Restaurant Design Trends 2016 Year in Review

Here are some growing trends of restaurant design in 2016. Let us see if they are going to move on or gradually start fading at the dawn of 2017.

Concept/Theme based Design

There is an immense growing trend for conceptual design these days especially for restaurants. Today designers and restaurateurs opt for theme or concept based designs while planning a restaurant interior portrays a story. This helps deliver a very individualized feeling to the diner and is definitely more inviting and energizing.

These concepts or themes are mostly used for bars or fast/casual restaurants. The Bicycle cafe Bucharest Romania is one fine example of concept based design. The entire restaurant has been designed keeping bicycles in mind, with peddle lamps, bicycle handles on chairs, wheel table forms etc. A very unique concept indeed and a roaring trend that will move on smoothly into the next year.

Raw materials

As people are moving more towards eco-friendly and sustainable design, another popular trend that has become more and more visible is the use of raw materials such as metal, exposed bricks, wood and concrete for walls, ceiling and flooring. Designers have adapted the rustic approach and industrial look to create a dramatic and visually appealing ambience for the diners.

Nando’s Harrogate, 41-45Parliament Street, Harrogate HG1 2RE. 27 May 2015

Nando’s Harrogate UK, an award winner of restaurant design 2016, has come up with a whole new concept or theme that has a mixture of vibrant geometrical form of art and exposed wood and concrete. The stripped down look and feel of the exposed material infuses pattern and texture adding depth and dynamic feel to the entire place. The vibrant and colorful wall art creates a form of balance. No doubt, I would say this trend will definitely rock on 2017 or might alter into more fabric oriented look.

Wall Art

Textures and patterns on walls is one thing that I have noticed in many new or refurbished restaurants today. No I am not referring to those vintage or velvet flocked wallpapers (although I noticed a few here and there) but abstract art, graffiti, digital art and one liners that adorn the walls of restaurants.

The Graffiti art on the amazing crab restaurant, Berkeley, Us is definitely more energizing and lively but can give a disoriented and loud feel if used in abundance. Sometimes you feel that it is a youth generated concept that would not last long and might gradually fade away in the following years.

Minimalist Furniture

Simple and clean lined furniture is another popular trend. Today the demand from the consumer end is more for minimalist furniture design focused more on functionality and that applies for restaurants too.  You rarely notice heavy ornate furniture chairs or tables. Even the more traditional theme based restaurants opt for light furniture that is more structure exposed and less upholstered. Varied seating is another trend with bare wooden seats, benches and stools sometimes with a leather backing.

The newly opened TGI Friday, Texas has followed the Scandinavian concept of simple understated furniture.

The Scandinavian concept is ‘in’ and trending probably that will go one for a while. But this doesn’t really mean that the traditional fine dining experience will fade away.

Ambient lighting

Since the restaurants have started moving towards the minimalist, informal and rustic design era, lighting design has built its own trend, pendant lamps and recessed mood lighting and spots have started replacing chandeliers and vintage lamps. Customized lights have gained popularity too.

You tend to see lighting designs that accord with the entire design concept of the restaurant as shown in the design of Nando’s Restaurant. But sometimes you feel that this cannot entirely replace the experience of dining under vintage lamps, it will trend in but will not replace the formal fine dining experience for sure.

Subtle Color Palette

Where simple design concepts have been introduced, choices of colors have reduced. Except for the wall art and rustic design that we discussed above, you would see more of the Scandinavian color scheme in many restaurants today.

oslo-restaurant-spainWhite walls create timeless interiors as seen in the design of Oslo Restaurant, Spain. Black and grey tend to add statement and brown hues in the form of timber furnishings introduce warmth therefore these colors will never go out of vogue.

Open Kitchen

To create a thorough successful experience and utmost satisfaction for diners, restaurateurs and designers have come up with open kitchen concept.

open-kitchenExposed kitchens with glass panels like the one at Scena, Carlton Hotel Shanghai can be a stimulating and satisfying factor for workers and diners both in terms of service and hygiene. We all want our food to be made in front of our own eyes don’t we? So this concept will definitely drift ahead.


Where space planning is concerned, open space concept is really in today. We spoke of open kitchen concept but within the restaurant, partitions have taken form of wood beam plank dividers, partial decorative dividers, or cubicles, which brings a sense of openness and weightless feeling to the space as well as maintain privacy.

The Ginyuu Restaurant, Stuttgart, Germany has incorporated divider and cubicle concept but I feel this pattern will outgrow in the coming years as restaurants opt for more revealing design look.

Integrating indoor and outdoor space

Creating outdoor experience for diners either through outdoor seating or extensive use of glass windows and walls is an upcoming trend.


Cilantro, Calgary, Canada is chosen as one of the best open sky dining restaurant in Canada. There are more rooftop restaurants and bars, and who would want to miss the natural scenic view. Staying in par with demands of customers this trend will never go out of style.

Customized Ceiling Concept

More than wall designs, ceiling designs have become quite popular and trendy today. The more innovative feel of restaurants is achieved through ceiling design styles be it exposed wood, planked or raw constructed look with unconcealed metal pipes and vaults.


The ceiling design of Ozone bar, Hong Kong, China designed by Wonderwall with a coffered honeycomb effect with hidden lights throws back an electrifying experience. This might slightly alter as we move further towards a digitalized age.

Restaurant Design Trends in 2017?

With products such as mobile phones moving from bulky ones to small half palm sized to half foot screens again, we really do not expect designers to stay constrained with limited design concepts throughout. Probably we may move from the industrial look of wood, concrete and metal to a more softer and luxurious look dominated by textiles and patterns. As I mentioned earlier, as we move towards a more digitalized and technology dominated era, restaurant design trends will remain, be transitional or will fade away catering to the demands of the upcoming generation.



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