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Best Restaurant Layout and Space Optimization Tips for 2024

Restaurant space analysis

When opening a food service facility the first questions that need to be addressed are how large should each section in the place be and were should it be located. For example: Should the kitchen be half the size of the dining area should it be less than half? How much space will be needed for storage? Will there be a preparation area? How big will it be? Will the preparation area be in the kitchen or does it require its own space?

Back Dock / Receiving Area

By knowing the space requirements in the early stages of planning you will be able, together with a designer, or alone to optimize the space available and make any necessary changes in advance. Estimates regarding sections and the space needed for each section will depend greatly on the type of food service and its size. The estimations are acquired by gathering information about other exiting food services, traffic flow studies and design need as well as the type of restaurant furniture that will be used. Once the information is gathered the planning can go ahead. Planning without these estimations will require more changes as the project advances which can mean extra costs and delays in schedules. The following segments will summarize some of the more important aspects of space analysis and the things that need to be taken into consideration during the planning:

The receiving area needs to be located close to a drive way or near the street. Depending on the size of the venue, the back dock can be as small as a regular service door or might require double doors and a lifting mechanism if large quantity of items is expected. It also needs to be close to the storage areas or have easy access to them if they are further away. For example, in a hotel some of the storage areas might be on a different floor in which case a quick easy access to an elevator is required. Since some items received will require refrigeration, it is best to have the refrigerated storage area as close to the back docks as possible. Another point to consider is the personnel involved in supervising the receiving of the items. If the chef or sous chef are involved then having the back dock and the kitchen close to each other is to be desired.

The space required for the receiving are also varies according to the size, type and physical constraints of the facility. For example, if large deliveries are received often then some items might need to be held in the receiving area for a while until sent to storage so a larger area will be needed. However, if the receiving area is too large clutter may accumulate and it may turn into another improvised storage area which may impede the items’ receiving process.

Space Requirements For Docking Area

Type of Food OperationSpace Needed in Square FeetNumber of Trucks

Fast food

40-60 1

Small restaurant (under 75 seats)

60-80 1

Medium restaurant (75-150 seats)

80-100 1

Large restaurant (150-400 seats)

120-150 2

Large hotel or restaurant with complex menu, catering and snack bars

150-200 3

Storage Areas

The preparation area is divided into 4 types:

  • Dry food storage
  • Paper and cleaning supplies storage
  • Refrigerated and Frozen storage
  • Utensil and cleaning equipment storage

The dry food storage space requirements vary based on the size of the venue and the type of food served. Amount and frequency of the deliveries may also affect the size of the dry storage. The same applies to the Paper and cleaning supplies storage. The more paper and disposable products a venue uses the larger the storage should be. The size and type of the venue also matter. The same applies to the cleaning equipment storage but here the size of the facility and amount of traffic matters more.

The refrigerated and frozen area size and position depends on both the size and type of the facility and on the amount of deliveries per week. The best way to determine the space needed is by knowing the packaging sizes of the most commonly used items in the venue. If it’s a walk in storage then there is a simple formula you can use to determine the storage size:

To determine the necessary length you need to divide the total cubic feet needed by 24. For example: 283 cubic feet / 24 = 11.79 linear feet. So in this example the walk in size should be 12 feet long by 9 feet wide. The width provides space on both sides for shelving and room to move in between them.

Space Requirements for Walk in Cold Storage Area

Type of Food OperationWalk-insSquare Feet

Fast food

1 90-120

Small restaurant

1 120-150

Medium restaurant

2 180-240

Large restaurant

3 240-400

Large hotel or restaurant with complex menu, catering and snack bars

4 600-900

Preparation Areas

Depending on the facility there could be 4 main preparation areas:

  • Pre-preparation
  • Hot food preparation
  • Cold food preparation
  • Final preparation

The pre preparation area is where foods are processed, mixed, cleaned and over all prepared before actual cooking therefore this area needs to be part of the kitchen or at least part of it needs to be. This area usually requires a large amount of equipment. The actual amount is determined by the amount of hand preparation which is based on the menu and volume of food prepared.

The hot food and final preparation area is the part of the kitchen where the food is cooked, therefor it needs to be in a space that is heat resistant and has proper ventilation. The cold food preparation area is where dishes such as salads, desserts and final dishes are assembled before service. This area can be either in the kitchen or adjacent to it. The size of the kitchen with the preparation areas depends on the menu size, type of food served and the size of the service area. A good rule of is that the kitchen size is about 40% in size and the dining area about 60% out of the combined area of both.

Dining Rooms and Service Areas

There are many variables to consider when planning the dining and service areas, ventilation, noise control, traffic flow, meals serve per day, the view from the windows, seating arrangements and service area are amongst the top ones. The following table shows the dining area space requirements based on meals served per day and number of tables available:

Service Area Space Requirements for Table Service Restaurants - Limited Menu

Number of seatsMeals per dayService area square feet

Under 50

300 75


500 100


750 140


1,000 160


1,600 175

Over 500

2,400 200

Service Area Space Requirements for Luxury Table Service Restaurants - Extensive Menu

The following table shows the required service area for luxury venues with extensive menus. This usually means that unlike the table above, more space will be required per seat and per meal.

Number of seatsMeals per dayService area square feet

Under 50

200 100


300 120


600 160


700 200


1,000 250

Over 500

1,500 300