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So, you’ve decided you want to quit the 9-5 job and start running your own restaurant – great! You’re probably a confusing mix of excited and worried right now, and that’s completely natural. After all, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to designing and running a successful restaurant. Get it wrong, and customers will flock to one of your many competitors instead.

To get you started, we’ve put together this helpful guide, which will help you make those initial decisions on theme, design and furniture style, while also providing tips on how to attract customers. 

Let’s get started!

bustling restaurant bar

Choosing a theme for your restaurant 

You probably already have a good idea about what sort of restaurant you want to open, but you need to refine that concept further. If you want to run an Italian restaurant, what sort of eatery do you want to it be? Do you want families to flock to your business, or would you prefer your premises to be a little more upmarket? The audience should be your starting point.

Once you’ve decided on your audience, you should take some time to research them a bit more. What do young adults want from a modern fast food restaurant? Are there any extra considerations when catering for families? If you can’t answer these questions easily, you need to go out there and ask! Make sure to investigate your competitors too: what could you do different/better in order to stand out?

Be sure that your restaurant will suit the area it’s opening in, too. A budget American diner is sure to look out of place in a small rural village. 

themed restaurant

How to choose restaurant furniture

Now you know what type of restaurant you’re going to run and who your audience is, you need to purchase some furniture. With hundreds of designs to choose from, it’s a much more complicated task that just buying ten of the same table and chair sets, though. Again, the furniture you pick needs to fit with your theme.

For example, if you’re recreating a 1950s American diner, you’ll want the traditional red and white booths and aluminium tables. If you’re going to run an upmarket Japanese restaurant, you might want to opt for dark oak squareback side chairs, paired with rectangular shaker tables.

Don’t forget the other areas of your restaurant – if you’re having a bar you’ll need stools. Want to create a comfortable area where customers can wait for a table to become available? Some sofas might be a good idea. Outdoor furniture capable of weathering rain, wind and the sun is a must if you’re planning on having any outside eating areas.

You’ll also need to offer tables of various sizes, to account for small and large dining groups.

Laying out your restaurant

Once you’ve got your furniture, you need to decide where it’s all going to go! Layout is a big deal – it can have a huge impact on how successful for business is, as it will affect how your staff and customers move around the restaurant. Pack too many tables into one place and customers are going to feel cramped and claustrophobic, but if there’s too much dead space, your establishment will appear empty.

We recommend leaving at least 45cm between the seats at different tables, but the exact distance you choose will be down too what type of experience you’re trying to create. In fine dining restaurants, it’s much more common for the tables to be further apart, as it gives diners more privacy and makes the establishment feel more open. If you’re running a fast food restaurant, you’re not expecting your customers to stick around that long and will want to provide seating for as many people as possible, so you might choose a closer layout.

Most importantly, you need to think about how your staff are going to move around the restaurant. No customer wants to feel as if they are in a passageway though, or constantly surrounded by other people. Keep circulation routes to a minimum and ensure that wherever someone is seating they’re able to get up and out easily.

How to attract customers to your restaurant

All set and ready to open? Great! But now the hard part begins – attracting customers to your restaurant. At first, you’ll have the benefit of being new; the locals will want to sample your fare, but how do you keep them coming back?

Employ friendly staff

If customers aren’t greeted with a smile, they’re unlikely to come back. After all, who wants to be served by a grumpy, unhelpful server? It seems obvious, but make sure you hire the right people. An awesome chef who can get food out efficiently is a must, while the front-of-house staff should be warm and welcoming. You’ll need to make sure they’re attentive, but not overbearingly so – leave customers in peace to eat and make sure someone’s there for them.

restaurant kitchen staff chef

Don’t go overboard on the menu

Some eateries think that the more options are on the menu, the better, but this isn’t always true. Your menu should be varied and cater to your audience – for example, if you run a family-friendly place, you must have a kids’ menu. Provide too much choice, however, and it’s bound to impact the quality of your food. If you have high standards, we suggest creating a smaller menu and perfecting the dishes you do serve.

