Restaurant Design for 2020 and Beyond: Creativity Takes the Cake

Last updated on February 17th, 2020

Stay competitive with trending restaurant designs to enhance diners' experience.

Wondering what’s new in restaurant design for 2020 and beyond? If you own any type of foodservice, your answer should be: A lot! Indeed, savvy restauranteurs, caterers, bar managers, and even pizzerias, coffee shops, and ice cream parlors know that in today’s competitive milieu, success in the food-and-beverage industry requires much more than “keeping up with the Joneses.”

The fact is that there are bigger fish to fry if you want to emerge ahead of the pack and entice customers to not only choose your eatery but to walk through your door. With takeout and home delivery on the rise, and with the explosion of digital apps that allow customers to pre-order online, pickup without waiting, and eat on-the-go, restaurants need to work harder than ever to attract in-house crowds.

For these reasons, alluring restaurant designs are more vital than ever before and in fact may be central to business success in the coming years. Fortunately, there are many time-proven and new strategies that can keep your restaurant on the map and keep your foodservice ‘biz in the game.

Dining Spaces Redesigned

It’s a new era in the world of eating out, and food and beverage providers are rising to the challenge with innovative redesigns. While some restaurants are downsizing their dining-in spaces and changing the focus to design details that enhance their customers’ experience, others are expanding outwards, upwards, and even downwards. Think al-fresco (outdoor) dining under the stars, all-night rooftop bars, and basements-turned-hipster-hangouts with large rooms for live music and dancing. In fact, industry reports indicate that restaurants adding outdoor seating can increase their revenue by up to 33%, while rooftop bars and restaurants are flourishing around the world. Not only are they changing the face of global skylines and providing breathtaking views of the cities below, but they have become a magnet for adventure-seeking consumers, international DJs, and the best chefs and bartenders.


Check out new, creative and sometimes far-out restaurant designs.

Moveable Seating

Also on the rise is moveable seating – tables and chairs designed to be mobile, allowing you to create new dining spaces at will, to accommodate small and large parties, and not be limited by any single configuration. Think individual booths for quieter, private seating, round tables for social gatherings, height-adjustable bar stools for on-the-go customers, and high-low-top table combos that create the illusion of a larger space.

However, practicality aside, if you really want to think outside of the box and make your eatery the talk of the town, consider what “Sur un Arbre Perché” in France is serving up: Customers are seated in a swing throughout their entire dining experience, allowing them to unwind as they munch away…

And here is some more foodservice industry news to digest: If customers typically hated sitting near the kitchen in years past, think again! According to National Restaurant Association Research, 42% of diners say they would opt for front-row seats that allow them a behind-the-scenes look at chefs in action. You now have an opportunity to ensure that there isn’t a bad seat in the house, so go for it!

Technology Leads the Way to Table Management Success

How long guests sit at their table also impacts a restaurant’s bottom line, so having mastered better seating options, you can keep things moving in the right direction and at the right speed by making the switch to digital menus (aka tablet menus). A growing percentage of consumers call the Internet their home and they love the instant gratification of technology and the ability to browse, place orders, and pay independently of waiting to be served. So, if you haven’t done so already, remember to add online reservation technology to your menu, allowing customers to secure their place in your restaurant. According to consumer surveys, restaurant-goers rank the ability to make online reservations at the top of their ‘favorite restaurant technology’ list, offering you yet another opportunity to increase your business’s bottom line while you boost customer satisfaction.

Instagram-Inviting Environments

If order and delivery apps are keeping customers away from brick and mortar buildings, Instagram can pull them in. Today’s customers are ravenous for social media and will pay top dollar for eye-catching, head-turning dining experiences and menu items that they can share online with friends, colleagues, and family. If you can provide a unique, photogenic environment in your food or beverage establishment with a touch of something whimsical, weird, wonderful, or completely unexpected, the camera-loving crowds will come flocking, only too ready to post pics of your innovative décor and culinary masterpieces online where they can go viral in a matter of moments.

In the words of foodservice pros such as champagne bar owner Jen Pelka: “…Instagram is basically the new version of word of mouth.” So, don your best chefs’ hat as you start to imagine what kind of one-of-a-kind photo opportunities you can provide that can’t be found anywhere else.

New, creative and far-out restaurant designs will enhance customer experiences.

Go Green

While “Go Green” may have you scrambling to come up with yet another way your foodservice can conserve, recycle, and re-use, we’re going to turn the tables, as “going green” when it comes to modern restaurant decor refers quite literally to the business advantages you can look forward to when you decorate your dining area with a variety of plants, flowers, and even fresh herbs. Not only are they visually appealing with a calming effect on diners, but the use of flora and fauna can significantly up your restaurant game.

