On an interior design budget? 3 tips to help restaurateurs save money

The restaurant industry is making a comeback as post-pandemic diners yearn to get out and enjoy a seated dining experience again. Growing demand from customers looking to eat again means the industry’s most creative minds can create unique new dishes and spaces for restaurants of all varieties, from fast casual to fine dining.

However, as the demand for restaurants increases, the costs associated with building these restaurants also increase. Inflation across the world is making it more expensive for restaurateurs to create their ideal dining experience. This increased cost is certainly seen in a restaurant’s interior design, as everything from seating to lighting to menu material is not only harder to find, but also more expensive. Designing the perfect restaurant space while facing significant cost increases is a huge challenge for any restaurateur, but it is not an insurmountable challenge.

As restaurant design experts, our interior design firm has helped many restaurant owners stay on budget without sacrificing vision during a tough economy. Here are some tips for budgeting your restaurant’s interior design plan more effectively.


Perform a fit test

The vision of the restaurant in your head is always easier to manage than the space you have in reality. Not understanding your space can be disastrous when you can end up buying expensive materials that don’t physically fit the space or don’t look as good as you thought. A fit test is an absolute necessity for any restaurant owner looking to get the most out of their interior design investment. A fit test consists of layout plans to help assess the client’s needs in a given space. It helps the restaurant owner assess the appropriate number of seats they can fit comfortably in their space. This is critical to the success of the restaurant, ensuring areas don’t feel cramped, selected items fit into the space, and blockage is minimal to the flow of customers and service. A fit test can really show how many tables and chairs you need for a space and give you a better understanding of how decor items might fit together. Seats equal revenue, so you want to have just the right amount.

Kahvi CafeMany interior design companies can even create 3D models of your hypothetical restaurant space to get a clear understanding of how your restaurant vision plays out in reality. 3D modeling software lets you see everything from light fixtures to wall decor to accessories used to bring the space to life.

Fit testing will give you a better understanding of what feels good in a space before you commit to investing in interior pieces.


Set realistic expectations and avoid blindly following trends

It’s important that restaurateurs and the interior design teams they hire do their research on pricing. The reality is that many restorers work with an outdated understanding of material cost. A restaurant owner who completed an interior design project last year is considering a significant cost increase this year. Set realistic cost expectations and your interior design team will do their best to work with you on creating the ideal space on a budget you feel comfortable with. Your interior design team should go through a “good, better, better” exercise with you that will help you identify different design scenarios and materials that you could use at different costs. Label any materials or props you’d want in your best-case scenario, then do the same in a less-ideal situation. You can then map the cost of each scenario.

Go into this conversation with a clear vision and be honest about where you would be more willing to compromise your vision and also be clear about what is non-negotiable. For example, you may think that the layout of the main entrance to your restaurant should make a statement, but the entrance as well as the price of all other parts of the restaurant are prohibitively expensive. You can choose to invest more in the restaurant entrance and spend less in less-trafficked areas such as the bathroom entrance hall.

Nori House of Form SeatingIt’s also tempting to build your restaurant around the hottest trends, but the problem with this approach is that trends tend to be fleeting and more expensive because they’re in high demand.

Do your best to avoid chasing trends when designing your restaurant. You can incorporate them if they really fit your overall vision, but you want to avoid just designing your space around the most popular things. If you work with your design team and truly believe in the space you’re creating, you’ll save more money than if you create a generic space of popular designs.


Know your menu

Menu clutter is a constant culprit in overinflated budgets. Designing and printing menus costs money and the more items you have on a menu, the more it will cost. It is important to have a clear idea of ​​what dishes will be on the menu and what you would like the layout of that menu to be. Today, most restaurants have opted for a condensed menu approach, which means less emphasis on quantity of dishes and more on quality.

You can even avoid most of the costs associated with menu printing by creating a QR menu system that has remained popular. A QR system also allows you to quickly change menu items without having to print entirely new menus.


The restaurant industry is in better shape than two years ago, but the rising cost of goods has become a new challenge for new restaurateurs in a post-pandemic world. However, these challenges do not prevent us from designing unique and beautiful culinary experiences. Set realistic cost expectations, know your menu, then do a fit test and you’ll design an interior space on a manageable budget.

Isabel M. Bourgeois