Key Considerations for Designing a Bar or Restaurant Venue

Vovem lighting fixtures — designing a bar or restaurant — TINTO Architects

Whether you’re already in the planning phase of your new bar or restaurant, or it’s just an exciting idea at this stage, we've got lots of great tips for you — based on years of experience working closely with hospitality clients over the years.

If you're in the hospitality sector and considering a new bar or restaurant project, read on for our most important considerations when designing bars and restaurants...

Space Planning in Bar and Restaurant Venues

Planning the way your space works is incredibly important, and it’s usually a big conversation right at the very beginning of a new project.

We always need to understand how different people will use your space - from families and big groups of friends, to couples on date nights and even your staff. What are the wants and needs of these different groups, and how can we accommodate them to ensure they have the best experience?

We have to combine this thinking with how many covers our clients want. We want to strike the ideal balance between maximising the space, but ensuring the experience will be as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.

College bar Aberdeen — seating and bar area — TINTO architects Scotland

Using a variety of seating, especially in bars, is a clever way to do this. Flexible bar seating combined with a mix of fixed seating can work well - and this is the approach we took when we recently designed the new College bar (see above), as well as during our space planning for clients like Brewdog.

Be sure to make the most of your circulation areas. So many bars or restaurants are guilty of wasting space, or forgetting about these areas, but they can be used to your advantage.

Lighting Choices

Lighting is a big consideration. We believe it’s the best tool for creating moods and atmosphere in a space.

While it's very functional, you can also use lighting to create talking points, and highlight design features. For example, one of our recent clients opted for a really eye-catching wall design at their entrance, and we’re going to use lighting to really bring it to life.

Fishmarket at Soul, Aberdeen — lighting use — TINTO Architects Scotland

LED lighting is also really popular to bring a ‘ping’ to a bar. It can draw your eyes into the selection of glass bottles or glassware, or the design or materials used throughout.

Choosing Materials

Pulling together a material palette that suits your brand, your style and the experience you want to create is one of the most exciting parts of what we do for clients. Think textures, patterns, wallpaper, flooring, fabrics and more.

Is your vision plush and luxurious? Or is it more raw and industrial? There are so many options available to you, and we’re here to help you make sense of it all — giving you insight into the latest trends in the hospitality industry. We have a fantastic portfolio of local, national and international brands that we work with too.

The bar top can be a big talking point, and we often spend a long time with clients trying to select the best materials for it. You have the opportunity to create a statement, something that commands attention, in the place where people spend a lot of time, either waiting to be served, or chatting with friends.

Vovem bar and table seating - Aberdeen architect TINTO

The aesthetic appeal is of course so important, but equally important is durability. What will the end use of that space be? Your material choice needs to reflect this, to ensure it lasts as long as possible, and doesn’t need to be replaced in a few months.

One of our top tips for selecting your materials and designing the look of your space is to stand in different places, and think about people's viewpoints. What can they see from each spot? What can they touch? Creating points of interest from every angle of your bar or restaurant helps create an amazing space.

Furniture Matters

This could arguably be the most important element in hospitality interior design, as it’s what your customers are feeling, using and touching throughout their experience with you. You could nail your entire design — but pick a really uncomfortable chair, and you risk ruining it all.

For bars, furniture is mainly about the aesthetic appeal. In restaurants, however, comfort is much more important, as this is what will ensure they stay as long as possible.

Vovem restaurant seating area, Aberdeen — TINTO architects Scotland

The chair is potentially the most important piece you’ll ever have to choose — and it’s not always a quick or easy decision. We actually once took one of our clients down to a design show in London in search of the perfect chair!

You also don’t just have to look for pre-made items — bespoke options opens up a whole new world. It’s nice to have a mix of bespoke, as it allows you to create something unique to your brand, that helps you create the exact look and style you desire.

Furniture can also be used to create different spaces within a single venue. And again, it’s important to consider how each different type of customer will be using your furniture - someone who’s in to watch the football with their mates will want something far different to a couple out on a romantic date.

Make An Entrance

Aim for initial impact. As soon as someone walks in the door, they should feel excited to be there, and be drawn in.

Your entrance can be used to do this, and it’s an often overlooked part because all the focus is primarily on the main internal area.

Attract people’s attention, pull them in, and create a memorable impact from the outside, all the way in. Don’t let your doorway be the missing piece of your masterpiece.

Steps at Vovem restaurant, Aberdeen — TINTO architects Scotland

(This article originally featured in the TINTO blog in 2018 — content by TINTO alumni Nina and Jenna)

Let's talk! If you’d like to chat to the Tinto team about an upcoming bar or restaurant project, contact us today.