How to keep your restaurant decor fresh and modern

April 19 2017

Whenever a new restaurant opens up, it’s entirely possible for any chefs or restaurateurs to look at their own establishment and feel a little envious.

While a young restaurant has the challenge of developing a positive reputation and making a winning first impression with every customer, more often than not, they have the luxury of opening up in a freshly decorated setting with a modern design.

Visit any new eateries that have opened in the local area recently and you will most likely notice that they share a lot in common, regardless of what’s on the menu, due to the trend for clean white-on-white looks as well as rustic themes.

New restaurants aim to be lighter and brighter than what came before them, utilizing lots of glass surfaces and gaping windows. There’s also significant use of reclaimed wood and natural stone elements to obtain a textured and shabby but sophisticated feel.

So what can long-established restaurants do to compete on an aesthetic level? Diane Chiasson, president of Toronto-based restaurant consultancy Chiasson Consultants, sat down with Restaurants Canada to reveal some vital tips.

Design for the diner

While it may be tempting to inject your own personal tastes into your restaurant’s design, your decor should appeal to your main client base and target customers.

Some items may have been added to the restaurant decor over time which may mean something to you but do nothing to build on the customer experience; these are prime examples of things that should be reserved for your own home.

The main point is to design your restaurant for the very people who are going to eat there, and surround them with items and colours they are likely to get something from.

Relevant decor can be shockingly affordable

An increasing number of restaurants are including antique and vintage pieces in their decor, and while you shouldn’t litter your surfaces with tacky garbage, a few choice items plucked from a local flea market or garage sale can lend a historical tinge to your decor.

Ideally, you want to go with something that reflects the type of cuisine you specialise in or bears some relevance to what you do. Common sense should tell you it isn’t a great idea for an Italian pizzeria to mount a burger-shaped neon light on its walls.

Light the way

Speaking of lights, you can pick up modern light fixtures for relatively accessible prices these days.

Forget about paintings and posters, these can make for intriguing art pieces in their own right. Aside from adding a unique layer of personality, a light fixture can also distract away from the more aged areas to your restaurant until you get round to modernizing more widely.

Rim the carpets

Another effective way to modernize without investing buckets of time and money is to add a rim to your carpets.

Removing the outer perimeter of the carpet and replacing it with wood, tiles or a mosaic will literally cut out the tired and frayed parts of your carpet and replace it with something lighter and fresher looking.

Make the kitchen a feature

More restaurants are making their chefs part of the decor, so if it’s an option, consider removing part of the kitchen wall to create a window into the kitchen.

Aside from introducing a lively and organic element to your decor, your chefs and kitchen staff will be encouraged to behave in a professional manner, maintain a clean kitchen and can even see their diners enjoying their meals.

Add some plants

It’s amazing what adding a little greenery to a restaurant will do. While some restaurants will be stretched enough without having to worry about maintaining live plants, adding some authentic-looking artificial plants, flowers and shrubbery really lends a vibrant touch.

Consider lining potted plants to create mini eco-walls or large bunches of twigs, stems, bamboo and other low maintenance items to obtain unique focal points.


Finally, never underestimate what a fresh coat of paint can do to freshen up your restaurant. It’s probably the quickest and cheapest tactic to modernise the decor.

Image: SolStock/iStock