Every restaurant has a finite amount of floor space in which to operate. Getting the floor plan right can have a huge impact on guest experience and also effect the bottom line. With tight margins in the restaurant business, effective floor plan management is a major revenue driver for restaurants.
Getting the floor plan right starts with initial layout and planning. Finding a balance between revenue and experience and making sure guests easily flow through your restaurant. Once you have your floor defined you must manage it on a daily basis to ensure effective and profitable service. This is called table management.
This guide walks you through these two fundamental elements of floor plan management.
How to Layout a New Restaurant Floor Plan
Identify Your Customers to Build Your Floor Plan
Before creating a floor plan, start by understanding your target customer. Who are you looking to cater to?
- Do you serve breakfast in a city center and expect customers on their way to work
- Do you mainly cater to business people at lunch time?
- Are you a fine dining restaurant with a small number of tables?
- Are you in busy city center or more rural?
- Are most of the residents in your area families?
Consider your location and how that impacts the type of clientele you'll be receiving. This is the best place to start before drawing your floor plan instead of simply trying to fit the maximum amount of tables as possible into your space.
There are a lot of places like wineries or popular farms that have large-scale dining rooms. Once you identify exactly what your location would best serve, pick a floor plan accordingly. Many city operations have a high flow and turn over. This means that you seat more customers during business hours and you need a floor plan that caters to this.
The most successful restaurants are able to identify this market segment and adjust not only their business hours, but floor plan accordingly. Your floor plan will be defined by they type of customer you are catering to.
Balance Revenue with Experience
It goes without saying that when you are outlining your floor plan you should be seeking to maximize revenue - but not at the expense of guest experience.
Usually restaurants will include a mix of table sizes from 2 to 5. The exact mix will depend on the type of customers your are expecting.
For example, for business diners looking for fast and less traditional dining options:
People can have services instantly today, and it is important to understand this when a large portion of your client base is business orientated. For business diners, use two and three-top tables, with several four-tops scattered throughout. It is especially important to space tables appropriately for business guests.
Another example might be families/large dining groups (brunch spots or family style restaurants):
Try to lean more toward four and five-tops, with the flexibility to mix and match. This is especially important if you plan on having any private dining events or anything celebratory. Sometimes six or seven tops can be permanent options as well, but only if your service is heavily family oriented.
Best Practices for Creating a New Restaurant Layout
- Use this formula for determining the maximum capacity of the restaurant.
Maximum Capacity of Floor Plan = Total sq foot of restaurant (including restroom, entrance etc) / 30 or 35
Tables should be a minimum 24-30 inches apart.
A combination of different table heights makes the restaurant look larger than it is.
Booths are the most efficient seating option as you don't have to plan extra room for chairs.
Less desirable tables should be made as desirable as possible with judicious use of design and decor.
How to Optimize Floor Plan During Service
Once you have your floor plan layout finished it's time to think about what happens when you have a steady stream of diners coming into restaurant. In the planning and set-up phase you will have considered the best layout for maximizing capacity and revenue. However your quest for profitability should not end there.
Effective, real time floor plan management is the second pillar in unlocking your goal of more seated guests and more profit. If you cannot manage your floor plan on a minute-by-minute by basis, inevitably you will have empty seats that could have been filled.
When thinking about floor plan optimization, ask your self these type of questions.
- How will my staff know when a table is due to finish? When can it be turned?
- How long has this table been seated?
- Which course is table 14 currently on?
- I know the kitchen can do 30 covers per hour. How do I not over book the restaurant?
Using your floor plan as the basis for managing the day-to-day of restaurant service is the fastest way to optimize for revenue.
This is because staff and reservation managers can see both a high level, and zoomed in, view of the restaurant in real time. They have the information they need to make decisions on the fly.
An interactive digital floor plan will provide a feature set to enable you to maximize your revenue. This is often called a 'table management system' and can impact a restaurants operations in terms of filling seats, but also to improve the efficiency of staff and provide analytics on performance over time.
