November 5, 2018 |
Careful space planning is a crucial success metric for restaurateurs. There is a direct correlation between the spaces and seats available in a restaurant and its profitability. So, the big question is how many seats per square foot in a restaurant are appropriate and how much space per seat is needed in my restaurant or coffee shop?
Before answering these questions, there are a few aspects that need to be considered such as safety and municipality guidelines which vary for every country and region, what type of foodservice business are you running, what is the style of service, design aesthetics versus operational efficiency and of course the size of the venue. Each and every one of these points will have an impact on the optimal space and seating allocation.
The first thing to look at is the general split between the actual dining area and the space used for preparation, cooking and storage. Again, this split will vary depending if there is a bar planned, a waiting area or certain design features, but the general percentages used throughout the industry are as follows:
FRONT OF HOUSE (dining room, service area): 60% of total space available
BACK OF HOUSE (kitchen, storage, bathrooms): 40% of total space available
After breaking up the total available area we need to narrow down to the actual seating capacity. Here, it depends on the service style and the offering of the venue to determine the number of covers. A general rule of thumb is that the more elevated the service is, the more space is needed per cover or looking at it from another angle, the less seats can be accommodated per square foot of available space. Fine dining would clearly be needing the most space, which can go up to 22 square feet per person, whereas fast food and QSR venues suffice with as little as 12 square feet per seat. A good average for most restaurants and cafés is to calculate with 15 square feet per seat and then do the fine tuning.
Let’s have a look at a practical example. You are considering a retail space of 3,200 square feet. According to the general split you would allocate 1,920 square feet to the dining room and approximately 1,280 square feet to the back of house. Calculating with the average of 15 square feet per seat this venue could hold approximately 128 covers and if it was a fine dining establishment it would only accommodate 87 covers. It really comes down to defining your product proposition first in order to get to an accurate seating allocation.
After you have done the general calculation and start laying out your restaurant, you will need to look more into details such as safety passageways for the case of emergencies so there should be enough unobstructed space between the tables for guests and staff to move quickly. Another consideration is the allocation of waiter stations and design elements and how they interact with the overall floorplan. In some cases, it could make sense to have only one big central station, whereas in other cases it is better to have a couple of smaller stations distributed throughout the outlet.
Summing up we can see that the general rules of thumb can get you the first overview of space allocation for your restaurant in order to have a base for your calculations. Once this step is completed you go then into the fine tuning of the perfect layout for your venue. Just remember to define your service style first and then use the below indicators accordingly:
QSR/ FAST FOOD: 11 – 14 sqft. per cover
CAFÉ WITH COUNTER SERVICE: 16 – 20 sqft. per cover
FULL SERVICE RESTAURANT: 14 – 16 sqft. per cover
FINE DINING: 18 – 22 sqft. per cover
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