Studio Grayscale | Retail & Hospitality Interior Design



When designing a restaurant, there are some key considerations you should give to the various steps involved.  From selecting your site, through to considering your budget and selecting an interior designer.  To aid you through the process, below are 10 key tips to help you consider and understand all aspects of the process.

1.      Carefully Select Your Site

Presumably, you have done your research and have selected a site in an area that will give you good foot traffic, and the opportunity to capture walk-in trade.  But also consider – the size, proportion and existing services within the site.  For example – if the site was previously trading as another food retailer – this will save you the trouble of going through the local council for a ‘change of use’ application.  If the site already has a kitchen or existing bathrooms, this will save you significant cost in adding in new drainage and water supply points.  Even if you significantly alter or renovate what exists, the less you need to alter, will obviously result in cost savings.  It would be wise, before selecting your site, to have your builder or designer review the site and advise of any potential issues, or areas that may save you cost.

2.      Allow Enough Time

Too often, business owners do not allow enough time for the entire process to take place, resulting in a rushed design, tender or fit-out process.  As a rough guide, you should allow the following timeframes (at a minimum):

-        4 weeks for the interior designer

-        2 weeks for tendering / quoting

-        1 week to review quotes & select a shopfitter

-        4 weeks onsite for the build / construction

Keeping in mind, this doesn’t take into consideration approvals with landlords, council or shopping centres.  (Council being the lengthiest process, particularly if you need to go through town planning for façade or signage alterations, allow a minimum of 60 days)

3.      Consider Your Budget

When it comes to your budget – be realistic and do your research.  Gain a sound understanding of how much it will cost to fit-out your restaurant interior.  Include costs for designers, council, shopfitters, joinery (eg. tables & chairs) and equipment. 

Be willing to share your fit-out budget with your interior designer & shopfitter.  This is important for several reasons – both your designer & shopfitter have experience and know how much things cost, and they can produce ideas and solutions in accordance with your budget.  As an example, there are many ways to design a reception counter – the level of detail and the quality of finishes, all impact the cost of manufacture.  If you don’t reveal your budget target for the manufacture, how can the interior designer and shopfitter produce result that suits your purpose?  For example, do you want your counter constructed from laminate, or stone?... (Laminate being the budget solution, stone being more expensive - but longer lasting).

4.      Engage a Graphic Designer

Once you’ve established a name for your venue, best practice would be to engage a graphic designer.  Ideally seek designers through referral where you can.  A good graphic designer really is key to providing a great visual representation, and its so important to engage a professional who can assist you with all touch points – from the logo, through to the menus, and signage within your space.  Great graphics really can make a huge difference to how your brand appears or appeals to your potential customers.  Your graphic designer can also create custom designed graphics that can be applied to your interior space, for example as huge decals on your interior walls.

5.      Engage an Interior Designer

An interior designer will ensure your restaurant design functions efficiently, both from a customer and staff point of view.  They will work with you to gain a thorough understanding of your vision and will in turn make it come to life.  By engaging an interior designer for your restaurant design, you will have access to their wealth of expertise and knowledge.  Aim to select an interior designer that has experience in similar projects to ensure they bring with them relevant experience.  Not only will an interior designer guide the aesthetics, and experience within your space, they will also work with you to design the bones of your space – how it functions, how the traffic flows throughout the space. They will also work with you to design joinery where needed, or to source off the shelf items that work cohesively with the overall design.

6.      Consider your Operations

The basis of ensuring a smooth operational layout is quite simple, but the key is – it needs to be considered.  Review at each of your tasks and look at the operational process to perform the task.  For example: one task might be to make a cocktail.  What are the ingredients that will go into this… and where are they placed within proximity to each other.  Take the process through, step by step: eg. Pickup a shaker / Add ice / Add various ingredients / Pour into glass.  Many items you sell, will require some prep work, a process, and the key is – ensure the process runs as efficiently as possible.  Look at it in a plan layout format – aim to avoid staff crossover and place items for each process within close proximity to each other.

When developing a new restaurant design, it would be wise for the interior designer to gain a thorough understanding of your back of house operations, so both the store owner and the designer can work together to produce a layout that will ensure maximum efficiency.

7.      Design for your Target Customer

The experience of your customer is key to the success of your restaurant, therefore, everything you do in designing your restaurant, should have your customers experience in mind.  Work with your interior designer to create an environment that is inviting and takes into consideration who your target customer is.  Ensure all elements of your design, from crockery, cutlery, menus & graphics, through to the interior all have one unified target in mind – your customer.  This is presuming you have a very sound knowledge of exactly who that person is.

8.      Engage a Professional Lighting Designer

Engage a professional lighting designer.  Yes, your electrician will be able to suggest a budget fitting for your space, but they aren’t lighting designers…. They won’t be considering the quality of lighting within the space, and the overall ambience it will create.  Lighting design is an area of expertise, therefore, engage a professional lighting designer to produce quality results, that link in with the interior design.

9.      Complete a Proper Tender / Quotation Process

Once the design for your restaurant is complete, and your interior designer has produced a set of preliminary drawings - you are ready to go to tender.  To ensure a proper tender process, you should have x3 recommended shopfitters price the project.  The process should take them x2 weeks.  Send out the drawings to the shopfitters and give them a set date by which their price should be returned.  Once all quotes are in – its time to review (or have your interior designer review).  Ensure all prices are comparable, and there aren’t any ‘exclusions’ that should be included.  Some of the quotes may need to be adjusted slightly to ensure all are comparable.  By completing the tender process in this way, it is a fair and reasonable process for both the shopfitters, and you, the restaurant owner.  You will clearly be able to decide on who will be the best shopfitter for the job. 

10.  Ensure your Designer & Shopfitter have Relevant Experience

When selecting your Interior Designer & Shopfitter, ensure they have relevant experience in similar projects.  This will ensure they understand your requirements properly and can design accordingly.  It will also mean, they have relevant experience to draw from, and can employ this wealth of experience and knowledge to your restaurant design.

Amy Gray