A restaurant has a ton of moving parts.

From the kitchen to the service staff to the bar, the waiting area, the host and the guests, there’s a lot to fit into a space. That’s why it’s so important to make the most of your floor plan, maximizing the space you have available and striving for maximum productivity within it.

Whether you’re just dreaming of opening your first restaurant, or you’ve secured your first space and your ready to design it, these are the things you need to take into consideration when creating a restaurant floor plan that is efficient and effective.

First, Consider the Big Questions.

Before you even start designing your floor plan, there are some big questions to consider. Answer these before you get started, and you’ll be better prepared to design a smoothly flowing, productive restaurant.

Before you do anything else, you need to think about regulations and your space’s capacity.

Contact your local fire department or another governing agent to have them set the maximum capacity for your building, which will be determined by the number and size of the exits. They can also inform you of any codes that determine how wide aisles need to be, or how much square footage you need to allocate to each customer.

Once you’ve determined regulatory procedures, it’s time for the fun part -the actual design of your restaurant space.

Early in this process, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to get an idea of the kind of space you want to design.

First, what atmosphere are you going for? Do you want your restaurant to be bustling and busy? Or do you want something quiet, upscale and refined? Do you want big, communal tables that are close together? Or should diners have privacy with quiet tables that are well separated?

The atmosphere you seek will influence everything from the floor plan to the furniture, so you need to know this before you get into the actual design.

Now think guests.

Once you have an idea of what you want your restaurant atmosphere to look like, it’s time to think about what you will offer your guests. Will you be busy enough to have guests waiting for tables? Hopefully, yes. But that means you need a waiting area that’s separate from the dining room, and if your city is cold or rainy, it needs to be indoors. Will you offer takeout? If so, you should have a place where guests can wait while their food orders are being prepared. Will you welcome families? Then you need to have space for strollers and high chairs. What about large parties? You’ll need a party room or, at the least, a few larger tables that can be pushed together.

Next – Consider Design Elements that Will Make the Most of Your Space.

When designing a restaurant floor plan, there are some design principles that you can put into practice, too.

Consider the comfort of your guests and how your floor plan affects that.

Where you place your dining area, tables and aisles will affect the lighting, temperature, air quality and the overall diner experience. You also need to consider placing tables in a way that give all of your diners a comfortable amount of personal space.

Lighting in your space should also influence and be influenced by the floor plan.

Lighting should, first and foremost, allow your guests to move around the restaurant safely. But it can also create a mood, and different lighting can create varying ambience at different tables.

The acoustics of your space are yet another design principle to take into consideration.

Ambient sound in your space will help set the tone for the diner’s experience. An area of the building that gets a lot of street noise from outside may not be the best choice for the dining room, for example. If you’re going for an upscale environment, having a loud, echoing space won’t fit.

Finally, consider the seating positions and how they affect the flow of your floor plan.

It’s important for a restaurant to circulate smoothly, with a one-way path for both staff and guests to easily move throughout the space. Staff should be able to guide diners to their tables and deliver food easily, and guests should have plenty of room to sit, stand, move around, walk to their tables and walk to the restrooms. While it’s important from a financial standpoint to maximize your seating space, it’s also important to have enough room for movement in the restaurant to happen easily and smoothly.

Your Floor Plan, from Front to Back.

Let’s take a walk through your hypothetical restaurant and what each part of the space should offer guests.

From the minute guests walk through the door (or walk or drive by your restaurant from the outside), they should feel welcome and invited.

A warm, open entrance space with floor-to-ceiling windows will help encourage guests to come in.

Hospitality should be apparent from the get-go, which means an open, comfortable waiting area is a must. We’ve all been in restaurants that overlooked this, resulting in waiting guests crammed into a too-small space or even spilling into the dining room. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. Make sure there’s seating for guests who are waiting, even if it’s at the bar.

Speaking of the bar..

a full service one with comfortable seating could be a great addition to your space. Bars allow single diners to eat without taking up a two- or four-top table.

They also provide an extra POS station for servers, which can improve the flow of your floor plan.

Now, onto the dining room!

The dining area in your restaurant should take up about 60 percent of the total space. The square footage of that 60 percent will help determine how many tables you can fit and how many guests you can serve. This will also depend, somewhat, on what the atmosphere of your restaurant is.

For an idea:

Tables aren’t the only part of the dining room that need to be considered, though.

You also have to decide where to place your pay stations and POS systems.

They should be spaced throughout the restaurant in places that are easy for servers to get to while maintaining the one-way flow of the overall space. Having POS terminals in hard-to-reach areas can drastically reduce your staff’s efficiency, so while this seems like a small detail, it’s actually important.

And… the kitchen.

If the dining room is 60 percent of your space, the kitchen should be the other 40 percent. A spacious, well-laid out kitchen is key to keeping your staff happy and helping them work as efficiently as possible. The kitchen needs separate spaces for goods receiving, inventory, dry storage, preparation, cooking and dishes. It should also be open to allow for easy communication between members of the kitchen staff. It should allow chefs and sous chefs to work freely without bumping into one another, and it should be designed to minimize the amount of time it takes to run a plate to where it will be picked up by a server.

After you’ve thought through your dining room and kitchen, there’s still more to consider — the bathrooms and the staff areas need to be well thought out too.

The restrooms need to be clean and easy to access — guests should be able to find them without having to wander through the rest of the space, and they need to be wheelchair accessible. Your staff need a space where they can change clothes, store their belongings, and gear up or wind down before or after a shift. This can also be a space to post schedules and notices or hold staff meetings, so it needs to be large enough to accommodate whatever you will use it for. It should also have separated, private areas for staff to change.

Lastly, if your restaurant offers outdoor seating, that needs to be included in your floor plan.

Any outdoor dining space should be placed and designed so servers don’t have too far to travel between the kitchen, the dining room and the patio. Otherwise, they’ll be slowed down by having such a long way to go, and outdoor guests will notice the drop in service.

Overall, a floor plan is one of the most important tools an aspiring restaurateur can have!

Walking through these steps to imagine and determine your floor plan will help you iron out the wrinkles and create an efficient service and dining experience for guests and employees alike.

It provides a plan for each part of the restaurant, ensuring they all work together and the entire establishment runs efficiently and as planned.