Setting Up Your Floor Plan and Table management
When starting to optimize your floor plan with a digital table management system you should choose a system that gives you ease and flexibility over creating and changing your floor.
In practice this means providing:
- Multiple table sizes and shapes
- Allowing table rotation
- Adding multiple dining rooms
- Editing table capacity
- An easy to you editing interface
Tips for setting up floor plan in your digital system
1. Try to get all your tables onto a single floor plan view.
It's better to have all your tables in one place even if this means your floor plan is not to scale. Your servers know what your floor looks like in reality. The key with your digital floor plan is usability.
2. Include table capacity for every table.
This might seem tedious but it's essential to having an optimized floor plan.
3. Understand how to combine tables on an ad hoc basis
If you're like most restaurants you often join tables together for larger party sizes. Find out how your system handles joining tables together. If you can't combine tables then don't use the system.
4. Add separate dining rooms to individual floor plan tabs.
Good systems will allow you have multiple rooms accessible through tabs. If you have a terrace or multiple floors for example these can go in separate tabs. Operationally this is much easier for your staff.
Seating and Organizing Guests
The core of real time floor plan management is adding guests to tables when it's time for them to be seated. When everything is running smoothly, and hosts are seating guests as they arrive in the restaurant, all the front-of-house staff from managers to servers have a real time view of the whole floor.
Later we'll see how digital systems make it even easier to plan for upcoming bookings.
Tracking the status of guests through service
As well as knowing which tables are occupied at any given time you can go more granular and know at what point during their meal they are currently at.
The guest status refers to where the guest is in customer journey. Have they just ordered, received dessert or has the cheque been dropped?
By using color coding and easy to understand icons any table can be updated with the status of a guest. This type of tagging as many benefits for table turn planning as well as hospitality. For example, a GM might see a regular customer is on dessert and pay that table a visit.💃
Turning Tables Faster and Seating More Guests
This is where the real benefits of a table management system for profit maximization start kicking in.
Unlike pen and paper restaurant management, or a digital reservation book, a table management system gives you time based information about your current and upcoming reservations. This is the information your staff need to turn tables faster and more efficiently.
See upcoming reservations on a per table basis
With just one tap we can see the upcoming reservation times for all our tables. (in the black boxes)
Let's say someone calls looking for a reservation later in the evening. The host can see which tables are available at that time and add the reservation directly into the table in seconds.
This makes dealing with late booking requests and walk-ins easier to handle, but crucially gives staff the confidence to seat guests without worrying about time conflicts.
Seat Guests When You Thought You Couldn't
See how long a table has remaining
In this view we can see how long a table has remaining so staff know exactly when they expect any table to become free.
Tracking Guest Spend
Another dimension in floor plan management is incorporating guest spend. Through integrations with a restaurant's POS, the table management system can display guest spend information. This is particularly useful for managers looking to track table revenue in real time. Spend information can be used as part of a customer service initiative or a comping strategy.
Matching Kitchen and Dining Room Capacity
Many restaurants run a tight line between kitchen and dining room capacity. On any given day or night the kitchen may only be able to accommodate a certain number of covers per hour. If the kitchen is at maximum capacity the host won't want to accept walk-ins even if there is a free table as this will inevitably lead to poor customer service and complaints.
A table management system can help you plan and mitigate any issues that arrive with capacity management.
At Eat, for example, restaurants have access to our Grid View system that shows the cover flow per hour and makes it very easy for a host to see if the kitchen can handle any more covers in that hour.
Keeping track of your servers
An additional benefit of digital floor plan management is server tracking. Most restaurants want to evenly distribute the workload between staff and to assign specific sections to certain servers.
By assigning servers to tables inside your table management system you'll have a visual way of knowing which server is working which tables.
Effective floor plan management involves setting up your floor in a way that maximizes revenue without sacrificing the guest experience. Once set-up it's all about effective real time floor plan management to help you turn tables faster and reach operational efficiency. Get these two pillars of floor plan management right and you'll be on the way generating the most revenue per sq foot possible from your restaurant floor plan.