simple menu selection

Provide special offers

Promoting your restaurant is a must and you should do so via a variety of formats. Before you launch, make sure you create:

  • A website which details how customers can find you and the type of food you serve (downloadable menus are also helpful)
  • Profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other platforms your target audience is likely to use

Once you have the basics in place, you can start to promote your business – one of the best ways to do this is to provide special offers. These could range from anything from showing off a new, affordable set menu to giving out 20% off vouchers. You can use the following tactics to get word out about these offers:

  • An email or text message campaign – this is an easy and inexpensive way to get in touch with customers who are happy to be contacted by your business
  • Adverts in local magazines/newspapers and online
  • Posts via social media – use paid promotion to reach the largest audience possible
  • Physical signs outside your establishment, to bring people in off the street

There are lots of ways to advertise your business; try different methods and offers to entice customers on and see which ones have the most success.

Cater for the holidays

There are some times of year which are a bit more special than others, notably Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Easter, and it’s important to celebrate them in your restaurant. Depending on the theme or style of your restaurant, you may want to only mark particular holidays: for example, a fine-dining establishment probably isn’t going to be interested in highlighting Halloween, and for a Chinese restaurant, the New Year is going to be the most important annual event.

Whatever time of year you’re planning to celebrate, you need to make it come to life in your restaurant. You could create a special menu, redesign the restaurant just for the night or even have a themed promotion. 

If you’d like more information on how to transform your restaurant for the holidays, check out our blogs on how to cater for lovers on Valentine’s Day and merry-makers at Christmas.

We wish you and your restaurant business the best of luck, whether it’s due to launch tomorrow or the concept is in its very earliest of stages. If you would like further advice when it comes to furniture, please give us a call on 0116 2988 970 or 0116 2988 424. Alternatively, you can fill in our enquiry form and we’ll get back to you.

Related reading

Here are some extra restaurant industry reads, tips and advice from our blog.

Kiera Goymour, wedding planner at Applewood Hall:

“Having researched a number of suppliers, Trent Furniture came out top on value for money, speed of response and delivery. The Trent Furniture team were also a pleasure to deal with and responded to queries promptly.

"Thanks to the new furniture our event space is now much more modern, elegant and airy. We’ve had lots of positive comments.” 

The wedding venue ordered 200 lime wash Chiavari chairs.

Picture a typical British pub in the 21st century. What does it look like? Well, it probably offers an array of big-brand beers, lagers and ciders, plus wines and spirits. It probably has music. It might have noisy electronic gaming machines. It is likely to offer food; indeed, the rise of the gastropub is one of the big stories in the pub world in recent years. And there’s a good chance that it will have a large TV screen (or several) showing major sporting events. It might have a coffee machine for customers who’d rather have a cappuccino than a pint. And if there’s space there might be a family area outside.

Now imagine a pub that has almost none of these things. It’s small. Tiny, in fact. It is basically one room. It does nothing except serve drinks, mainly real ale, and perhaps a limited selection of bar snacks. It’s called a micropub, and there are a lot of them about.

Changing Britain’s Pub/Bar Licensing Laws

It all started in 2003, when the then Labour government changed Britain’s licensing laws to make it easier for anyone to open a pub. Under the new act, which became effective in 2005, applications to sell alcohol would go to local councils, rather than the courts, making it harder for objections to be made, and the whole process was made considerably less expensive. This act inspired Martyn Hillier to open the Butcher’s Arms in his home village of Herne, Kent, in 2005. Measuring three metres by four and occupying the front room of a former butcher’s shop, the Butcher’s Arms took the idea of the pub right back to basics, stripping out all the accoutrements of the modern pub and giving customers instead a simple set-up: a room, and some ale, leaving it up to the punters to make their own entertainment, which they proceeded to do by... talking to each other. Hillier showed that with the micropub, the pub owner benefits by having very low overheads (no music licence to pay for, for instance), while the customers benefit from lower prices and a convivial, homely atmosphere.

