How Should I Decorate My Restaurant?

While there’s no one right way to decorate a restaurant, there are certainly wrong ways to go about it. Since the décor you choose for your restaurant will establish its mood and ambiance, you want to put a lot of careful consideration into this decision. How should you decorate your restaurant?

Here are some tips to make decorating your restaurant easier:

  • Choose a theme or concept
  • Keep the layout in mind
  • Give the exterior and entrance some oomph 
  • Put care into your lighting choices 
  • Focus on acoustics
  • Pick colors carefully
  • Make room for HVAC, POS, and more 

Ahead, we’ll dive deeper into the above tips so that your restaurant design is one you’ll be exceptionally proud of! 

1. Choose a Theme or Concept

Even if a restaurant has what seem to be accidental design choices or a mishmash of influences, we promise that all the décor choices are 100 percent intentional. 

Whether you want pure cohesion or a variety of styles, you need a theme or a concept to start with. 

The theme will hem you in so that while you’re free to spread your design wings and fly, you’re not spreading your wings so far that no one understands your restaurant design vision, including both your staff and your customers. 

So what should your theme or concept be? Well, this is where you get to shine and flex your creative muscles, as that’s a decision that only you can make.

That said, we’re here to help you get started, so here are some theme/concept ideas to mull over:

  • Use a vehicle for your restaurant instead of a building, such as a bus, an RV, or a train
  • Go underground in a cavern-like establishment
  • Choose a decade and recreate everything about that decade with your décor 
  • Make your restaurant into a stage complete with singing servers
  • Embrace the history of your neighborhood and infuse it into your restaurant’s design

No matter the theme or concept you choose, be it one of the above or something else entirely, it should gel with the type of restaurant you’re running.

Are you a fast-casual establishment? Then a restaurant with showtunes doesn’t make much sense since people will be in and out of your restaurant quickly. 

That’s just like how a fast food restaurant doesn’t gel with the historic elements theme, as that décor idea is a little too high-end for a fast food establishment. 

2. Keep the Layout in Mind 

Arguably, one of the most important factors when it comes to designing your restaurant is the layout. 

As big as your design aspirations may be–and they’re probably quite huge if you’re reading this article–you need to prioritize your layout above all else.

If your décor gets in the way of the layout, then your staff will have a hard time getting around the restaurant. This can slow them down when serving customers, which overall reduces the customer service experience. 

Any loyal customers you had may stop coming in, and if you were trying to build a loyal customer base, it might never happen if your establishment stays as is. 

Not only will bad décor choices that directly coincide with your restaurant’s layout pose a customer service risk, but much more importantly, they pose a safety risk as well.

You need clear paths throughout the restaurant as well as accessible entrances and exits. If you don’t have these and a fire did occur, would all your staff be able to get out safely? 

If you’re not sure, then you need to redesign your restaurant décor ASAP, ideally before you open it to the public. 

This will ensure you’re in compliance so your restaurant can legally open in the first place. 

3. Give the Exterior and Entrance Some Oomph 

First impressions are everything, and that goes triply for your restaurant.

You can’t let the food do all the talking even if you serve the best dishes around. Your décor is how you get people into your restaurant to taste that food, so it has to be good. 

Lots of restaurant owners exhaust so much of their decorating budget on the interior that when it comes to the exterior, it tends to look bare-bones.

Remember, first impressions are everything, and what does a customer (or potential customer) see before they ever open the doors and stroll inside your restaurant? That’s right, the exterior!

We’re not recommending going full-throttle on your outdoor décor. In many cases, you can’t, especially if you’re only renting or leasing the building. You might not even be able to change the exterior paint color.

What you can do is add signage (temporary signage if you’re renting and permanent signage if the building is yours), place some potted plants, hang up some string lights, and create an overall welcoming, warm ambiance.

The next area you want to focus on is the entryway. This isn’t where customers will dine, sure, but again, the entrance furthers that first impression that customers will have of your restaurant. It has to look good. 

Stick with the theme or concept you chose when decorating your entrance but make sure that it looks fantastic from all sides. You want to further that warm, welcoming atmosphere that you established when your customers were outside. 

Then, once they’re in and see the rest of your establishment and get a taste of your stellar customer service (not to mention your incredible food), they’ll be sold!  

4. Put Care into Your Lighting Choices

Let’s be real: lighting decisions can make or break a restaurant. 

Lighting, just like décor, establishes an ambiance, so it’s very important, but you need just enough. 

If your restaurant is too brightly lit, then it will feel like standing on a movie set (but not in a good way). Your customers will begin sweating and they could get headaches from the harsh lighting that reminds them of the florescent lighting at their office. 

By day, when the sun can stream in through the windows, the combination of the direct sunlight and your strong lighting can simply be too much for customers. 

