How to Add Character to Your New Restaurant: Standing Out from the Crowd

Even prior to the pandemic that has decimated the restaurant industry, it would be fair to say that the chances of your enterprise in this field being a success were already very much stacked against you.

The numbers of restaurants, bars and diners that fail to make it past their first year, or five years, is astounding and quite like any other market you care to mention. So when you are putting together your business plan you were no doubt looking to stand out from the crowd, to make a real splash, and that is easier said than done.

Clearly your menu is the starting point for much of your design choices and it’s in those designs and arrangements that you can often find the character you are looking to achieve but be warned, it’s not an easy realization to achieve.

Rough and Ready

Perhaps when it comes to giving your restaurant ‘character’ you have elected to make your restaurant as relaxed and simple as possible. This can be a very winning option, especially if you are offering a basic menu. 

It might be that your restaurant is offering something of a soul food vibe and as such the layout and ambience you are going for is very friendly and inviting and as such the emphasis is very much on very earthy decor and a straightforward, but appealing, mood.

Stylish but Understated

When we think of ‘high-end’ restaurants we often have in our mind’s eye the archetypal minimalist eatery that has all the bells and whistles needed to pull off the kind of aura you hope to achieve.

It could be a case of offering a much lower capacity than your square footage may give you, spacing out your clientele often gives off the perception of what could be termed as class.

Here you might see that the devil is in the detail. Monogrammed napkins, expensive centre-pieces and waiting staff dressed up in the sharpest attire and classical music streaming in. 

Function over Form

When it comes to function over form, an idea that is often characterized by moderately expensive lunch-based restaurants, you’ll see that a restaurant is very standardized with seating sometimes on mass, with clients eating with each other.

Here waiters aren’t quite so present and the mood is very orderly, in a way in this environment the eating experience is more of a necessity than an artform, but still delivered in a constructive manner.

The character here is provided by the sense of structure and unsurprisingly then is most frequently associated with the meal that is most time-sensitive in our lives, i.e. work is calling.

Themed Restaurants

In this sense we don’t mean themed restaurants in the stereotypical sense, such as a Planet Hollywood-esque franchise, we mean in the instances where you have decided to put on a specific style that either matches an aesthetic  you are trying to achieve or, more commonly, is somehow related to what you are serving.

A typical example could be a fish restaurant that elects to adorn walls with anchors and ship wheels. In some ways, if not done with a real sense of purpose and design, these can lack what we’d term a ‘real character’ and can often end up being fairly derivative.

What we’d suggest with any themed restaurant is the importance of knowing that less really is more. Whatever you are planning to achieve with your restaurant design, remember that the food is the most important part of any customer’s culinary journey.

The idea with this form of restaurant is to not overthink things, present what you wish your dining experience to feel like without laying it on too thick.

Stick With It

Some failing restaurants, or even those that haven’t really had time to truly bed-in, elect to throw everything out the window and start again. This could prove a very costly error and one that could still lead to failure.

If you know what you want and believe in your menu and those involved in putting it together and serving your food to your customers, then stick with it. 

Food First, Design Second

The success of a restaurant will never come down to whether you have metal or wood restaurant dining chairs so always lean towards the quality of the product than the surroundings you serve in. 

One should, pardon the pun, feed the other. Shape your menu and work on the ethos of the culinary to design journey from that point onwards, not vice-versa.

Greg Trim