Top 25 Restaurant Design Trends Of 2018


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Recently, more and more people are discovering their passion and interest for food. This increasing demand has urged restaurant owners and food entrepreneurs to create more dining options for customers. But due to the highly-saturated food industry, competition is inevitable. They have to come up with a unique concept that will arouse the curiosity of the consumers. One way in which restaurants are doing this is through the design. Restaurant design is and always has been a key part for restaurateurs to allow those food lovers to have a better culinary experience. The year 2018 has seen a rapid rise in the popularity of food culture all over the world. Restaurant interior design has seen a surge in the trends which set restaurants apart from their competition in such a growing marketplace.

In this article, we will be looking at the Top 25 Restaurant Design Trends of 2018 and the new restaurant design concepts that are taking the restaurant world by storm.

1.Stripped Back Décor

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The idea of stripping back pretty much all of the fixtures and fittings in order to create a larger and sparser area for your customers to enjoy their meals is not really a new concept. However, this tried and tested trend will be seeing a comeback in the year 2018. The idea may not be new but the way in which restaurant designers are implementing this trend will be a fresh one. 2018 will see far less restaurant design plans containing the ‘Shabby Chic’ elements of this trend and will see the focus shift back to the space saving and minimalist ideals that began the trend in the first place.

2. Minimalism is back in a small way

One of the trends that will be taking pride on the pages of restaurant design magazines in 2018 is minimalism. Taking it one step further than stripping back all the unwanted elements from your restaurant design, this trend designs the restaurant with minimalism as a focus from the outset. This trend will see restaurant designers ensuring that from the very start of their design, the layout and use of space will be geared towards allowing the customer to enjoy your cuisine without the distractions of an overly populated décor. It would seem then that in 2018 when it comes to restaurant design, less is more.

3. Communal eating sees the return of community

More and more restaurants are asking their designers to provide them with communal seating options. This trend revolves around the idea of a return to the community centred eatery. Places where you do not just go to eat alone or in a quiet corner with a date. These are places where eating becomes a shared and social experience. The trend will see large seating areas and shared tables where people all sit down together and enjoy their meal as a group rather than on their own. Fuelled by the ‘foodie’ movement, this communal eating trend will work for the restaurants whose menu suits a more social setting.

4. The return of the open kitchen

Allowing your customer to experience more of what goes into creating their favourite dish is an idea of yesterday. Some restaurants have included food preparation as a part of the experience and they have done this by opening their kitchens. The open kitchen will be returning in 2018 as restaurant designers utilise it to switch the focus back to the food. If you see food as a journey then closed kitchens tend to cut out a large part of that journey. With an open kitchen, the journey begins as soon as the customer enters the space. Smells and sounds as well as the visual aspects of having your kitchen on display all lend themselves to deepening the experience of your customers.

5. Atmosphere that speaks for itself

The idea that a restaurant should be filled with distractions is a thing of the past. Nowadays, most restaurant design requirements will include a need for the customers to be able to talk to each other. This allows your customers to discuss the meal, or the restaurant’s atmosphere, adding more value to their experience. Going to a restaurant to eat has become more of a social event. The notion is similar to that of the communal eating, minus the large seating areas. The fixtures and furniture, or even the restaurants’ decors are positioned in a way that they won’t hinder the customers from having chitchats. The restaurant’s comfortable and homey ambience is enough to make the restaurant more conducive to socialising.

6. A more bespoke touch to lighting

Lighting has always played an important role in a successful restaurant design. Previously, lighting tended to be used in a far more utilitarian manner. They were bright and colourful and above all, eye-catching. New trends have seen restaurant designers in 2018 move towards a different way of using lighting. Technology has changed the way we use lights in our homes and workspaces, so why not in our restaurants? The ability to have much more control over your lighting allows you to have a far more dynamic use of light in your restaurant. This means whether you install one-off bespoke lighting pieces or you create a lighting system that changes with the mood, bespoke lighting can completely change your customers’ perception towards your restaurant.

