Marketing & Branding

10 Low Budget Small Restaurant Design Examples

Are you a restaurant owner looking for ways to design your restaurant on a low budget?

If so, you will want to check out these ten small restaurant design examples.

While the food you serve is the most important element in your restaurant’s success, the importance of well-chosen restaurant decor is not to be underestimated.

An inviting and elegant ambiance will make your restaurant memorable. A memorable restaurant attracts repeat customers, which is crucial for a small restaurant to succeed in the longer term.

If you are designing a small restaurant on a budget, you can still achieve a beautiful restaurant interior – you’ll just need to be a bit more creative with your restaurant decor ideas.

small restaurant design examples

You may not be able to get fancy furniture and expensive decorations, but if you know what you’re doing with the layout, lighting, walls, and seating, you’re halfway there to create a beautiful and functional space.

So, whether you are just starting out or looking for some new ideas, be sure to look at these inspiring examples.

1. Be Smart With Your Restaurant Layout

The restaurant layout is the single most important factor in your low budget small restaurant design.

Many small restaurant owners try to maximize a small space by using all available space, which can result in a crammed layout that’s uncomfortable for the diners and waiters alike.

Image source: Studio Joanna Laajisto

Avoid the temptation to put in as many tables as you can. Instead, let the layout breathe a little, leaving at least five feet between tables.

You also may want to reconsider the traditional row-by-row layout. Instead, try to utilize as much of the space along walls as you can.

Image source: Design Studio Biasol

The easiest way to achieve this is by lining the perimeter of your restaurant with booths or tables, then placing the remaining tables inside a square space in the center of your restaurant.

This will leave corridors for staff and diners to move in and out of the kitchens and restrooms.

Alternatively, consider placing one large communal table at the center of the restaurant and smaller tables along the walls.

This is a small restaurant layout used in some European restaurants and is surprisingly effective in smaller spaces.

Think of it this way: because you aren’t spacing out multiple tables, you are covering less floor space but are still able to sit the same number of people.

2. Pay Attention to the Lighting

Well-positioned lighting can make or break your low budget small restaurant design, and that’s the truth.

While there’s nothing wrong with functional spotlights, you can create a more exciting atmosphere with pendant lighting, wall sconces, or individual table lamps.

Or combine all three to create pockets of light throughout your restaurant for an elegant effect. Vintage table lamps with fabric shades can be bought at local antique stores and markets.

Or, if you prefer to keep it simple, you can just add individual tealights to each table. It’s a tiny touch that diners everywhere like for the instant intimate effect it conjures up.

2. Think Beyond Plain Walls

Small space restaurant interior advice often recommends a minimalist design with white walls. However, this approach can actually make your restaurant look and feel even smaller.

Plain white or beige walls tend to look great in large, tall-ceilinged spaces. If you are trying to create an elegant and inviting atmosphere in a small space, consider painting the walls a darker color for a cozy or dramatic look.

Charcoal, dark red, teal, or dark blue can work very well in small restaurant spaces. Pair with velvet or leather furniture in complementary colors for a cozy, luxurious vibe.

Consider going bold in a small space if your restaurant serves unusual dishes and/or world cuisine.

A vibrant emerald green tends to work well in restaurant interior design, and red, orange and yellow are appetite stimulants.

Images by Red Design – (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Just make sure to avoid using an overly bright shade of red or yellow, as these are perceived to be aggressive colors by many people.

Finally, if you like white walls, consider enhancing them with bold prints. You can hang one colorful print per wall if you are on a tight budget or create a gallery wall with many prints of different sizes. Vintage prints can be bought very cheaply at antique stores and local markets.

3. Use Mirrors to Make the Space Appear Larger

Mirrors are a restaurant designer’s best friend. We all know that lining a wall with a mirror can make a space appear larger.

However, in a restaurant, a few well-positioned medium-sized mirrors typically work better than floor-to-ceiling ones that can be distracting for diners and difficult to clean.

If you really want to experiment with a large mirror, dedicate one wall for it and ensure that the wall doesn’t have any tables beside it.

To reduce any glare from overhead lighting, consider a textured mirror, a mirror with a sprayed-on color coating, or an antique mirror. The imperfections will add to the character of your restaurant and help create a softer look.

4. Add Character With Vintage Furniture

Speaking of character: don’t be afraid to add personality to your small restaurant design with vintage furniture.

Not only is it much cheaper to buy than brand-new furniture, but it’s also an easy way to create a restaurant space that’s completely unique and memorable.

