Restaurant Design Trends

Everything from entertainment to ethnic flavors has sparked restaurant design trends over the years. Restaurant design trends are shifting to consider not only the visual presentation, but also the emotional reactions to the visual presentation, and one theme does not fit all.

While some design elements enjoy a broad-based appeal by mirroring the dominant mood of the period, 21st Century restaurant design trends typically vary greatly depending on the target market. Baby Boomers, GenXers, Millennials and Tweens all carry emotional needs that are as different as their food preferences. Restaurant design trends, then, are influenced by the desires and the buying power to back those desires of these generational diners. Savvy restaurateurs understand the signs of the times and employ restaurant design trends accordingly.

A Restaurant Design Trend for Every Generation

Make no mistake: each generation’s preferences are spurring unique restaurant design trends of their own. Baby Boomers, for example, are looking for quiet, soothing dining environments while Tweens demand interaction and innovation. Staying abreast of restaurant design trends means staying abreast of retail trends, consumer behavior and the market competition.

Nostalgia Restaurant Design Trend

Nostalgia themes are a strong example of how the times impact restaurant design trends. Sonic Corp., known as America’s Drive-in, taps into a nostalgia theme that offers sweet dining memories to Baby Boomers while simultaneously intriguing younger generations with a modern twist on a restaurant design trend from days gone by.

Sonic initially launched its Happy Days concept in the 1950s. But the largest chain of fast-food drive-in restaurants in the country, with its 3,000 locations, still understood the importance of staying up to date with newfangled restaurant design trends as it sought to claim new territories.

Acknowledging that some restaurant design trends include a heavy dose of nostalgia, Sonic put a fresh spin on its exteriors. While Sonic didn’t change its time-tested drive-in concept, it did incorporate neon, tensile, metal cladding and other bright, colorful elements into its exterior presentation. The fresh spin reinforces the timeless look and feel diners associate with the brand while decreasing its production costs and emphasizing its unique selling point: drive-up dining.

Some restaurant design trends are classic, as Sonic exemplifies with its successful 50-plus-year-old running theme. But most restaurant design trends are like clothing — they come in cycles (albeit longer cycles than radical fashion movements). A strategic approach to restaurant design trends is a vital part of an overall restaurant marketing program that weaves through every aspect of your design, from restaurant interior design to logos to web development.

Implementing restaurant design trends should be considered in the light of your target market, your unique selling points and your budget. Experienced restaurant designers can help you understand what restaurant design trend bandwagons to hop on, and which ones to steer clear of based on your restaurant business plan.


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