7. Ambient Lighting

The use of lighting within your restaurant does not need to begin at installing a bespoke piece; and using new light technologies does not necessarily mean you will end up with a restaurant reminiscent of the Vegas strip. Using light to create an ambient atmosphere can change the whole feel of a restaurant and some of the best restaurant designers will in 2018 be using ambient lighting to entirely change the restaurant interiors. Ambient lighting simply means using the available lighting in your restaurant. This can either be a natural light that comes from the outdoors or windows, or the normal lights used to brighten up the space. The concept is to maximise the benefits of the lights readily available – giving the space a more natural and laidback atmosphere.

8. Local art all over

Since time immemorial, many restaurants have added artistry in their designs. 2018 will be no different as restaurant design concepts will feature a much wider use of arts provided by local artists. Designers will be using more locally sourced art pieces to adorn their walls and add a certain creativity to the overall décor while supporting local artists in the process.

9. Designed locally

Art will not be the only thing that is sourced locally in the coming restaurant design trends of 2018. Many restaurants pride themselves on using ingredients grown locally, so it would make sense for that idea to stretch to design. Some of the new interior design concepts would require for local materials and decorations. Using locally crafted furniture or materials doesn’t just cut down on carbon footprints but also supports local craftsmanship and adds a touch of nationalism to your restaurant.

10. A sustainable design concept

Sustainability has held the headlines for years, but now more than ever, it is becoming a seriously valuable design point. People are taking it into account in all aspects of their day to day lives, and this does not stop at going out to eat. Successful restaurant designers can now use various ideas to ensure that your restaurant maintains a sustainable look without sacrificing its beauty and style.

11. Recycle and re-use

Though this is part of the sustainable design concept, this idea goes further by using reclaimed and recycled materials for décors. Fitting in perfectly with several other trends seen in 2018, this can certainly set your restaurant apart from many others. Recently, many recycled materials have been made into workable design features. Recycled paper can now be made into napkins or tablecloths; old railway sleepers can be turned into table tops or bar surfaces. When it comes to recycling, the possibilities are pretty much endless.

12. The power of panelling

2018 has seen an explosion of the use of panelling in restaurant design. Many types of panelling are currently being used to give walls, floors or surfaces a warm and inviting look. Heavy wood panelling can create a feature wall and can be a statement maker. It has helped some restaurants create separate areas within one singular space. So if you would like to create a bar area and a seated area within the same space, panelling maybe just the thing you need.

13. Casual meets formal

Normally a casual restaurant experience and a formal one happen in completely different places. This is because the atmosphere and décors required for each are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. However, 2018 now sees the trend of casual dining and formal dining coming together. Restaurants that wish to cater to both crowds are now bringing the idea into their restaurant designs. One way to do this is by having a casual space at the front of your restaurant and keeping the more formal or business-oriented-diners seated at the rear. By catering to both types of clientele, you will be able to get far more customers through your doors and offer a more tailor-made experience.

14. International Food halls

Keeping with the theme of casual dining, the good old-fashioned food hall will be keeping its place amongst the restaurant design concepts of 2018. Food halls have always been a great place for food lovers to enjoy meals in a casual environment. This year however, they will be seen to have less of an overall theme. Gone are the food halls that only serve food from one country or one type of cuisine. The new type of food hall will cater to food lovers of a more diverse type and will cash in on the fact that food has become far more of a social affair.

15. Themes that aren’t themes

The large themed restaurants that were once popular with diners are seeing far less feet through their doors in recent times. This is mainly because people’s views towards food and where they go to enjoy it has changed. Matching the décor of your restaurant to the menu that you serve and the experience you would like your customer to have has become the new way of ‘theming’ your restaurant. 

16. Finishing in style

Some types of finish have almost always been used to denote a certain theme or a certain era. Examples of this are the black and white checked linoleum and red leather booths in American Diners, or the white ceramic tiles that have found their way into high-class burger joints as a nod to the butcher shops of times past. Well some of these finishes are back in a big way. Chrome is one of the more retro finishes that are making their way back into restaurant design in 2018. It will replace brushed steel or brass as the popular metallic finish to be used in restaurants. Giving a somewhat 60’s feel to wherever they are used, chrome and linoleum can drastically change the style of a restaurants décor while also echoing that much adored 60’s chic.

