The goal of any restaurant’s exterior design should be to communicate what you have to offer on the outside of your building, so people on the street or sidewalk will develop brand recognition and know what to expect from your restaurant.
Your restaurant’s signs are the first thing people will see when they pass by or come to your restaurant. A prominent, well-designed sign can attract new customers, and it will also help you spread brand recognition. Make sure your sign has the following qualities:
- Stands out. You can make your sign stand out by making it tall and large, using contrasting or bright colors and lighting it well.
- Visible at all times. Your signs should be visible during both day and night. This means either the letters should light up or be backlit, or you should use lighting to illuminate the entire sign. All of your signage should be lit, including your open sign and front entrance sign as well as any other signs or brand logos featured on your restaurant’s exterior.
- Unique and easily identified. Signs should be unique and have easy street recognition. This means that if people see the sign from the street, they can immediately recognize that your restaurant is there. By using unique colors or a unique logo on your sign, customers will be able to see your sign from a distance and recognize it as your restaurant.
To be sure that people can identify your restaurant from a distance or as they are walking or driving by, consider using the following types of signs:
- Tall, free-standing sign
- Entrance sign
- Signs in windows
- Logos on awnings or above windows
Bright, colorful tones are often indicative of quick-service establishments. They are visible and recognizable from a distance. Fast-casual and full-service establishments might go with muted tones on the exterior to represent a more relaxed and casual establishment, without the super-speedy service that bright colors imply. On the other hand, these rules are often broken with success, and any restaurant can get away with either muted or bright colors. The most important thing is that your restaurant presents a fairly consistent color scheme in all of its designs.
Make sure the entrance to your restaurant is accessible to your target customers. For example, if you are targeting seniors, a long walkway is probably a bad idea. Furthermore, to comply with ADA regulations, you must make your building handicap accessible. This will allow handicapped people to patronize your restaurant, and as an added benefit, it will also make your restaurant more accessible to people with strollers.
For both safety and branding reasons, you should illuminate the area directly in front of your building. Your building façade should have clear signage to identify your restaurant. Also consider incorporating the following elements into the front of your restaurant:
If you are in an area with heavy sidewalk traffic, outdoor menus are an excellent idea. You can use a menu board or a simple paper menu in a display case or window to list your offerings. An outdoor
write-on menu board can also be used to inform passersby of your daily or weekly specials.
Windows on the front of your building can be used to “frame” the interior of the restaurant and give passersby an idea of what is inside. Windows are especially good if you want to showcase a crowded dining room or feature your unique restaurant interior. Awnings will prevent sunlight from streaming into and heating up the dining area. Windows looking in on the kitchen from the outside can also attract customers, and it will put them at ease concerning what is going on in the back of house, without having to build a complete exhibition kitchen.
Architecture and Murals
If you really want your building to stand out, consider incorporating unique architecture or murals on your façade. Unique architecture can include molding, columns, statues, etc. You can also hire a trusted artist to paint a mural or other decorations on your building.
Patio or Outdoor Dining
Offering an outdoor eating area will attract customers, especially when the weather is nice. If you can, make your patio dining visible to pedestrians and people driving by. Depending on your establishment type, you may want to offer an outdoor bar and locate an extra server’s station outside. In addition, a patio dining area typically includes the following:
Depending on your location, you may need to close your outdoor patio in the winter, or install outdoor warmers to keep customers warm on the patio. If you are open during hot summer months, you could consider purchasing a misting system for your outdoor dining area.
Your parking lot should be clearly marked for your customers. You should try to have enough parking spaces to accommodate all patrons when your restaurant is full. If you are open after sunset, your parking area should be fully illuminated to keep patrons safe at night.
For many quick-service and fast-casual restaurants, the drive-through is a major source of revenue. If you plan to open a restaurant that relies on drive-through business, make sure your drive-through is visible from the street. Also be sure that there are clear signs or marks painted into the pavement that tell customers in vehicles where the drive through is and which direction it goes.
The plants, rocks and other decorations in your landscaping should match your restaurant concept. For example, if you own a Mexican or Southwestern restaurant, you may want to landscape with cacti and agave plants.
You should use any natural views near your restaurant, like waterfront, mountain ranges, or views of the city. If you do not already have a good view available, create your own view by beautifying your restaurant’s lot with plants, fountains, rocks, gazebos, etc.
When you first open your restaurant, curb appeal is an essential factor. It will get people in your restaurant for the first time. Make sure that your exterior restaurant design is attractive and eye-catching, and that it clearly communicates to onlookers what your restaurant has to offer.