to get this right, and you should consult an interior or lighting designer who can be an invaluable partner in creating a restaurant environment that looks great and functions effectively.

4. Appropriate Storage

Custom-made furnishings can be the perfect solution for creating storage in your restaurant/bar/cafe. Creating bespoke cabinets, shelving, and storage units helps maximise your available space while achieving a unique aesthetic that reflects your style and make you stand out from the other in the food & beverage business.

Restaurant Bespoke Cloakroom

Cavita - Bespoke Cloakroom - Credit COR London Studio

There are several advantages to choosing bespoke storage solutions over pre-made options. Here we list some advantages:

Tailored to Your Space: Custom-made storage solutions are designed to fit your restaurant/bar/café’s exact dimensions, ensuring no space is wasted. This is especially beneficial in smaller or irregularly shaped spaces where pre-made options may not work.

Unique Design: Bespoke storage allows you to create a one-of-a-kind design that reflects your restaurant/bar/cafe's style and brand. With pre-made options, you're limited to existing designs and may struggle to find something that aligns with your vision. While designing bespoke cabinetry we take into account your unique style and vision and we create something tailor-made for your hospitality business.

Optimised Functionality: Custom storage units can be designed with your specific needs in mind. You can dictate the number and size of shelves, drawers, and compartments to accommodate your equipment, supplies, or inventory efficiently.

Aesthetic Consistency: Custom storage ensures that your furnishings match the decor and theme of your restaurant, creating a cohesive and appealing environment for your diners. Pre-made options may not offer the same level of design coherence.

Quality Materials: You have control over the materials used in custom-made furnishings, ensuring they meet your durability and aesthetic requirements. This allows you to choose materials built to last and withstand the demands of a restaurant environment.

Long-Term Durability: While pre-made options may be cheaper initially, custom-made storage units are typically of higher quality and built to last. This means they are less likely to require repairs or replacements in the long run, saving you money over time.

Adaptability: Custom storage solutions can be modified or expanded as your restaurant/bar/cafe's needs change. With pre-made options, you may need to purchase new furnishings each time your requirements evolve, which can be costly and less environmentally friendly.

Personalisation: Bespoke storage allows you to add personal touches or features that cater to your specific workflow, making the storage more efficient and tailored to your restaurant/bar/cafe's unique needs.

Environmentally Friendly Choices: You can make environmentally conscious choices in the construction and materials used for your custom storage, aligning with sustainable practices and reducing your restaurant's ecological footprint.

Brand Identity: When we design custom storage, we consider it integral to your brand identity. The design, colours, and materials selected can contribute to the overall image of your restaurant/bar/cafe, making it more memorable to customers.

While pre-made storage options may offer convenience and cost savings upfront, choosing bespoke storage solutions provides the advantage of customisation, quality, and long-term value. It allows you to create storage that not only maximises space and functionality but also enhances the aesthetics and branding of your restaurant/bar/cafe.

5. Be your authentic self

Creating a space that reflects your unique style is vital to developing a distinctive and memorable experiences. In the context of hospitality, interior design plays a crucial role in shaping the overall dining experience, and authenticity is the key to establishing a lasting impression. Achieving authenticity in restaurant/bar/cafe interiors requires a deep understanding of the brand, its values, and the desired ambience.

Unique Restaurant Interior - Mexican interior design

Cavita - Unique Interiors - Credit COR London Studio

We at COR, take an innovative and imaginative approach to design restaurant, bar and café venues. Here are some reasons why we are promoting the designing of authentic space as imperative, along with the benefits of having a skilled interior designer to help achieve this goal:

Brand Identity: An authentic restaurant/bar/cafe interior should align with the restaurant's brand identity. This is not limited to the logo and colour scheme but extends to the ambience, decor, and overall aesthetic. A well-designed interior communicates the brand's personality, story and values to the customers, making it easier for them to connect with and remember your story.

Creating an Emotional Connection: Authenticity in design helps establish an emotional connection with customers. When customers step into a restaurant that feels genuine, they are more likely to feel comfortable and relaxed. We are helping to establish this emotional connection, designing unique spaces that tell customers a story.

Setting the Right Atmosphere: The atmosphere within a restaurant/bar/cafe is crucial to the overall dining experience. The design elements, such as lighting, seating, and decor, can be carefully curated to create a specific mood or ambience. While creating authentic design, we ensure that the chosen atmosphere aligns with the cuisine and overall concept of the restaurant/bar/cafe.

Competitive Advantage: In a competitive market, creating a unique and authentic restaurant interior can set your establishment apart from others. A distinctive interior is more likely to be shared on social media, reviewed positively, and recommended to friends and family, giving your restaurant a significant advantage.

Consistency: Authentic design extends beyond aesthetics; it should also be consistent with the menu and food offerings. The interior should enhance the dining experience by complementing the food and service, creating a holistic customer experience.

Storytelling: An authentic space can tell a story or reflect the history and culture behind the cuisine. This narrative can add depth and interest to the dining experience, making it more memorable.

Maximising Space: As interior designers, we can help optimise the use of space, ensuring that seating arrangements are efficient, comfortable, and visually appealing. This can lead to increased revenue by accommodating more customers without sacrificing comfort.

Functional Efficiency: As interior designers, we create functional spaces catering to staff and customers' needs. Well-thought-out layouts and designs can improve workflow and enhance the efficiency of your food and beverage operations.

Adapting to Trends: We are knowledgeable about design trends, taking them into account and incorporating them into the restaurant's interior while maintaining authenticity. This ensures the space remains relevant and attractive to a changing customer base.

Longevity: An authentic and well-designed interior has the potential to stand the test of time. It can be adapted and refreshed over the years, saving the restaurant/bar/café from costly and frequent renovations.

In conclusion, the importance of designing an authentic space in the food and beverage industry cannot be overstated. It enhances the overall dining experience and contributes to brand identity, customer loyalty, and a competitive edge in the industry. With our help, a restaurant/bar/cafe can effectively achieve unique and authentic interiors that resonate with customers, making the dining experience truly special.


COR London is an interior design studio that covers all creative and practical details of the interior design process. We create immersive spaces that deliver operational efficiencies, emotionally engaging environments and commercially successful propositions, working collaboratively with forward-thinking clients.

Whether you are planning a re-brand or opening your doors for the first time, we’re ready to come alongside you and design a space that keeps your customers coming back time and again.



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