Don't sweat the small stuff: maximising restaurant space with design - Faber | Restaurant Design UK (2024)

With such a premium on restaurant space, making the most of your square footage is more important now than ever, especially if your restaurant or bar is on the small side. But if the UK’s love of the micropub and pop-up restaurant is anything to go by, small doesn’t have to mean small fry. Tiny can mean exclusive, quirky and cosy – you just have to make sure every square inch is earning its keep. Here, we share our tips on how to maximise a small restaurant space – and take a look at some examples of people getting it right.

Lighten up

Natural light is a hot commodity when it comes to making a space feel as big as possible, so maximise yours by adding windows or expanding existing ones where possible. Mirrors will also help spread what natural light you do have further and can really help give the illusion of extra space – particularly in long narrow restaurants where the natural light source is at one end of the room only. Patio-style doors, which can be opened in the summer to give the illusion of more space, are another great option.

Colour me spacious

When it comes to colour, lighter shades are best for creating the illusion of space. Some paint manufacturers even offer a range of colours specifically designed to make a room feel brighter and more airy, such as Dulux’s Light & Space range. If you’re taking the opposite tack and want to showcase your cosiness, warm rich reds and darker colours will help create that subterranean, Hobbit-hole feel.

Do be a square

Small, square tables, which can be pushed together to accommodate larger groups, are a much savvier option for smaller restaurants and bars than large round tables. Think of them as Tetris-style building blocks that allow you to switch-up the layout of your restaurant at the drop of a hat. Folding furniture is another easy way to maximise layout flexibility.

Art not clutter

Finding enough storage is a huge challenge in a small restaurant. But instead of trying to squirrel everything away out of sight, why not make your clutter part of the design? Floor-to-ceiling box shelving provides an eye-catching way to store small items such as napkins, condiments and cutlery. Play around with colour and think about visible appeal as well as functionality when you buy something that is going to be stored on display.

Consider all options for seating

If you’ve managed to squeeze a bar in, include some counter seating for guests just having bar snacks and light bites. You can do the same to make use of window space, or anywhere you have a long narrow area that won’t quite allow face-to-face dining.

Make things as streamlined as possible for your waiting staff by using banquette seating along walls – you’ll be able to squeeze more people in if you’re going for a cosy informal feel and they can double up as storage trunks.

Go al fresco

Outdoor tables could allow you to double your covers and free up some more inside space – even in the winter months if you install outdoor heaters and awning. But, licence fees do apply in some areas. Contact your local council for more information.

Small bars and restaurants we love

The Walrus and the Carpenter, Seattle, US:

Don't sweat the small stuff: maximising restaurant space with design - Faber | Restaurant Design UK (1)

Don't sweat the small stuff: maximising restaurant space with design - Faber | Restaurant Design UK (2)

A relaxed, cosy, oyster bar and seafood restaurant, opened by a group of friends in Seattle in 2009. Counter seating and white-washed walls help maximise the space, as does the natural light from the patio doors.

40 St Paul's Birmingham

Don't sweat the small stuff: maximising restaurant space with design - Faber | Restaurant Design UK (3)

This tiny bar in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter specialises in gin and recently won Imbibe’s Gin List of the Year for its collection of 140 premium gins. With no sign or discernible features from the outside, its air of mystery and exclusivity has become part of its unique appeal.

Central Hotel & Café, Copenhagen, Denmark

Don't sweat the small stuff: maximising restaurant space with design - Faber | Restaurant Design UK (4)

Don't sweat the small stuff: maximising restaurant space with design - Faber | Restaurant Design UK (5)

This little café and hotel in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district has just one double bedroom upstairs. But what it lacks in space, it makes up for in style, with beautifully handcrafted detailing and bespoke, space-saving furniture.

Marianne, Notting Hill

Don't sweat the small stuff: maximising restaurant space with design - Faber | Restaurant Design UK (6)

Don't sweat the small stuff: maximising restaurant space with design - Faber | Restaurant Design UK (7)

You might recognise chef and owner Marianne Lumb as one of the MasterChef 2009 finalists. With just 14 covers, this restaurant is as exclusive as it is small. Its simplistic, understated design and neutral colour palette helps create the illusion of space.

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Maximizing Small Restaurant Space

When it comes to maximizing a small restaurant space, several key concepts are crucial for creating an inviting and functional environment. Let's delve into each concept mentioned in the article and explore how they contribute to optimizing the use of limited square footage.

  1. Natural Light and Mirrors: Incorporating natural light and strategically placing mirrors can create the illusion of extra space. This can be achieved through the addition of windows, expanding existing ones, and using mirrors to spread natural light further .

  2. Color Selection: Lighter shades are ideal for creating the illusion of space, while warm, rich colors can contribute to a cozy atmosphere. Choosing the right color palette can significantly impact the perceived size of the restaurant.

  3. Table Layout: Opting for small, square tables that can be easily rearranged to accommodate larger groups is a savvy choice for smaller restaurants. Additionally, folding furniture provides flexibility in layout design.

  4. Storage and Design: Finding creative ways to incorporate storage into the restaurant's design, such as floor-to-ceiling box shelving, can help maintain functionality while adding visual appeal.

  5. Seating Options: Including counter seating for guests enjoying bar snacks and light bites, as well as utilizing banquette seating along walls, can maximize space and provide a cozy, informal feel.

  6. Outdoor Space: Utilizing outdoor tables, even in the winter months with the addition of outdoor heaters and awnings, can effectively double the restaurant's capacity and free up more interior space. However, it's important to consider any applicable license fees.

Examples of Successful Small Bars and Restaurants

The article also highlights several small bars and restaurants that have effectively maximized their limited space:

  • The Walrus and the Carpenter, Seattle, US: This relaxed, cozy oyster bar and seafood restaurant maximizes space with counter seating and natural light from patio doors.

  • 40 St Paul's, Birmingham: A tiny bar specializing in gin, it has won awards for its collection of premium gins and creates an air of mystery and exclusivity through its unique appeal.

  • Central Hotel & Café, Copenhagen, Denmark: Despite its small size, this café and hotel in Copenhagen's Vesterbro district showcases beautifully handcrafted detailing and bespoke, space-saving furniture.

  • Marianne, Notting Hill: With just 14 covers, this exclusive restaurant in Notting Hill utilizes simplistic, understated design and a neutral color palette to create the illusion of space .

These examples demonstrate how small bars and restaurants can successfully optimize their space while offering unique and inviting experiences to their patrons.

Don't sweat the small stuff: maximising restaurant space with design - Faber | Restaurant Design UK (2024)
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