The black dog micro pub

The Micropub movement (micro-wave)

With the Butcher’s Arms, the micropub movement – what’s been called a “micro-wave” - was born, and before long micropubs were opening up around the country in tiny spaces – former taxi offices, railway station waiting rooms, old shops, hairdressing salons. To begin with, they were concentrated in Kent, but soon began to spread across the country. Last year the Financial Times reported that there were more than 100 micropubs across the UK; now, the Micropub and Microbrewery Association’s website lists 256. Mike McWilliam, the owner of the Black Dog, a micropub in Whitstable, Kent, told the FT last year: “It’s not rocket science — just take the good bits from existing pubs and remove the bad ones.”

What Are Micropubs?

Micropubs, then, are small, quirky and idiosyncratic (one in Margate, Kent, is called Ales of the Unexpected). An application to the local council for a “change of use” is normally required; in Chatham, Kent, an application has been made to open a micropub in premises in an arch beneath a railway viaduct. This would involve a change of use from its previous function as a public convenience. Another micropub in Nottingham is called Doctor’s Orders, as it operates from a room that used to be a pharmacy.

Doctors orders micro pub nottingham

The Rise of the Microbrewery

In parallel with the rise of the micropub, we have seen the rise of the microbrewery – small breweries that cannot compete with the giants in terms of quantity but which offer a much wider range of flavoursome ales brewed in small batches; these brews, sometimes called craft beers, are perfect for micropubs, which typically offer a changing selection of four or five cask-conditioned ales (many will allow customers to taste the beer before buying). You are unlikely to find a micropub that sells lager, which is regarded among the micropub fraternity as a fizzy and noxious brew, though many will serve proper cider and perhaps a small selection of wines.

black dog beers and ales on tap

Micropubs Tips – ‘Keep it Small, Keep it Simple’

In keeping with its origins, the original micropub, the Butcher’s Arms, is furnished with tables made from butchers’ blocks. This rudimentary aesthetic is typical of the aims of the movement, which are summarised in the motto: “Keep it small, keep it simple” (abbreviated to “KIS KIS”). So micropub owners will need to be careful about how they furnish their premises, if they are to stay true to the spirit of the movement; shiny chrome chairs and glass-topped tables are unlikely to go down well with real-ale drinkers in search of an authentically quirky micropub. So perhaps it would be best to stick to traditional pub furniture designs, and to mix them up, to create a properly “organic”, rough-and-ready feel. Comfort is important, but what’s crucial is that micropub furniture should be simple, functional, sturdy and unobtrusive: tables and chairs in good, honest materials such as solid wood and cast iron.

The rise of the micropub, then, offers a small glimmer of hope in an age of apparently remorseless pub closures. As pubs run by the big commercial corporate chains close down because they are unprofitable, perhaps micropubs will fill part of the gap left by their absence: these are real local pubs selling real local ales, places where conversation can flourish without the intrusion of blaring music or the clang of gaming machines.

Behind Every Micropub There is a Story Worth Telling

The rise of the micropub comes at a time when British consumers are seeking more authentic alternatives to the mass-produced offerings they find at supermarkets and in their identikit high streets: in everything from food to furniture, they are increasingly seeking the handmade, the original, the quirky: something with a story behind it. And behind every micropub there is doubtless a story worth telling - and someone who will be happy to tell it.

Related reading

Here’s a few of our related stories which we hope you will find interesting.

- Bar furniture buying guide; tips and advice

- How pubs can join in with English Tourism week

- Discover how bar furniture can turn the traditional pub into the third office

Written by David Cheal

A story has been going around for years about the furniture at McDonald’s restaurants. The theory is that the chairs at the fast food chain are designed to be uncomfortable so that diners do not linger, but move on and make space for more customers. It may be an urban myth, but there is no doubt that furniture is a vital part of any restaurant’s offering: if your customers are not sitting comfortably, they will not stay for long – or come back, for that matter. So unless you are a global fast-food chain or seeking a fast turnover of customers, comfortable furniture is surely the way to go. A glance through the restaurant reviews section of restaurants on the customer review site Trip Advisor shows that customers will not forget, or forgive, a restaurant with uncomfortable chairs, however good the food or service might be. 

