When it comes to opening or refurbishing a café or restaurant, it’s rarely enough to rely on just your food and service to entice customers back. Of course, these elements are vital to any successful food business, but also important is the space itself. From its overall structure to the décor, fixtures and lighting, the design of a café or restaurant can greatly impact how much your customers enjoy and appreciate their experience.

As in so many areas, fashions in restaurant design are always changing. To give you a head-start in thinking about how best to use your space, here are a few current trends:

The Homely look

For a while now, American-influenced industrial design has been very popular in many cafes and restaurants. Evoking images of Brooklyn bars and BBQ joints, the trend has been for exposed brick, minimalist spaces and industrial furniture. Whilst this is still popular, more businesses are now opting for a more homely, cosy feel to their interior. Whereas stainless steel was once the finish to choose, warmer materials, such as copper and honey-toned woods like cherry are now in fashion. Combined with a desire for more bold colours on the walls, it seems restaurant design has got a little more warm and bright.

The Homely Look Cafe

The Homely Look Cafe

Destination Design

These days, when people come through your door, they’re looking for more than just a pleasant meal, they want an experience. It’s becoming increasingly common for cafes and restaurants to offer a number of outlets and services under one space. Customers may stop and sit for a coffee in one zoned area before moving on to pick up some take-away food from the deli and then drinks and bread at the grocer’s section. Cafe owners are also targeting more niche markets. Whilst catering for families with children has always been popular, some businesses are going one step further and offering entertainers and workshops for kids so parents can eat and relax.


A real catchphrase at the moment, storytelling lets the customers know more about the heritage and values behind your venture. An individual, quirky look is popular in cafes and restaurants, and using framed photos and personal memorabilia to decorate the space can encourage a sense of intimacy and friendship with customers. Likewise, incorporating local references in your design is a growing trend. Using interior design tailored to fit the surrounding neighbourhood helps customers feel connected. Specific décor pieces, wall art and murals can all be adjusted to fit a particular location and for chain restaurants, they can also help differentiate one franchise from another.

Communal dining

Using large sharing tables makes sense in casual restaurant design where there is a high turnover of customers or a limited amount of space in the dining area. Combined with the fact people say they like the novelty of sharing space with others they don’t know, there is a move now towards more communal dining. Continuing this family feel to eating out, open kitchens and central wood-fired pizza ovens are also proving more and more popular. Customers like to see what’s happening behind the scenes and it adds to the theatre-like experience of eating out. Taking things further, tableside exhibition cooking where bar stools are perched in front of the cooking area gives people even more of a sense of involvement and belonging.

Many of these trends support a greater sense of connection between people and with the community, and that can only be a good thing. Would any of them would work for your business?