As the owner or manager of a restaurant, you know that your business isn’t just about producing quality food, it’s also about producing an outstanding dining experience. You need to not only provide delicious meals, but a luxury, stylish, or interesting environment for your customers to eat in, too.
Fortunately, with a little thought, you can transform a seemingly bland space into one your guests love to spend time in – no matter your budget. To help you create a beautiful space, whether you’re setting up your restaurant for the first time or giving your restaurant a revamp, we’ve rounded up the tips and ideas you must know to produce a memorable space your customers want to return to again and again.
What do you need to consider before you start decorating?
- Get clear on your brand – a restaurant is a business and so you need strong branding just as much as any other. Your branding goes beyond colours and fonts, you need to be clear about your ideal customer and the experience they want to have with you (besides eating delicious food!), and the feelings you want to evoke in your customers.
- Have a strong idea of your layout – you should know where all your tables are going to go so you can decorate and create dividers accordingly without detracting from the available space for tables or limit accessibility. You also need to consider your layout from the point of view of potential fire hazards and health and safety concerns, so make sure you know how much space you have to work with when you decorate.
- Define your overall style or theme – if you haven’t done so in your branding, find a word or two that you want everything in the restaurant to represent and align with. For example, you may define your theme as “coastal” and “relaxed”.
13 Decorating Ideas for Your Restaurant
The fonts you use in your brand are incredibly important because your customers will come into contact with them at multiple touch points. While your menus are, of course, one of those, you may also use it behind the bar (if applicable) and on the walls. Consider finding a local artist to paint slogans, mantras, or brand-aligned phrases on the walls, if that aligns with the more casual nature of your dining experience.
2. Turn to the local community
If you want your restaurant to fast become an essential part of the local community, turn to local artists for artwork and photography, where possible. A gallery wall of local work by artists and photographers works well in any style of restaurant, and hand painted murals are a great addition to youthful and modern establishments. Just make sure the photos and/or art aligns with your brand and theme.
3. Use authentic art
If the above doesn’t work for your restaurant because you are representing a certain culture or style of food, try to source authentic art pieces by artists from the culture you’re representing. Guests can tell the difference between the real thing and cheap replicas, so avoid using anything that looks cheap or plasticky unless you’re embracing a fun, low-cost family restaurant.
4. Artificial plants for restaurants
Artificial plants are essential for any restaurant. The dark nature of restaurants isn’t exactly the right environment to help real plants thrive, not to mention that they can quickly look ratty from constant friction and being touched by guests and your staff don’t need another thing to do (and the plants are at a much greater risk of being underwatered or overwatered). Artificial plants are much more durable. Here are a few ideas on how you can use artificial plants for restaurants:
- Use hanging plants on ledges – if you have a high ceiling, balcony, or awkward ledge, hang artificial vines and plants over the edge for a whimsical and natural look.
- Use small artificial succulents on tables – if you have a small establishment, one with a minimalist feel, or are a casual placer to grab lunch, try using artificial succulents on your tables to add a pop of colour and texture without taking up a lot of space.
- Use large, bushier artificial plants as dividers – artificial plants are one of the best tools you have at your disposal when it comes to hiding unsightly objects, creating privacy, and breaking up lines of sight. You can create a screen outside bathrooms, the kitchen, to hide waiter stations and other areas. You can also use artificial plants to divide sections of your restaurant so your staff have defined sections and guests have a greater sense of privacy. When you test the seating in your restaurant (we’ll cover that in a moment), have colleagues sit in any seats directly in front of the seat you’re sitting in and check that you aren’t directly facing someone a chair or two over, to the point that they would find it difficult not making eye contact. This is something that can be easily overlooked but can diminish the experience your customers have with you. Consider adding an artificial plant screen or rotating the table so that doesn’t happen.
- Use plant pots in unused corners or on functional furniture – an artificial snake plant or an artificial aloe vera plant works wonders in an empty corner behind a booth, or on the top of your waiters’ station. If you have a big empty corner to fill, use a larger artificial plant such as an artificial palm plant or an artificial olive tree. Make sure the plant you choose matches the theme of your restaurant.
- Use artificial plants to transition from inside to outside – if you have an outside dining area or sitting area, use the same artificial plants that you’ve used inside to create flow from inside to outside.
- Create a green wall – a green wall is an entire wall covered in (sometimes real, but almost always artificial) plants. If you really want to go all-out, you can even do this with the ceiling – it’s the ideal way to make your restaurant stand-out, emphasise your eco-friendly or vegan nature, or your tropical theme.