And it’s not just a question of the chairs and tables at which diners eat (we’ll be coming to these shortly). If you have a bar area, it’s vital that it has comfy chairs (though not, as in Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch, used as a form of torture!). Now, it’s likely that space in your bar area will be limited, so it probably won’t be possible to scatter tub chairs, club chairs or leather sofas around like a gentlemen’s club. But perhaps a couple of snug armchairs or a small sofa could be placed in corners or up against walls, with low tables for drinks.

As for bar stools and tables: people's preferences tend to differ; some like the freedom provided by backless stools, whilst others enjoy the support that backrests can provide. A stool with a supportive backrest will improve comfort enormously, as will a padded or upholstered seat. Footrests help, too. Tables should be at a good height, and – this is crucial – they must not wobble. The same goes for stools: wobbly stools are likely to leave you with wobbly customers. 

In the restaurant area itself, as in the bar, there will inevitably be a trade-off between space and comfort. Chairs that are more comfortable generally take up more room. You might think it best to squeeze more diners in, but using fewer, larger, more comfortable chairs and larger tables could be seen as a long-term investment that yields loyal, returning customers. Diners will appreciate the space, and it will make it easier for anyone moving between tables to do so without fear of knocking someone’s drink over. It will also give diners more privacy. Again, it’s vital to avoid the “wobble” factor: floors should be even, tables stable.

The art of design always involves a trade-off between functionality and beauty. Some designers have almost totally ignored comfort to create chairs that are aesthetically amazing but almost unusable, as in the examples on this blog (The World’s 13 Most Uncomfortable Chair Designs), but mainstream furniture designers will see comfort as their chief priority.

The style of your chairs will of course depend on the surroundings. The theme in restaurant interiors, design and furniture these days is that... well, there is no theme. It’s fine to mix and match, placing old alongside new, classic alongside contemporary. The idea is to give a restaurant or a bar a homely, handmade atmosphere. 

But whatever style or theme you choose, comfort is key: arms and backrests are ideal; or chairs with a high, supportive back that enable diners to relax properly. Of course, for reasons of cleanliness and practicality it’s important that furniture can be cleaned properly and easily – but today’s synthetic fabrics can withstand all kinds of punishment. Sturdiness is important, too: diners need to feel that they are sitting on something solid – flimsy furniture can leave people feeling insecure.

Another key issue is noise. The trend these days is for restaurants to have hard surfaces: concrete or tiled floors, bare walls, bare tables, metal chairs, often a metal foodservice counter. These are surfaces that reflect sound so that it bounces around the room. The move towards open kitchens has made things even noisier. The result is a barrage of noise that can give diners a headache and make conversation difficult. Upholstery will help to absorb sound. Likewise, tablecloths will soak up some of the noise. A restaurant owner in Spain has even launched a movement which he has called “Eating Without Noise” to encourage a quieter, softer kind of dining.

There’s also something special about a pristine, pressed white linen tablecloth: it makes the occasion more of an event. A few years ago BBC2 ran a “reality” series, The Restaurant, featuring Raymond Blanc, which included a survey of public attitudes to eating out. Asked what they wanted on their tables, 82 per cent replied that they wanted a white linen tablecloth. (87 per cent also said that they preferred a “warm and inviting” interior to one that was “sparse and contemporary” or “bright and bold”.)

And then there are booths and banquettes. Customers love these, especially when dining in groups: they offer comfort, flexibility, intimacy and privacy. It’s almost like having your own private dining room. 

It also pays to be flexible. Among younger consumers especially, dining out is something that’s increasingly done spontaneously, in groups, and, because of irregular working hours, not always at set mealtimes. So restaurateurs should be prepared to accommodate groups of diners who might arrive, say, in the afternoon or early evening, and who will want to sit together. So your furniture should reflect this: it should be easy to rearrange tables and chairs to create a larger dining surface. You could even consider installing a large “communal” dining table: these are popular with groups of younger diners. They are also popular with younger customers who have no qualms about dining alone and are often happy to sit at a table with others and socialise. 