The proof is in the pudding. Just note the many awards earned by the Florist restaurant and bar in Liverpool at the Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards 2019. These awards included the: Best Designed Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year, New Casual Dining Concept of the Year, and Best New Restaurant Site. Not only do their customers enjoy an eclectic menu including vegan, dairy free and gluten-free selections, creative cocktails, and nightly DJs, but the Florist’s interior design features fresh flowers, cherry blossom trees, a flower wall as a backdrop, and other head turning floral installations.

Light Your Way to Restaurant Business Success

Another way to shine your establishment’s light in the new decade is via the ambience created by your choices in wall lamps, pendant lights, recessed lighting, chandeliers, candlesticks, sconces, tabletop candles, lanterns, and natural lighting from large windows or a glass ceiling. Lighting can bring vibrancy to your dining space and set the tone for fast-casual, adventurous customer experiences, or create a romantic, laid-back mood that says, ‘stay for a while,’ and ‘enjoy another glass of wine.’ Any way you slice the pie, be sure to cash in on this illuminating win-win success strategy.

Turn Down the Noise, Turn Up the Music

Press your ears to the ground for these next modern trends in restaurant design. According to Washington Post Food Critic Tom Sietsema, customers are choosing – or rejecting – restaurant spaces based on acoustics and noise levels alone. So much so that he has added noise ratings to his dining column, citing them as critical to foodservice success.

Backing his claims are the 2018 Zagat Survey, where noise was American diners’ biggest complaint (followed by service quality and crowds), and the fact that acoustics can either help or hinder customers’ ability to comfortably converse despite background music or nearby conversations.

Fortunately, the experts have outlined a number of solutions that can help prevent bad acoustics in your eatery, including: wood and glass furnishings that reflect sound and thereby prevent echoes and long reverberation times; adding rugs, carpets, and drapes to absorb sound; investing in special acoustic ceilings
and other built-in solutions.

Restaurant design

And now, let’s flip the disc to hear how pairing food with music can boost your business:

  • The right music selection can create an atmosphere and mood that compliments your customers’ listening preferences as well as your brand’s image.
  • Music makes service wait times more pleasurable and less stressful.
  • According to industry research, music can significantly enhance your menu by making both savory and sweet dishes taste more flavorful.

Far-Out Restaurant Design Concepts for Inspiration

If you are looking for a new design concept for your restaurant, or are seeking an updated look as you renovate, here are some far-out examples that are captivating the crowds and winning the hearts and stomachs of consumers worldwide. We hope these tantalize your taste buds and help stimulate your own creative juices as you plan your restaurant’s interior furnishings for 2020 and beyond.

Activity Bars: If you own a bar, it’s time to get busy and follow the “activity bar” trend. Providing customers with an experience they can indulge in and share online, the new concept is giving rise to the likes of Swinger Bars offering indoor golf, Bounce Bars featuring table tennis, and Flight Club Bars providing dart competitions.

Under-the-Sea Dining: Rangali Island in the Maldives offers the world’s only under-the-sea restaurant with a 270-degree panoramic view of the Maldives’ sea creatures, thrilling the current 14-seat capacity of diners.

Flying Dinner Table: Around the world, restaurants are taking the eating-out experience over the top with high-altitude venues that excite and delight. However literally taking the concept to new heights is Dinner in the Sky, the first venue to be suspended by a crane over 160 feet in the air, thrilling 12 brave diners and three staff. Moreover, the extraordinary franchise now partners with consumers around the globe, offering special event formulas such as Showbiz in the Sky, Santa in the Sky, Marriage in the Sky, and more.

Mammoth Lakes, California: Your snow chariot awaits you at Mammoth Mountain Inn, where you will be lifted 9,600 feet to enjoy a high-altitude meal at the Parallax Restaurant, overlooking the breathtaking snowcapped peaks of the Eastern Sierra landscape.

The Disaster Cafe: If thrills and chills are what excite your palate, take a trip to the Mediterranean coastal town Lloret de Mar in Spain, where along with your meal, the Disaster Café serves up simulated 7.8 Richter scale earthquakes which occur at random times during your meal…..

Devil Island Prison Restaurant: Finally, Devil Island in China is the place to go if you can latch onto the concept of eating in a prison cell. As customers enter the jail-resembling restaurant, they are assigned a number, photographed, and fingerprinted. The venue features real-life sliding jail doors, iron bars, and metal floors. Adding icing to the proverbial cake, seated in private prison cells, customers are served by waiters donning black-and-white striped inmate uniforms.

Bon Appétit!

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