Design Trends and How to Incorporate Them into Your Restaurant

As anyone who has ever walked through a fixer upper home can attest, design trends can go from cutting edge, to quaint, to downright dated, if not changed. The same concept applies to restaurants and bars. The dining area, where guests eat, plays a major role in how they experience the menu and ultimately, the opinions they form about a restaurant. To bring you emerging design trends, we spoke to Lauren Williams, Director of Design for Primanti Bros. Restaurants, about where she sees the future of restaurant design heading including lighting, colors, and dining styles.

Lighting

Many restaurants that you enter today will have some form of an Edison bulb giving off light; the bulb has its own sort of appeal and definitely gives any space an industrial chic vibe, but patrons are starting to experience some fatigue with the trend. What was once a unique way to light a space has become so commonplace that it fails to make a restaurant stand out. While the bulbs are beautiful in their own way, sometimes they can leave a space feeling a little too dark compared to some of their brighter counterparts.

Some restaurants are moving back towards having more light in their establishments. Williams predicts a move “towards light, both natural and artificial,” and the idea of coming back to “seeing the food and seeing the people you’re interacting with in the space in a pure light.”

Allowing more light into a restaurant can be achieved through either large windows that encourage natural light to fill the space or with more powerful lights and light fixtures. A unique way to achieve those large windows is by incorporating glass garage doors into the front of the building. Garage doors allow for plenty of light and can either be opened to allow a cool breeze in the summer, or closed during the cooler months to prevent customers getting a chill.

Colors

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After several years of dark, industrial design, patrons are beginning to look towards the opposite end of the spectrum. White, bright, fresh looks that are originating in places like California and Miami are making their way across the United States. Think more boho-chic than industrial charm for the future of restaurant design. Be on the lookout for bold use of color making its way back onto the scene in the upcoming years in response to the earthy tones that have been trending for the past few years.

An easy way to incorporate more color is by adding bright centerpieces to your table or hanging interesting, bright art on the walls. If you are looking for a more drastic change, consider making one of your walls into a bright mural that can be incorporated into your current design.

Less Formal Dining

It used to be that burger joints and formal dining spaces were mutually exclusive, but prepare to start seeing those lines blurring. Williams discussed the phenomenon as “flexibility as the number one goal. Rooms within rooms, privacy but also openness… it’s a shift to almost residential architecture”.  It is the trend of creating a residential feel that has communal dining furniture styles on the rise, along with more padded seats, similar to what would be found in a home. Communal dining is when a large group of diners sit at the same table to share a meal. In keeping with the trend, many restaurants have started serving meals family style with shareable plates. Large communal table tops make it easier to serve those meals on the large plates and trays that they require.

Tiles aren’t just for Bathrooms

Another emerging trend that contributes to creating a residential feel, is using tile to decorate areas of the dining room. Don’t be surprised to see tiles being used to create backsplashes on bars and even accent walls in restaurants. Tile, whether it is colorful or not, is a great way to bring interest into a particular area of a restaurant without being overwhelming. Designers have determined it is time for this material to shine in an area other than the bathroom and are working to bring it into more prominent areas of the restaurant.

Incorporating Trends in Your Restaurant

What if you own a preexisting restaurant? It wouldn’t be realistic to overhaul your entire restaurant design scheme every time the trends changed, but how do you stay relevant with what customers are looking for? According to Williams, new restaurants are more the trendsetters, while corporate restaurant groups or preexisting restaurants need to focus on maintaining their identities with subtle shifts to where the trend is appealing to their audience. A great way to do this is by “layering the vintage and the modern. Sometimes you go heavier on the modern, sometimes you go heavier on the vintage” urges Williams. It is all about reaching a balance that works for you, your restaurant, and the area you are located in.

If your restaurant is a predominantly vintage style, try adding in a few modern pieces to create the layered effect. Consider changing some of your current light fixtures for brighter alternatives or replacing your current wooden menu boxes with brightly painted metal holders instead.

Something to be conscious of when making any design choices, is your audience and location. Urban areas might be more accepting of trendy spots and designs that encourage communal eating, while rural areas might not be the best market to push the full trend on.

It is important for restaurant owners to stay abreast of the current design trends. Not only are these trends important to staying relevant and making sure your aesthetic doesn’t feel dated, but to giving your customers the complete experience of great food, an enjoyable atmosphere, great customer service, and a visually pleasing environment. Possibly, with a few adjustments to lighting or colors, your restaurant can be on top of the emerging trends that are leading the next phase of restaurant design.

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