Finally, one vital issue to bear in mind is that your customers may be disabled or have problems with mobility. So it’s important to ensure that your furniture is flexible and moveable so that customers can reach their table with minimum disruption. It would be wise, too, to keep a supply of cushions on hand in case your customers need extra support or comfort.

 

It’s that time of year again, the sun comes out and everyone rushes outside for their annual British Summer BBQ. The trick is replicating this feeling through your restaurant to ensure you are the first port of call when the sun makes an appearance.

While not every space has the ability to work with open flames, you can still ensure your restaurant is the go-to location for those warmer days. Whether you have a small patio space or a vast outside dining area, there are many things you can do to optimise your space and keep diners coming back throughout those warm weather days.

Creating the perfect outdoor dining area

There can be many things that help encourage people to return, a survey undertaken by Upserve, highlighted that the top way to improve customer retention is to put service first for customers. This may seem like a given, but there is more to this than just smiling servers and great food. Creating a welcoming atmosphere is a big part of what makes delivering great service simple, and ensuring you have the right décor is just one of things that can contribute to this.

Your outside area is an extension of your restaurant, so cheap plastic tables and chairs may not portray the image you would like. Comfortable chairs, well dressed tables and warm lights are great ways to encourage customers to eat outside. Enhancing the natural environment which accompanies your restaurant is an ideal way to pull your surroundings together, whether beach-side or inner city, incorporating local aspects such as plants, lighting or colour makes all the difference when creating a fantastic atmosphere for your customers.

Ensuring there are separate areas for those wanting to get away from smokers is important, especially when food is involved. Make it clear which areas are ok to smoke, and which are ensures everyone is happy when getting outside.

Make the most of al fresco dining

Al fresco dining is becoming a bigger trend as the days get longer, encouraging customers to enjoy their food outside not only gives you additional space for covers, but increases the eating dynamic you are able to offer your guests. Many restaurants are located with outdoor areas that utilise their setting, whether gorgeous views or secluded sun traps these locations are ideal for outdoor eating. This being said, even the most unlikely settings can create the perfect outdoor eating area, potted plants and twinkling lights are great additions to make any space accommodating. The problem with al fresco dining is that many restaurants are offering more of the same thing; thinking out of the box and trying something new will always bode well with guests, and encourage them to come back time and time again.

There are many positives that go hand in hand with eating outside, aside from that feel-good factor! Happiness and concentration levels have been found to increase simply from being outside, as well as ensuring daily doses of Vitamin D have been reached. Making sure your diners are safe with shade for those with sensitive skins ensures you are catering for all audiences, as well as keeping a supply of sun cream close in case the sun really decides to appear!

Offer something light

Unhealthy eating is often associated with eating out, and this really doesn’t have to be the case. Having a variety of options on your menu, whether light bites, snacks or something similar, is a great way of encouraging people to get through the door, especially when the weather is great and a light bite is all that is needed. Having your menus easily accessible both online and outside your restaurant is a great way to encourage people in without forcing them inside. Offering nutritional values on food is also a great way to engage customers with your menu.

Keep it cosy

Getting cosy outside is now even easier than before with everyday items becoming more versatile for outdoor use. Outdoor decorations and lighting are now easy to source and can create stunning areas with minimal impact on running costs.

Warm blankets, cushions and heaters add warmth for those areas that get chilly as those summer days turn into the evening, ensuring that both inside and outdoor areas are available for the entire duration of the day opens up the space for more guests, as well as appealing to a wider audience when they are thinking of places to visit.

Keeping inside areas cool and welcoming offers the perfect combination for those wanting to get out of the heat as well as those wanting to soak up the sun; by giving your customers options you are keeping them in control.

Try something new

Maybe your restaurant is fairly small or you are located in close vicinity to a park or open space, thinking of out of the box ideas are a great way to still get your food out there, even if space isn’t an endless luxury you have access too. Ideas such as picnics or take-out afternoon tea, created in house with the option of taking away from your restaurant, is a great way to share your food, without putting limitations on dining options for those hot days. This takes away the stress from diners and ensures you are optimising your restaurant to its full potential.

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