Just as bad is lighting that’s so dark that you can barely see your own two hands in front of you. Lighting that sparse is going to make it nearly impossible to read your menu, so most customers won’t even bother. 

Ideally, you want lighting in your restaurant that’s in between too much and too little. Your restaurant theme will inform your lighting decision to a point. 

For example, if you did go with the popular underground restaurant concept, then to create a cavernous environment, you’d want the establishment to be darker. That’s only natural. 

For a family-friendly restaurant, bright lighting that matches your clean, colorful décor is the perfect complement.

Don’t feel like you have to rely just on sconces, ceiling lights, chandeliers, lamps, and other forms of lighting to illuminate your restaurant. Natural lighting can also be your friend!

If you have large windows in your establishment, then you can open them by day when you want a brighter atmosphere or close the curtains if you want a more romantic, cozy vibe.

You will need adequate lighting for after-dark entertaining, of course! 

5. Focus on Acoustics

Another critical factor when decorating your restaurant is acoustics, which refers to the sound properties of a building or a room. 

The better the acoustics, the easier it is for sound to be transferred, whereas poor acoustics will dampen sound and prevent it from traveling.

Restaurants are naturally very loud places. There’s always clanging and clattering coming from the kitchen in the back, not to mention vocal hubbub and the sounds of cooking. 

You don’t want those sounds to leak out into the rest of the building, as they can interfere with the dining experience. No PA system playing softly lulling tunes is going to erase that. 

In the dining area, you shouldn’t mind fewer acoustics. This way, conversations can travel an appropriate distance but aren’t floating all over the restaurant for anyone and everyone to hear. 

So what do we suggest for controlling acoustics? You can try acoustic panels, drapery, and soft rather than hard furnishings. 

Play around with the acoustics of your restaurant until you can control the sound levels to an optimal degree. Once you’ve nailed the acoustics, your restaurant will be a comfortable place for your customers and staff alike. 

6. Pick Colors Carefully

What colors do you envision for your restaurant décor? Although it’s tempting to choose a palette of colors that you personally like, you might want to rethink that decision.

Colors are psychological. Companies know this and will select product or branding colors to make you feel a certain way and hopefully inspire a purchasing decision. 

You want to make your customers feel a certain way too, of course, and that’s usually comforted, at ease, and ready to have an amazing dining experience. 

Keep in mind what each color represents and how it influences mood as you consider your restaurant décor hues. 


When you go for a simple color such as white, you’re invoking honesty, innocence, simplicity, and cleanliness. It may be a blank slate hue to some, but some white could be just what your restaurant décor needs!


A darker hue like black represents security, sophistication, drama, and formality. For upscale sit-down establishments, black décor is going to make quite an impact on your customers. 


Although maybe not everyone’s favorite color, brown does have plenty of positive associations. Those include simplicity, trustworthiness, ruggedness, and dependability. 


Although you’ll probably use purple sparingly, it does have a strong air of ambition, spirituality, luxury, and royalty that makes it a fine choice for your restaurant décor. Try playing with different shades of purple for the best results.


The softer side of red, pink evokes sweetness, sophistication, sincerity, and compassion. It’s less daring and emotive than red and thus is an alternative worth considering.


A classic color, blue represents competency, loyalty, peace, and trustworthiness. Those are all traits that you want your establishment to be known for, so look for ways to incorporate blue into your décor!


If you want to highlight traits such as quality, freshness, health, and nature, green is the ideal hue to do that. A restaurant with a beloved outdoor terrace, an organic establishment, or a vegan restaurant would be great choices for lots of green décor.


It never hurts to add some yellow to your restaurant’s décor! The color gives off vibes of cheeriness, warmth, happiness, and creativity. Those are again all very positive traits that you’ll want your restaurant to embody. 


If yellow is a bit too much for you, orange is another smart color to use when decorating your restaurant. The bright hue represents sociability, bravery, success, and confidence, so it’s sure to put your customers in a conversational mood. 


The last color to consider is red. A passionate hue, red evokes energy, love, strength, and excitement. If yours is a high-energy establishment, then use lots of red. Otherwise, sparing use of the color is best. 

7. Make Room for HVAC, POS, and More

Although we’re throwing in this tip a little late, it’s still important, so don’t forget it as you determine what your restaurant layout and décor will look like. 

Your restaurant design plans must include all the crucial building features such as your POS system and any HVAC devices you’re installing that wasn’t a part of the original building. 

You can’t decorate over these things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hide them. If you want your POS system to stay private, for instance, then you can install curtains around it. 


As you can see, you can decorate a restaurant in so many unique ways that directly copying from the competition isn’t worth it. Express your creative side and inject your personality and your restaurant’s brand into your décor. 

Your customers will respond in kind, propelling your restaurant to successful heights! 

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