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How to… make a small space work

20 December 2013
How to… make a small space work

A few clever tricks with furniture and layout can make a small space feel much larger

If you're operating a business in a small venue, you know how important it is to make the best use of every square inch. Your staff need to be able to work efficiently in limited space and your customers need elbow and leg room to enjoy their drink or meal.

Making the most use of small venues and creating the illusion of a bigger space takes imagination, planning and savvy design. Size does matter, but small spaces are not a barrier to workable, comfortable, stylish and profitable venues.

So whether your venue is tight on space or you're simply looking to make the most of the room you have, there are a number of tips to consider when planning your layout and choosing your furniture.

Stuart Smith is a director at Warings Furniture

Four ways to maximise the space you have

Size
Table and chair size are key to creating a workable venue. There are big variations between chair frame sizes, so get advice from an expert on which chairs have a small footprint. Smaller, stackable chairs can still offer comfort and style while giving you the flexibility to use your space wisely.

Consider the size of table you need. This depends on what you're serving your customers and how you're serving them. If you have space limitations, think about placing fewer tables in the room rather than creating an unpleasant experience for your customers and additional problems for your staff.

There is no industry standard for the space you must allow per diner, but depending on the type of restaurant or bar, a customer may need more or less room for their meal. Fast food restaurants, cafes and coffee shop dining may need less space than some menus, such as those in fine dining, Italian and Mexican restaurants, which require a larger space for place settings, utensils, condiments and serving platters.

The best advice is to create tables using to-scale cardboard cut-outs. Lay out your ‘table' with plates, cutlery and condiments, trying out various layouts and combinations. It's a simple way to discover the dimensions that will work for your customer.

Spacing Customers' sense of personal space should be factored in when considering spacing between and around tables and chairs, so don't feel the need to squeeze people in even though the venue is small.

Keep in mind that you're better off setting up an additional table in another room, or leaving it out all together, rather than crowding a dining room with a large table and too much furniture, making diners feel uncomfortable.

Style The style of furniture you choose must be suited to your customers' needs. The best bet is to offer variety in seating: a bar and high stools for people dashing
in and out, tables for large families and booths for intimate couples and friends.

Remember that furniture with legs looks like it takes up less space than pieces that sit directly on the floor. It is far better to have centre pedestal tables in small spaces so diners do not have any obstructions to get in and out of their seats.

Bespoke In a small venue you should make good use of every corner. If there is an odd-shaped nook in the layout, get furniture designed to fit that space and work with designers to create small pieces that fit the scale of the venue to make it feel bigger.

Warings Furniture created built-in tables for Damson & Co, a new café in Soho. The challenge was to plan the space to fit 20 covers, which meant crafting furniture to the millimetre to ensure a perfect fit

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