Get the most out of your dining space
If you’ve eaten in a café or restaurant where the tables are so close together that you’re practically touching elbows with the people on the table next to you, then there’s every chance that you’ve vowed never to go there again.
The lesson to be learned here is that however good your food is, however, cheap the prices, however friendly the staff, if your customer don’t feel comfortable when they’re sitting at their table eating and drinking, your business is likely to suffer.
Whether you’re launching a new cafe or restaurant or revamping an existing space, if you’re tempted to squeeze in a few more tables then just remember that eateries of any sort are reliant on customers returning, and if you customers don’t have a good experience that’s not going to happen. What’s more they’re not as likely to spend as much as when they’re enjoying themselves and not in a hurry to move on.
How to get your dining space just right
The first rule is to allow around 45 cm between chairs and tables and 60 cm between the backs of chairs on adjacent tables. This gives your customers rooms to spread out and to talk in relative privacy. If the space is to be used as an aisle for waiting staff or for the route to the toilets, then consider leaving even more space.
Naturally if you’re running a fast food establishment then you can get away with a little less room, as customers won’t be staying for long. On the contrary, customers at a fine dining restaurant will expect there to be plenty of space between tables. For a typical café or pub, however, your need to maximise your revenue needs to be balanced with the requirement for your customers to be able to chat and stretch out. There should also be a clear route from every table to the exit and the toilets.
If you’re designing your dining space from scratch, why not spend some time visiting other similar establishments in your local area to see what works and what clearly doesn’t? When you’re planning what furniture to buy and where to place it, try and look at it through your customers’ eyes.
When choosing your tables, it’s best to choose a variety of table sizes. While the average table seats 4 people, most people don’t arrive in groups of 4. Solo dining is also popular and people eating on their own don’t want to be hidden away in a corner on their own. A variety of table sizes and shapes will make your dining space appear more natural and organic and you’ll be able to push tables together to cater for larger groups.
Another trend that is still growing is communal dining. It’s particularly popular with the younger set and is an efficient use of space, since it can accommodate solo diners, groups, and couples. It can either be a permanent large table or you could push several tables together to create one large table with a few smaller tables dotted around for more flexibility.
Having designed your dining space, now is the time to try it out by sitting in each seat and trying to see it as your customers will. Do you feel squashed in? What’s the view? Can you reach the toilets easily? Can waiting staff get to you? If there is a wall opposite could it do with some artwork to soften its effect?
Finally, remember to purchase commercial grade furniture which is designed for the job. It’s built to last and to withstand the rigours of a bustling environment.