Mastering Low Budget Small Restaurant Design

Marketing 12 minute read 9th May 2022

There are many, many factors that can make a small restaurant shine. Inventive cuisine, delicious drinks, top-notch guest WiFi services, a winning location… The list goes on and on.

However, few of these points make the immediate impact on your clientele that great restaurant design can.

There’s something about the ‘wow factor’ - that moment your customers’ eyes light up as they step through your door - that has real staying power, and sets your business up for viral appeal, repeat visits, and a cult status secured on your local scene.

Here at Beambox, there aren’t many things we loved more than a well-designed restaurant; the kind that envelopes you in a singular creative vision, elevates the experience, and crafts a dynamic space in which to relax, catch up on emails, or grab a bite to eat with friends.

That’s why this week, we’re taking a closer look at a handful of industry tips and tricks to making cafes, bars, and small restaurants really pop, and all on a shoestring budget. Let’s dive right in!

Can you design a restaurant on no budget?

It goes without saying that implementing a great design idiom with no budget at all isn’t going to be easy. However, it’s far from impossible - just head to Budapest’s Erzsebetvaros district, and check out the jam-packed restaurants completely fitted with found furniture and upcycled junk for some serious design inspo!

That being said, making a small restaurant look fantastic on a very limited budget is a lot simpler than you might think.

The bottom line? Letting your brand or personality shine simply doesn’t have to be expensive.

A new lick of paint or feature wall in a bold colour can utterly transform the vibe of a dining room. Everyday flourishes like fresh flowers on your counter can brighten a space. Going all-out with minimalism is cheap, low-maintenance, and can make a major impact on your clientele… It just requires a bit of out-of-the-box thinking and a good eye for detail.

We’d encourage small business owners deliberating their restaurant’s interior design to keep two main points in mind, and let their creativity flow: try to approach your design ideas from the customer’s point of view, and make sure your approaches complement and accentuate your theme, food, and concept.

After all, nobody likes a gimmick, and it’s important to remember that your clientele come to eat, first and foremost.

Read on for six budget-friendly design ideas for small restaurants that work a treat, reinvent your space, and will get word-of-mouth spreading like never before.

Six budget-friendly design ideas for small restaurants

Go green

Get down to your local garden centre and bring the outside, inside!

It’s a tried and tested winner with Insta-friendly appeal and immediate good vibes, and you won’t have to shell out thousands on a total overhaul of your business’ appearance.

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Plants, flowers, foliage and assorted greenery not only make indoor spaces look beautiful, they immerse your staff and customers in colour while elevating positive moods, purifying the air, and providing the perfect backdrop for social media posts.

The best part? They allow you to reimagine the look of your business with minimal effort, and provide endless opportunity for fuss-free refreshes, restyles, and reimaginings that can change with the seasons.

Let’s get ambient

It’s no secret that when it comes to restaurant design, lighting is everything.

An innovative approach with everything from vintage lampshades to the soft glow of Edison bulbs, and from strings of festive lights to stark and minimal strip lights has the power to completely transform a room.

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For small restaurant design ideas, we’d urge you to go towards the softer, more ambient, more atmospheric side of the spectrum because cosy, hygge-inspired decor has never been hotter on the restaurant scene

You’ve seen the small eateries people are falling in love with that feel like a best-kept secret.

In this regard, moody and ambient lighting might just be your new best friend.

Make your message shine

Recent years have seen a particularly interesting trend arise in hip small restaurants, cafes and bars - the use of neon lettering to make the most of an accent wall.

Driven by the art of world-beating contemporary creatives like Dan Flavin and Tracy Emin, light-up lettering never fails to bring an edgy, urbane vibe to your interiors, and there are plenty of independent businesses producing custom neons suitable for small budgets.

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Give it a try, and light up a wall with an inspirational message, a brand slogan, or your restaurant name, showcasing a passion for design without breaking the bank.

Boost small restaurant design with local artists

Your restaurant is not an island. It’s a part of your local scene, a community of individuals who love to support the businesses on their doorstep.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that getting artists from your city involved in your restaurant design is a step that can bring great rewards.

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Engaging local artists to elevate your space is an approach that has multiple benefits: It highlights that you - as a local business owner - understand the importance of your creative community, and gives you an excuse to hold mini exhibition launches and reach out to new customer bases.

What’s more, it’s a free and dynamic way to continually refresh the look of your dining room, while giving your customers an extra level of enjoyment to their visits.

Everyone’s a winner!

Rethink seating

It’s easy to overlook the importance of seating when it comes to restaurant design.

However, changing up the way your customers sit and enjoy their time at your small restaurant can refresh the space completely, and allow you to embody a quirkier approach that sits outside the norm.

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We’ve seen great examples of innovative seating in our time; upcycled sofas, armchairs, stools, and a mish-mash of styles always seems to provide a whimsical edge.

Repurposed wine barrels, hammocks, and children’s swings are also imaginative options for those looking for something a little more outside the everyday!

Get the customers involved

If you’re on the lookout for ways to boost a creative vibe in your restaurant, and want to come up with small restaurant design ideas which are essentially free (yet highly effective), then why not let your customers take the lead?

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You can see amazing examples of this approach across the globe, from tables and walls covered in paper which customers are encouraged to doodle or write thoughts and poetry on, to chalkboards which give them free rein to express themselves.

There’s even a cafe with a dot-to-dot drawing which covers the entire interior space, and where the clientele is urged - over a long period of time - to complete the picture as they enjoy their coffee and cake. Genius!

Great restaurant design deserves great customer experiences

While inventive and creative restaurant design can bring a real and lasting difference to your business, it means little without some substance to back it up and keep them coming back for more.

After all, for every meticulously-designed small restaurant offering an immersive experience, sleek interiors, or a look that takes thematics to whole new heights, there are those which hit cult status on the back of nothing more than dishes cooked and served to perfection.

As always, a happy compromise is where you want to be. The best small restaurants look great, offer an ambience you want to return to again and again, and serve up food that hits the spot. Who could possibly ask for more?

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