Your restaurant’s ambiance is what your customers encounter first — not the taste of the food. So no matter how delicious your dishes are, customers need to feel invited, comfortable, and excited to spend time in your space.
But designing a restaurant is easier said than done, especially when you consider that the average restaurant revamp costs a whopping $200-$250 per square foot.
So how can you create a warm and welcoming space that your customers will enjoy? Check out these low-budget, small restaurant design ideas that can help give your establishment a tasteful upgrade res— without breaking the bank.
The Importance of Restaurant Design
Creating the right atmosphere in your restaurant is crucial for comfort, branding, and functionality. Make your establishment stand out from the rest with strategic restaurant interior design ideas that call attention to what makes you unique. Help your customers feel at ease and at home by utilizing the space efficiently while creating a vibe that reflects your restaurant’s personality.
While restaurant design is a major factor in customer experience, it’s also an important part of keeping your staff happy. Both you and your employees will enjoy the work environment more after incorporating some basic principles. Think about it: are you happy and productive when stuck in a room full of flickering, fluorescent lights, uncomfortable furniture, and clashing colors? Probably not. Give your employees the work environment they deserve by creating a positive space that uses balanced and harmonic small restaurant design principles to enhance focus, productivity, and job satisfaction.
7 Low-Budget Small Restaurant Design Ideas
Feeling stuck on how to upgrade your space? Here are seven small restaurant design ideas to get you inspired and save you money:
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Collect things around your own house for low-budget, small cafe interior design inspiration, like extra wooden crates to use as rustic interior cafe storage. If you go for a homey design, having mismatched chairs of various styles adds a funky flair to the room.
You can also find great pieces at consignment shops or estate sales for the best price. Consider doing a DIY reupholster job if the seat cushions are old.
Rustic chic is in and it always will — that homey feeling holds a timeless charm that is always beneficial to restaurants. It’s also a super cost-efficient way to furnish and decorate your space. There are lots of places to find used furniture and decor items. Browse second-hand stores, yard sales, online auctions, estate sales, or ask your friend that’s moving if they’re planning on selling any furniture.
- Keep it Simple
When it comes to decor on a low budget, less is more. A little can go a long way, especially in a small space. A pop of color here, a vase of flowers there — you get the idea. Minimalism is seen as sophisticated and on-trend; so if you’re a little sparse because of your budget, it won’t come across as cheap – minimalism done right feels intentional and refined. Stick to a few pieces that will make a statement
One of the easiest ways to do this is to not overcrowd your tables. To seat more, consider one or two communal tables, bar seating, or outside patio seating. Create accents in empty spaces for a classy look. If you’re unsure what direction to go for your revamp, remember that simplicity is timeless. Complicated trends are exactly that: trends. They’ll go out of style in a few years and you’ll feel the need to renovate again to stay relevant.
- Be Intentional with Your Lighting
There are many different types of lighting to consider: ambient, accent, recessed lighting, multicolored lights, and more!
In small spaces, you’ll want to figure out how to use lighting to make your restaurant feel bigger. One way is to utilize natural light as much as possible. Keep the windows open: don’t hide the light behind blinds or curtains. You can also use a variety of sizes and styles of mirrors on the wall to reflect light and make the space feel bigger.
If you want small restaurant bar design ideas that create a cozy den-like atmosphere, there’s nothing cozier than a dark hideaway lit only by the glow of flameless candles. Dark wood, exposed brick, and yellow-tinted lighting fixtures achieve a romantic and private atmosphere.
Open windows and flameless candles are low-cost ways to achieve ambiance. Also, consider energy-efficient lighting. While it will cost a bit more upfront, it will save money long-term on utilities.
- Don’t Neglect Your Exterior
Signs, flags, moving windchimes, the welcome mat, the parking lot – these are all great opportunities to communicate your brand, offerings, and values. And they can all be done on a budget. Even if you only have a few square feet of external space, you’ll want to make sure your entry is vibrant, appealing, and inviting.
Stringing up twinkle lights is an effective and inviting way to draw in a night crowd. Hang funny signs and decorations outside your establishment to communicate that you are fun and casual. Does your restaurant have a more elevated feel? Add elegant tea lights in small glasses to the tables on your patio. No matter what your restaurant's vibe is, you can’t go wrong by adding plants to your exterior.
- Remember, Nature is Evergreen
Speaking of plants, they’re not just for outdoor use! Indoor plants became all the rage during the height of COVID-19 as people longed for the outdoors during lockdown. They have retained popularity because plants are natural mood boosters, natural air purifiers, and naturally beautiful. Small, low-maintenance plants like succulents work well for small space, low-budget, small restaurant design. High-quality artificial flowers can be tasteful in moderation as well, especially if you change them out seasonally.
- Let the Walls and Ceiling Shine
Create a brilliant interior of cheap restaurants without breaking the bank by just adding color. You’ll likely have to paint the walls anyway, so in addition to the basic white, go for an accent wall. (Did you know that design experts recommend certain colors for restaurants?)
Choosing accent colors will help nail down your color theme for the rest of your accessories. Paint a solid color or pattern, hire a local artist to paint a mural, or even paint a wall with chalkboard paint to encourage kids to unleash their creative expression.
Call attention to the ceiling by hanging low-cost decorations that communicate your theme or values. This can be anything from handmade origami, delicate fairy lights, flags hung proudly, or banners of the local sports team.
- Invest in Local Relationships
Still not sure where to start? Talk to other local small businesses in the area. They could turn into customers one day, but even if they don’t, chances are they’ll have useful information about how to design a place of business on a budget. They may also be able refer you to interior designers, contractors, and other trustworthy professionals who offer affordable services for low-cost, cheap restaurant interior design.
Need to add some color and personality to your walls? Support local art! Talk to some local artists to see if they’d be willing to display their art in your restaurant so that you can feature the community you are serving.
Get the Right Atmosphere with AtmosphereTV
AtmosphereTV takes interior design for restaurants to the next level. We offer non-narrative, commercial-free, no-audio visuals to keep customers entertained. All our channels are engaging but not distracting, so that your customers will feel the ambiance, yet maintain focus on delicious food and nourishing company.
Stop showing commercials from your competitors and spending a fortune on print materials. Instead, promote your restaurant, weekly specials, and more with custom design graphics that reflect your restaurant’s concept.
We’re committed to helping businesses of all sizes grow and scale. Whether you’re looking for in-house TV services or just want some unique restaurant promotion ideas, we’ve got you covered.
Catch people’s attention and boost your profits with AtmosphereTV’s services today.