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How To: Calculate the Space You Need for Your Restaurant

Posted 8 months ago

Making the move from street food stall, market, pop-up or residency to a bricks and mortar restaurant can be head-spinningly complex. One of the biggest challenges facing first-time restaurant operators is knowing exactly how to calculate the space they need for their concept. From kitchen and front of house to storage and back office, there’s a whole host of considerations to bear in mind. In this article, we’ll walk you through some of these and give you some helpful hints for calculating how much space you’re going to need.

1. Dividing up the space

A good general rule to follow is that 40% of overall space (Net Internal Area – NIA) will be dedicated to kitchen and prep areas. About 50% of the NIA will be your dining area with the remaining 10% will be other work areas like office and storage. Obviously, the type of restaurant you want to run is going to dictate the plan for the space in the dining area. You want to bear in mind that a higher-end restaurant is likely to attract more pairs, while a casual or family-style restaurant should be able to accommodate groups of four or more.

2. Planning Kitchen Space

Your restaurant kitchen will need several work areas. Moving from a single stove or 4-burner in your street food stall into a professional kitchen can be a great joy, but the expectations on your kitchen team will be much greater, too.

Depending on what you need to cook, you should consider the following square footage as being suitable for your average first-time sit-down restaurant:

  • Pre-prep area – 225 square feet
  • Service kitchen – 300 square feet
  • Baking area (not always necessary, but as a guide) – 165 square feet

3. Planning Dining Room and Bar Space

This is tricky, because the space you’ll need depends on the type of restaurant you’re looking for, and you’ll need to calculate this accordingly.

More formal table-service dining will require about 12 to 14 square feet per seat, with fast-food and casual restaurants only need about 9 to 11 square feet per seat. You need to think clearly about what sort of space you need to prepare and serve drinks. If you want to have a separate bar area then this needs to be calculated. You can use the following calculation for this:

For every 10 feet of bar, you will need 120 square feet of working space. This will allow you to accommodate things like fridges and stock.

4. Planning other work areas.

One thing that’s often overlooked by first-time (and even more experienced) restaurateurs is work space away from the kitchen and bar. A small restaurant will need at least 64 square feet for deliveries and another 100 to 150 square feet to store dry goods.

A single-machine pot wash will require about 175 square feet. Service areas obviously vary from restaurant to restaurant, and compromises can be made to save on space. You might also want to think about lockers for employees and will need to consider toilets and an office for your manager / chef.

5. Putting it all together

Every restaurant will have different space needs, but the generalisations in this article can be useful when you’re in the initial planning stages. In London, where space is tighter, many restaurants will compromise on things like storage and delivery space to accommodate more seating and service areas. Larger family restaurants might run to 8,000 square feet but more casual restaurants with counter service can run to half that. Again, this is only a guideline and it may well be possible to get away with something much smaller – under 1,000 square feet even.

This isn’t an exhaustive guide to space planning for your new restaurant/bar, but it should give you a good idea of some of the things you’ll need to consider and factor into your calculations. Some of the most successful restaurants that have transitioned from street-food to bricks-and-mortar have done so in spaces that other restaurants would have turned their noses up at. From shipping containers to tiny corner sites with 23 covers, what’s important is that you’ve considered how your style of service and kitchen requirements will impact the overall space you need.

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