17. Old-school new

2018 will see a return to the old-school with more and more vintage design heading for restaurants worldwide. Certain classic elements of design tend to never go out of style; this is why the addition of old-school styling can still breathe fresh air into new restaurant design. A return to these classic ideas, whether it is the use of classic furnishings or retro finishes is definitely a good idea for your restaurant design in 2018.

18. Hygge otherwise known as cosy contentment

One idea or concept that has gained more popularity in restaurant design comes all the way from Norway and Denmark. Hygge which is correctly pronounced Hyoo-guh, is a concept based on a feeling of wellness and contentment. The not-so-new concept has been around since the early 20th century but it is only in 2018 that we see it being more widely used as a design concept for restaurants. It means that your restaurant can now be designed with the wellness and contentment of your customers being the main focus from step one. This concept can be a combination of one or more of the trends in this list, provided that the overall design gives your customers that feeling of contentment, coziness, friendliness and warmth.

19. Design it green

Green is the word of the year when it comes to restaurant design in 2018. Green accents throughout your restaurant will give a sense of nature to your space. This can be accomplished with green glassware or touches of green in your décor. But green as we know is far more than a colour. Green design also includes the use of plants to make a space come to life. Some restaurants are asking their designers for a green design from top to bottom. This means from the sourcing of their materials, right through to the overall philosophy of the restaurant.

20. Interior Landscaping

Sticking with the green theme here, 2018 is also seeing a huge rise in designers using plants inside restaurants. This goes far past the odd potted bush and some restaurants have been seen to introduce living green walls to their interior. Some interior landscapes feature herbs and spices that can be added to their ingredients for cocktails or garnishes later on.

21. Photo-friendly décor

You rarely see people just eat food anymore, at least not without taking pictures of their meals or of themselves in the restaurant, especially in the UAE where more than 15 million people visited in the year 2017 alone. Tourists tend to take more photos than locals which is why restaurants used this fact to their advantage. Living walls, custom-made bespoke furnishings or unique interior concepts would become a subject of your customers’ photos.

22. Typography all over

One of the design concepts that are popping up all over the place in 2018 is typography. Feeding into many of the other restaurant design trends of this year, typography will see letters making their way back to the walls and open spaces of restaurants and diners.

23. Pastel coloration

When it comes to colours in 2018, the soft and inviting palette that pastel colours provide will be seen throughout the restaurant industry. These colours offer the customers a friendly and clean ambience. The use of a pastel colour palette also allows typography to shine through and any feature finishes or items to take centre stage while providing a far warmer background than the stark whites or dreary magnolia of the past.

24. Experience driven eateries

The experience of going to a restaurant is the key. While the food that restaurants offer is the main event, far before you eat it and long after you are finished, it is the experience that matters. 2018 sees far more restaurants tapping into this and gearing their restaurants towards providing not just an awesome menu but a more memorable experience. Come for the food and stay for the experience? Why not come and stay for both.

25. The personal touch

One trend that is making waves within restaurant designs in 2018 is the personal touch. This design trend works better for smaller restaurants but can be incorporated into larger ones too. The trend sees the use of personal items such as old or bespoke cooking equipment, family photographs and cookbooks as part of the décor. This creates a closer link between the customers and the chefs or owners.

As shown on this list of the top 25 restaurant design trends, 2018 is set to be a stellar year for restaurant designs.

Abdul Kader
Having graduated from Les Roches Hotel Management School in Switzerland, Abdul Kader joined the Sogeres company part of a leading catering group. Abdul kader spent over six years with the company in Paris. He started on the operational side of the business then moved on to head office to cover the commercial, internal auditing, purchasing departments and finally achieving the position of Manager of international developments. Moving back to the UK in 2001 Abdul Kader joined the MARC restaurant group as project manager. After 4 successful years, 3 restaurants were opened of which two were granted the Michelin Star recognition. From 2005 and to 2007 Abdul Kader invested and focused on turning around a restaurant chain with 3 outlet in London. In 2008 Abdul Kader moved to the UAE, Dubai and set up Glee Hospitality Solutions by the end of 2009. Now in it is 9th year of operations, GLEE Hospitality Solutions successfully launched over 50 concepts, opened over 60 outlets across the region and by end of 2018 will be managing a team of nearly 500 employees. Glee is currently working on projects regionally, Oman, Saudi, Egypt whilst exploring the UK.