Restaurant & Banquet Space Planning: Tables & Chairs Seating Capacity

What size tables do I need?  How many people can fit comfortably at each table?  How many tables can I fit in my space?  How much room do I need to leave between tables?


These are all questions that are running through your mind as you design the layout of your restaurant or banquet center.  Your space planning is a very important step in creating a restaurant or banquet center that operates efficiently, not to mention gives your guests or patrons an enjoyable atmosphere they will want to come back to!  Here is a checklist of considerations you will need to address during your restaurant and banquet space planning.

Space Planning, Part One:

Laying the groundwork before mapping out your space diagram will save a lot of headaches in the end.  Be sure to do these initial steps in your restaurant and banquet space planning.

  1. Check the local codes and be sure you always comply with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).  (As a rule, 5% of the total space should be accessible to people in wheelchairs.  Wheelchairs typically require a 36″ clearance for aisle space in dining areas.  Be sure the section of your establishment which is ADA-compliant is accessible to the entrance/exit and also to any public areas, such as the bathroom or cashier’s counter.)
  2. Determine the square footage of your area, and make a list of all the functions the space will provide (e.g., restaurant dining, banquet style seating, classroom/seminar seating, with or without dance floor, bar and cocktail areas, buffet or stage areas, etc.)
  3. Know what your customers expect from the space and what brand image/atmosphere you want the space to project.

Go the Distance:

When doing your measurements for your dining space, be sure to keep these rules of thumb distances in mind:

  • Allow 18″ from the edge of the table to the back of each seat
  • Allow at least 12″ between chairs that are back-to-back
  • Allow a minimum of 24″ of aisle or service space (please note, the ADA requires greater room in at least 5% of the dining area for wheelchairs)
  • Allow 54″ between round tables and 60″ between rectangular tables to create the needed service space
  • Allow 24″ – 30″ between table corners when placed diagonally

Choose Your Table Shape(s) and Size(s):

Square tables offer the most flexibility and are easiest to move around or rearrange.
Round tables are often considered the most elegant and are the most popular for banquet seating, as they optimize space per person the best and allow for centerpieces to be displayed prominently.  Drop leaf round tables also offer some added flexibility in case you need to push tables together to accommodate a large party.
Rectangular tables are most popular for the every day dining experience and can be pushed together to create larger seating capacities per party when needed.

Follow our recommended table seating capacity chart, and think about how and what you serve to your customers.  Are you just a coffee and dessert establishment, or are you a fine dining restaurant that offers 8-course meals?  Envision everything that will be taking up space on your table tops.  Will you have candles, salt and pepper shakers, water pitchers, wine cantors, etc?  Do you serve full-course breakfasts that come on three plates per person?  Or do you serve bar food that takes up less space?  Keep all these things in mind when you choose your table size and how many chairs you put around each one. While it is recommended that each person have 2 feet of the table’s circumference or perimeter, or an estimated 300 square inches of table top space, your patrons may require more space depending on what you are serving.  On the same token, elementary school cafeterias would not need to offer as much space per person as a college or corporate cafeteria.

Many restaurants incorporate varying sizes of tables to allow for maximum seating capacity, the flexibility to serve differing sizes of parties at the same time, and to create a more aesthetically appealing restaurant space.  Mixing booth or “anchored” tables (edge of table against wall) with floating tables is also a great way to maximize space, and most guests probably prefer to be near a wall/window than “in the middle” of the room.  Placing square tables diagonally also saves floor space and can restrict views from one table to another to create a more private dining experience for your guests.

Some helpful tips:

  • Do you foresee rearranging tables frequently for different events?  Be sure to purchase lightweight tables and chairs that will be easy to haul around, and choose ones that will not mar your floors.  You may also be interested in purchasing a chair and table dolly to lighten you staff’s load.
  • Want to be prepared for extra customers?  Why not keep a few lightweight stacking chairs in storage in case you need to pull them out to accommodate larger parties?
  • Not expecting a lot of movement?  If you are a finer dining establishment, you may want to choose the larger table per recommended number of guests and purchase heavier chairs that create an illusion of being more prestigious and luxurious.

While these guidelines and recommendations are helpful starting points, laying out a unique restaurant or banquet space for your particular establishment and utilizing the space you have for your specific goals will take a lot of thought.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and design a great looking restaurant or banquet space that effectively meets your and your guests’ expectations!

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Resource: Seating Chart

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