Raymond Haldeman, The Restaurant Designer Shares What You Need to Know Before Hiring A Designer

Snake Banquette
Raymond designed the “Snake Banquette” Centerpiece under the Edison Filament Bulb Chandelier at Scarborough Fair Restaurant in Sea Girt, NJ

Today's 21st century restaurants have evolved in every facet of their operations. In addition to the variety of cuisines offered, the style, format, and the type of service delivered, so has the level of design and creativity showcased in their spaces.

It is not enough to have, "good food," todays operations are comprehensive and a restaurant's design can play an integral part of creating the organic buzz a restaurant must generate among the dining public. Restaurateurs are discovering the enormous marketing power of a unique and well executed design and are embracing it as a necessity.

But how does one turn an empty storefront or old restaurant space into a bold statement of desirable aesthetics for restaurant patrons? Well, hiring a professional restaurant designer would be a good place to start!

Start at The Beginning

As a veteran restaurant designer, I have built a reputation for bold and striking "wow-factor" restaurant designs and would like to offer some vital guidance on creating an effective and memorable design for your establishment.

First, start at beginning with a basic floor plan. The floor plan is the initial blueprint of "what goes where" and how it will all work when fully operational. Like a stylish automobile without a comfortable interior or functioning engine, a beautiful restaurant without a functionally designed floor plan will never get the traction needed to successfully compete in today's marketplace.

I have had restaurant owner clients say to me, "My architect's going to do the floor plan" to which I have replied, "how nice, how many restaurants has he operated?" The point being you need to work with a designer who is intimately familiar with the day to day operations of a busy restaurant.

The floor plan should be a collaborative effort between restaurant management, and a professional designer with operational experience who will be able to assist and guide you through the process. I always create the floor plan with the actual operator to ensure that crucial components needed to run an efficient operation are included.

A well-designed floor plan should be designed to maximize the seating capacity because more seats equals more potential revenue. Additionally, there should always be some variety in the seating. A nice balanced mix of booths, free floating tables and banquettes provide your customers with suitable options based on their personal preferences. Once the floor plan has been designed, edited and satisfies all concerns, the vertical design can begin.

The Inspiration

As a designer, it is my job to listen to the client and identify their inspiration and interpret their vision. I often ask the client for photos to help point me in the right direction which gives me an indication of what they are actually thinking. Then, my goal is to take that vision, elevate and embellish it. And that's when I add the wow-factor!

I usually draw attention to a large-scale centerpiece that serves as the focal point of the design, the ceiling, an art wall, an architecturally significant design element, something different enough and strong enough to engage the viewer, then I highlight it with some dramatic lighting. A stunning restaurant design with a bold focal point will leave an indelible mark on a person's psyche. If I did my job, it will excite them, they will remember it and they will talk about it.

10 Helpful Things to Remember When Designing Your Restaurant
1. Lighting
Place all lighting fixtures on dimmers and use LED bulbs to reduce energy consumption. Use Led strip lights to accents walls and design elements
2. Chairs
The selection of the right chairs is very important to a guest's comfort. Avoid chairs with armrests as they hinder the ability of guests to get in and out of a table and include a padded seat
3. Fabric & Furniture Selection
Select commercial grade fabrics for booths and banquettes with a minimum of 50,000 double rubs, the more rubs, the more durable the fabric, I only use fabrics of 100,000 double rubs or more. Many design themes start with the selection of a fabric and branch us from there with color selections. Also, all furniture should be commercial grade and made with kiln-dried wood.
4. Noise
The number one complaint I hear my clients convey about their restaurants is the loudness of the noise. To reduce the noise factor, consider vinyl plank flooring which has noise reducing properties instead of tile. The use of fabric covered furniture will also help.
5. Art
I often use a mural or some sort of large-scale custom piece work to add dimension and the character art can bring to a space. Do not use murals that are photographs, use murals that have been painted by an artist. The mural houses I use sell large artist rendered murals made of vinyl. Make sure you hire a professional wall-paper hanger to insure your mural stays on the wall.
6. Restrooms
Dedicate special attention to your restrooms many customers judge a restaurant by the condition, design and cleanliness of its restrooms. Use finishes that are easily cleaned and when using tile, use a matte finish, nothing shiny and tile up the wall to the ceiling or a minimum of 6 feet.
7. Vestibule
One thing that is often overlooked is a small weather breaking vestibule so when guests enter the vestibule keeps a blast of hot or cold air from sweeping through the restaurant.
8. Server Station
For functionality and to keep servers close to the customers they are waiting on it is important to incorporate a service station in close proximity to the guest. This prevents the server from having to go the kitchen for a fork or to drop off dishes after clearing a table and therefor keeping the server in the dining room where they are needed. The POS system should have a terminal in close proximity for servers to place their order.
9. The Bar
Todays restaurant bars play a substantial part in revenue generation and many people enjoy eating at the bar, so be sure to design your bar with that in mind. Pay special attention to edge of your bar=top "simple eased edges" are most comfortable for forearms.
10. Ambient Music
The music you select and the volume at which you play it will set the tone. It is a vitally important to get this right. Consider who your customers are and the mood you have intended to represent when selecting a playlist. The right choices will enhance the dinning environment and add a measure of pleasure and relaxation to your customers' evening.

The combination of these added tips and design practices is very powerful and will add exponentially to your restaurant's reputation. Your establishment will be self-advertising, creating word-of-mouth buzz and recommendations throughout your community. Get ready, you're going to be busy!

Finally, Before You Hire A Designer

An experienced interior designer can maximize your interiors potential and arm you with an arsenal of commercial sources for finishes, fabric, furnishings and floors that are exclusively available to designers. They will also be well versed in the do's and don'ts, the should and the musts. This will save you money and time during the build-out. Before you hire a designer, take a few minutes to fully vet them to insure they are the designer for you and up to the job. These suggestions will help:

During your first conversation with a prospective designer, look for signs they are hearing you and on the same wave length, that they conceptually understand your vision.

Make sure your hire someone who is experienced in restaurant design. It is a nuanced skill-set, so be prepared to do some research or make a few calls to well designed establishments and ask them, "who designed your restaurant?"

Ask for references and check them out, or merely call the owners of the places they have designed that are listed feature in their portfolio. My former clients are my best testimonials

  • Hire a designer that you innately feel will contribute value to your plans
  • When you view their portfolio, notice if you are "feeling their designs"
  • Were they on time for your appointment?
  • Did they return your call promptly?
  • How do they charge? (Most charge by the Square Foot)
  • Did you learn anything during your conversation with them?
  • When can they start, and how long will it take before they present you with a final design?

Ok, you're ready to create and experience the true power and lure of great restaurant design. I hope this information is helpful and I wish you and your restaurant a busy, prosperous future!
For more info on hiring a designer, visit: http://www.raymondhaldeman.com/restaurant-designer