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Restaurant Design Ideas: How to Improve the Customer Experience in 2021

When thinking about opening up a restaurant, it’s easy to become hyper focused on the food. But while the meals may be the main selling point, there’s more to your restaurant business than nice flavors.

Indeed, success in the dining business requires good taste – and that includes your taste in design, too.

At the end of the day, restaurant-goers are paying for an experience and great customer service, and that includes both food, ambience, and more practical things, like convenience. People go to restaurants because they want a fun place to make new memories with loved ones. Or, they want to be in and out as quickly as possible so they can relax with their meal after work.

Whatever the specifics may be, it’s important that your restaurant creates the best experience possible for your patrons.

Unsurprisingly, in 2021, a lot of that experience relates to how well you can implement Covid protocols. Here are a few tips on how you can make your restaurant the best it can be in 2021.

7 Restaurant Design Ideas

1. Spacious Dining Rooms

After a year and a half of social distancing thanks to Covid-19, it’s likely that social norms will change to some degree forever. Currently, people are much more apprehensive about being close to others than they were before, and it’s unclear when or if that feeling will go away.

To account for this, it’s a good idea to make sure you make your dining room as spacious as possible. Use up as much space as you can to make sure that tables are sufficiently separated. If need be, consider changing the layout of the restaurant so that there is more room for distancing.

2. Rooftop Dining

Rooftop dining is a great way to both add some flair to your restaurant and keep your patrons socially distanced at the same time. Allowing customers to dine on the roof is especially welcome in cities, where the rooftop can provide beautiful cityscapes and views.

Plus, since it’s outside, it provides extra ventilation and reduces the risk of Covid transmission even further. Of course, this solution is impossible to implement for many restaurants as the buildings’ structures simply don’t permit it. But if you have the option, it’s definitely worth pursuing.

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3. Dining Pods

Dining pods are a unique innovation that was born of Covid. Dining pods are small, outdoor enclosures with enough room for a table and chairs that allow diners to separate themselves from other patrons.

Essentially, dining pods bring the indoors, outdoors. Although they don’t provide much Covid protection for the people inside the pod, they provide a good amount of separation from other diners beyond the table.

Dining pods are particularly useful for winter and inclement weather. It’s easy to add some space heaters to warm them up during the cold weather, and pods also provide a way for diners to eat outside during the rain. This allows for a dining experience that’s similar safety-wise to outdoor dining but at all times of the year.

4. Walkup Pickup Windows

Pickup and takeout has become more popular than ever thanks to social distancing. Now that dining inside is considered a risky behavior, many people want to be in-and-out as quickly as possible.

To facilitate this, walkup pickup windows can be a great addition to your restaurant. These are windows that open up to the outside and through which food can be handed to customers, similar to a food truck.

Walkup pickup windows make it so that customers don’t even have to step foot inside of your restaurant, which can not only make them feel safer, but it may attract new customers who wouldn’t make a pickup order otherwise.

5. Interior Textures That Are Easy to Sanitize

Sanitation has become a major part of business and culture since 2020, so it’s important to give your customers the feeling that your restaurant is impeccably clean.

Ever notice how medical facilities often use flat, smooth, textureless furniture? There’s a reason for that. Flat surfaces are easier to disinfect as there aren’t as many little grooves and crevices that germs can get stuck in.

Of course, you don’t need to design your restaurant like a hospital, but it can be a good idea to opt for some smoother textures that are easier to disinfect.

6. Self-Ordering Kiosks

Self-ordering kiosks have been a trend since before Covid but have gotten a boost because they allow for less interaction with staff.

However, self-ordering kiosks can be a great inclusion not only because of COVID, but because many people simply don’t want to have any interactions with waitstaff for any number of reasons ranging from social anxiety to being in a hurry.

Plus, self-ordering kiosks can make your restaurant more efficient and potentially lower the amount of staff you need to hire.

7. Express Kitchens

Express kitchens are kitchens that are visible from within the dining room – think of burger joints that let you see what the cooks are doing, or even hibachi grills.

These can be a great way to make pickup easier as well as to provide diners with something to look at while they eat – it’s essentially a mini-cooking show for your patrons. Plus, there’s something satisfying about being able to see your food being cooked as you wait for it.

Key Takeaways

Most of this year’s restaurant design trends are related to Covid in one way or another. But many of them will likely be in demand even after the pandemic has come and gone.

Self-ordering kiosks, express kitchens, walkup pickup windows, and rooftop dining are unlikely to go out of style any time soon, and can add a bit of flair to your restaurant.

Overall, the best way to design your restaurant is to put yourself in your patrons shoes. Ask yourself what you’d like to have in a restaurant, and go from there.

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Sam Molony

Sam Molony is the marketing strategist at ZoomShift, the leading employee scheduling software. When Sam's not publishing or promoting new content you can find him playing his guitar or baking.

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