Table and Seating Ideas to Optimize Your Space

Posted by Patrick Maness +

It’s an unfortunate fact of the food business that one of the most important parts of the dining experience that you create will probably go unnoticed. Patrons might rave about your signature dishes, the wine selection and rotating tap beers, or maybe they'll love the creative appetizers and the funky or classy décor, but what they won’t comment on is how sensible your dining room layout is.

And they shouldn’t. The careful logic behind how you place the tables and booths, and how neatly you design the space so it’s easy for patrons and servers to move through, should all seem intuitive — something only those in the restaurant business might comment on. However, on your end, it’s a project you’ll have to think a lot about and put a lot of work into. If you’re successful, 95 percent of patrons won’t even notice it.

What it comes down to is balancing aesthetics and functionality on top of regulations.

Regulations and measurements

Along with sheer physics, the fire marshal will put a cap on how many people you can have in a room at any given time. Of course, just because that limit might be at 100 doesn’t mean you’ll be able to comfortably seat 100 people. You’ll have to make further calculations to determine your seating capacity.

It is best to start here by knowing what the regulations in your area are. The local city clerk or other government official can usually provide the specific codes that will spell out the requirements for the number of square feet per customer as well as how wide the aisles need to be.

While local regulations might provide the legal framework for your restaurant's dining room layout, you'll have to decide how to best allocate space, and that depends on what kind of operation you run. To help, The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers makes the following recommendations regarding how much space each person needs in the following settings:

  • School lunchroom: 9-12 square feet
  • Banquet room: 10-11 square feet
  • Table service: 11-14 square feet
  • College/business/industry cafeteria: 12 -15 square feet
  • Commercial cafeteria: 16-18 square feet
  • Restaurant counter Service: 18-20 square feet

For fine-dining restaurant layout and beyond, figuring out how many people you can comfortably sit and how to best optimize the space in your fine-dining establishment is really just the beginning. Doing it right, however, provides a solid foundation upon which you can create a unique mood and experience for your guests.

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