5. Highlight interesting historical features
Not every restaurant is the right fit for an open kitchen, so look at your building and investigate the history to see if there are other natural focal points. Restaurants in old breweries often have a glass panel in the floor revealing the cellar below, and pubs and restaurants often display historical items and antiques from the area or that they found during renovations. If your building has history, highlight interesting architectural features – perhaps the beams above are particularly beautiful or there is an original door that is hundreds of years old – tell the story on your menus or in a booklet to spark conversation.
6. Bring in decorations that are linked to your theme
Do you have a seafood restaurant? If so, you can use fishing antiques for decoration, shells, and other sea-related artefacts. You can do this for any theme and make it as kitschy or luxurious as necessary for your restaurant’s personality. If you are a luxury restaurant, don’t feel that you can’t used themed items, you can, you just need to be selective about the style and materials of the items you use.
7. Pay special attention to your lighting
The lighting you choose will have a huge effect on how your customers feel in your restaurant, so tread carefully. That said, don’t be afraid to try something bold and different. Think about if you want your restaurant to be on the darker, moodier side, or well-lit. If your restaurant is generally adults-only, use spot lighting on tables and indirect lighting, such as lighting under the bar or directed to bounce of the walls or ceiling. Consider whether you want lighting on or above tables and, if the former, how you can achieve it safely.
8. Sit in every seat in your restaurant
You can do this step prior to decorating or during, but it is yet another reason why it’s so vital to have your layout figured out before you start decorating. Sit in every seat in the restaurant and assess what that customer will look at. Make sure no one is staring into the bathrooms or into the kitchen (unless it’s an open kitchen and that’s a main feature). If they are, could you rotate the table or use a plant as a screen?
Also check that every seat has something of interest to look at – that may be a window, painting, or interesting architectural feature.
9. Consider the acoustics
If you have a large space to work with, consider the acoustics. Restaurants are typically noisy places, but if it also has a high ceiling or lots of hard surfaces, the sound will bounce around and make it difficult for your guests to hear one another. You can combat this with lots of soft furnishings, dividers, and artificial plants to break up the space. You don’t need to drape the place with fabric, but do consider using larger pieces of furniture that don’t need to move, such as leather couches for the waiting area and bench seats for booths.
10. Draw attention with your entrance
Unless you plan to be a reservation-only restaurant, you will rely on catching the eye of passers-by for some of your clientele. If you’re in a busy area with plenty of other restaurants, that means you have plenty of opportunity to catch people’s eye and make them aware of you, so make the most of it. Consider the lighting you use, a mural, artificial plants and artificial trees to help your restaurant front stand out, and other themed objects if your restaurant is family friendly.
11. Display your beverages beautifully
If you put a lot of emphasis on the beverages you serve food with, consider using built-in individually lit shelves to display your whiskeys, wines, craft beers, or anything else you specialise in. Select the most unique and well-crafted bottles and add a unique background to the shelves (such as mirrors, wood, or bold colours) if you don’t have a bare stone or brick wall to set your shelves against.
12. Carry your theme into the bathroom
The number one thing your guests want from the bathroom is a clean, private space to see to their human needs, so simply making sure your bathrooms are fresh and spotless will go a long way to pleasing your guests. However, you don’t have to leave it there. Consider theming your doors, use a few artificial plants if there’s space near the washbasins, have a speaker playing the same music that’s on in the restaurant, and make sure you have an automatic spray or something similar to keep the place smelling good at all times. A few on-theme decorations will ensure your guests never leave the experience you’ve created within the main area of the restaurant.
13. Create a social media spot
If you’ve got space inside or outside your restaurant, consider creating a social media spot. This is an area (typically a wall) where you add some on-theme decoration and allow guests (or simply even people passing by) to take photos they can share on social media sites. Make sure you add a note with a hashtag for your restaurant or ask people to tag you in their photos – this is a great way to build word of mouth and build brand awareness. Use a green wall, plants and flowers with trellis, a seaside scene with a deck chair, and anything else that makes a fun scene and is on theme for your restaurant.
The most important part of decorating your restaurant is creating strong branding and theming, with a strict colour palette, and things of interest to look at. Remember that whatever you do should come back to your ideal customer, so ask yourself if they’d like your decision whenever you’re deciding on a new element for the restaurant. Regardless of your theme, artificial plants are essential and a budget-friendly way to bring life to your restaurant. To browse our full range of artificial plants, click here, or reach out to us for more help.