Restaurant Equipment & Supply

How to Determine an Optimal Seating Layout for Your Restaurant Dining Room

Oct 16, 2013 11:12:30 AM

The dining room is one of the most critical areas of the restaurant. It is likely the only part of your business most customers get the chance to see, and it will be where they spend the majority of their time. Therefore it is critical to have your dining area arranged correctly for a positive guest experience. A proper set up will also allow you to run your establishment as efficiently as possible.

We have all been to that wedding where the tables were so close together the server could not get through, or you had to use the restroom and climb across five strangers’ laps before you could make it to the door.  I don’t know about you but that is not the type of experience I want my customers or my employees to have. On the other hand I do want as much seating as possible to maximize my guest count and increase profitability. So how does one determine how much space to allocate to maximize your seating?

There are many factors that make up your design and space allocation; here are few questions to consider:

  • How many individual guests are to be served and over what period of time?
  • What are the typical food requirements of each guest? Coffee to go, or a full sit down meal?
  • How many guests will need service at one time?
  • What type and amount of storage space will be needed?
  • What are the space requirements for restrooms, maintenance, checkout counters, waiting/coatrooms, etc.

Dining room space requirements are based on the number of square feet per person seated, multiplied by the number of people seated at any one time. Other factors to take into consideration are the patron’s size, comfort, and type of service. In the case of buffet or cafeteria service the line up will impact space. Also the amount and size of any equipment used in the dining room, and remote service stations or POS terminals will also lessen the amount of space available for seating..

The following table is the typical space allocation per person and does not factor in other non service areas such as waiting areas, coat rooms, or restrooms.

Type of Operation Space allowance – per seat
Typical Restaurant/Hotel Service 15-18 sq feet
College or Cafeteria 12-15 sq feet
Banquet Room 10-12 sq feet
Elementary School 9-12 sq feet

That means for a typical restaurant you will need 1500-1800 sq feet of dining room space per 100 guests while in an elementary school cafeteria you will need 900-1200 sq feet.

Other factors to consider when evaluating your space requirements are table size and aisle space.

The Table Size
The size of the table and or booths will have in influence on the comfort of the guest as well as the efficient utilization of space. For example, in a cafeteria where the patrons are typically eating from a tray, tables will need to be large enough to accommodate the size and number of trays expected. However, since you will not be using servers to deliver meals, your aisle space will not need to be as generous.

Aisle Space
The ADA act of 1984 requires that facilities must provide 36” of clearance in dining area aisles for the maneuvering of wheelchairs and that a minimum of 5% of the total seating space should be available to those with disabilities. For the remainder of the space, a minimum of 18” clearance between the backs of chairs when extended, or 4-5 feet between tables is recommended.

The size and configuration of the room will have a major impact on the atmosphere and ultimately the dining experience. New facilities offer the maximum opportunity for control and creativity in your room layout. Existing buildings can be more of a challenge and often place limitations on seating capacity, type and room configuration. The design experts at Serv-U will be more than happy to assist you with the process and can offer creative solutions for your specific space.

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