Experience-Driven Design, Multipurpose Spaces and Instagram Bait Lead the Pack
Without good food, a restaurant cannot survive. Without good design, it cannot thrive.
In 2018, as in recent years, restaurant customer experience will trump food and service, making layout, decor, lighting and other interior design elements the most important factors in luring in diners.
Most people can get good food and decent service at home, but today’s customers expect more from eating out: exciting, memorable experiences from the moment they arrive at a restaurant to the moment they leave. Whether they realize it or not, they are impressed by design that expresses the restaurant’s vision and promise to them.
Through creative and innovative interior design, restaurants reveal to customers what they can expect from their dining experience and how it is different and superior to what they would experience elsewhere. Competition in the restaurant industry is fiercer than ever, and restaurateurs are pulling all the stops to grab a bigger share of the pie—from ingenious menu items to captivating themes.
Next year we will see more restaurants moving away from the overstuffed, classic look and toward more contemporary, streamlined vibes featuring aesthetically pleasing details designed to appeal to every sense and guide diners through brand-specific customer experiences.
To help you provide the kind of ambience that produces the delightful experiences customers crave, here are the top eight restaurant interior design trends we see flourishing in 2018.
1. Experience-Driven Design
Time spent dining at a restaurant is time during which customers have positive, negative or neutral experiences. It is prime time. To keep them coming back, restaurants must provide positive, engaging and enjoyable experiences that leave diners wanting for more.
Interior design elements can transform a restaurant from a place to eat food to a space that offers unique dining, social and cultural experiences, whether it inspires a family reunion or a corporate meeting, a time for fun or a time to splurge in luxury.
Original concepts or themes, lighting, fireplaces, wall dividers, couches, color schemes, textures, fixtures, silverware, music, scents—every detail counts when manufacturing enticing customer experiences.
2. Multipurpose: Designing for Every Customer
Customers often choose where to eat based on their time constraints. Rather than appealing to a particular type of customer, more restaurants are designing their spaces to work for both fast or casual food as well as full-service dining, attracting different types of customers or the same customers at different times of the day.
Restaurants want it all: customers who have a few minutes for lunch, those who order online for pickup after along work day and those who want to take their dates to a nice place for a relaxed sit-down meal. To achieve this multipurpose quality, designers have to consider how the space will function in each of these situations and make it flexible—like the menu.
3. Instagram Bait: Catering to Social Media
Technology is changing the way we perceive and experience the world. As a result, more restaurants are featuring selfie-worthy or Instagram-bait spots designed to inspire diners to take photos to post and share on social media. These picture-perfect areas not only please and engage customers, but they also help advertise and promote the restaurant online.
Colorful, patterned floor and wall tiles, murals, interesting artwork and antiques, odd lights and furniture are some of the items that customers like to photograph.
4. Designing for Brand Differentiation
The U.S. restaurant industry is huge: $800 billion in annual sales, some 625,000 restaurants and more than 1 million locations, with each restaurant trying to set itself apart from the others. One effective way of differentiating a restaurant brand is to design around a theme or concept that conveys a story to customers as they dine.
Brand positioning can be strengthened by a variety of design elements—from the flooring to the ceiling, from the chairs customers sit on to the silverware they use, from bathroom sinks to doorknobs. Every design element works—or doesn’t—to give the restaurant its own voice.
5. Bright Lighting
The ambiance in many restaurants appears to be transitioning from dark to bright. Back when it was all about the food, lighting was meant to help patrons read the menu. Those days are gone, and now it is all about the ambiance.
Bespoke lighting tailor-made to fit and illuminate a particular space is growing in popularity, as well as features such as individual remote controls and dimming and color options. Also trending are natural light, pinpoint lights, lustrous wall coverings, accent mirrors, polished chrome finishes, LED strips and lighter color palettes to make rooms brighter and more inviting.
6. Adding a Touch of Green
The health benefits and beauty of plants make them a smart choice in restaurant interior design. Plants are being used not only to make spaces look better and improve customer experience but also to balance areas often dominated by high-tech gadgets and machine-made sounds. Living walls, indoor vines, greenhouses and on-site gardens are some of the green trends that will grow in 2018.
Mixt restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
7. Doing More With Less
Minimalism is expected to continue to gain speed in 2018, with more restaurants focusing on simple, clean lines and minimalist, functional furniture, as well as embracing architecture and highlighting craftsmanship rather than covering it up with wallpaper or curtains.
Zucca restaurant in Tokyo.
8. Putting on a Show: Open Kitchens
Open kitchens seem to be here to stay—for a while, at least. With so many cooking and chef television shows available, it is no wonder customers are increasingly interested in how their food is made.
An open floor plan that showcases the kitchen and the right chef can engage diners by providing a sense of community, encouraging additional memorable experiences and making them feel like they are part of the restaurant’s story—and part of the show.
When all is said and done, interior elements such as wall murals, open kitchens, and minimalist furniture are valuable additions to any restaurant design— and while there is no substitute for great food and friendly service—these small details can help contribute toward making a memorable first impression —one that will hopefully keep customers coming back for seconds.