Vintage furniture can be bought in bulk from eBay or from local markets and vintage sellers, although you may even have luck at a local yard sale or market.

Our top tip: If you can, always choose wood furniture rather than metal or plastic. Wood is more elegant and creates a warm, family-run atmosphere in a restaurant.

Just make sure to check all tables and chairs for steadiness. Discard and replace any chairs that wobble and/or creak, as diners tend to dislike them.

5. Enhance Your Low Budget Small Restaurant Design with Unique Decorations

While a specific cuisine or restaurant theme will make it easier to pick out decorations, only your imagination is the limit to what you can use to decorate the space.

Start with quirky salt and pepper shakers that can be bought cheaply at vintage stores. Then add a few interesting objects that match the overall color scheme and decor of your restaurant.

This can be something as simple as a few decorative ceramic plates on the walls, a large vase, or something more unusual if you serve contemporary food.

Trust us: if your diners remember your restaurant thanks to a fun and unique decorative scheme, they are more likely to return.

6. Invest in Quality Tableware

This a major point for restaurant design of any type and size: get the best quality tableware and linens you can get.

This includes plates, cutlery, and napkins. Even if you are running a tiny pizza restaurant, you will be amazed by how much diners appreciate using a real cloth napkin and a nice porcelain plate.

Although napkins will require a higher initial spend than disposable ones, they will last a long time. You will, of course, need access to a washer and dryer and will need to use bleach to keep your napkins and/or tablecloths clean.

Good-quality tableware can be got cheaply at major retailers and at Amazon Business.

A top tip: if you are serving wine in your restaurant, invest in wine glasses if possible. While some diners don’t mind drinking wine from water tumblers, many still prefer traditional wine glasses and appreciate when the wine is served in them.

Contrary to popular belief, wine glasses don’t have to cost much more than regular glasses, especially if you’re buying in bulk.

7. Restaurant Wall Design – Get Creative with Art and Window Treatments

If you are running low on funds after investing in your tableware and still haven’t settled on the design for the rest of your restaurant, consider commissioning a local artist to paint you a wall mural.

Image source: Heliotrope Architects

Murals and wall art are memorable and one-of-a-kind works of art; you will not need to pay much for one. Plus, you will be supporting a local artist.

If a mural doesn’t fit with your restaurant theme, you can add colorful curtains or drapes to the windows to create a character look.

A heavier fabric will harmonize with darker furniture, while a lighter, gauzy curtain will work if your restaurant is light and bright.

The best way to buy curtains if you are on a budget is by contacting a local textile seller or curtain maker and having them made for you.

8. Draw on the Power of Plants

Potted plants add a homely charm to small restaurant designs and don’t cost much at all. Of course, if you buy specimen plants like mature olive trees you will need to make a bit more of an investment, but young tropical plants and cacti can be bought cheaply and will grow into larger plants over time.

Line the windows with them for a cheerful, natural look, or place some on tables if you’re going for a botanical restaurant theme.

You will need to remember to water the plants and ensure they get enough light – wilting and dry plants are not a good look for your restaurant.

Cacti and succulents may be your best bet if you think you won’t have time to maintain your plants, as they generally are very low maintenance and can go weeks without water.

Indoor plants can be bought at your local garden center or plant nursery. Avoid buying your plants from supermarkets as they won’t be as healthy and will be sold with a markup.

9. Sensory Branding With Good Sound and Scents

Sound and scent may not seem like obvious components of low-budget small restaurant design, but sensory branding can add substantially to restaurant’s ambiance.

Use both carefully, as they can enhance or disrupt the dining experience depending on how you use them.

Light background music can enhance the atmosphere in a small restaurant, but overly loud music will hinder conversation and make diners uncomfortable.

In fact, listening to music while dining has been shown to increase people’s food consumption and meal duration. (Source).

To begin with, you may find it helpful to ask your customers whether they like the music levels. Position speakers carefully, ideally avoiding the spaces right above the dining tables.

If you want to attract a bigger crowd on Fridays and weekends and have even a small corner to spare, consider hiring a local musician to create an inviting soundscape.

An instrumental band or a jazz singer may work better than a loud band. If yours is a restaurant with a specific world cuisine, then adding live music that matches the cuisine will create an authentic atmosphere diners will love and want to come back for.

A pleasant fragrance can enhance the dining experience, and according to a study, people stay as much as 44% longer in businesses that smell good. (Source).

But be wary of very strong scents that jar with the flavors of the food you are serving.

A nice essential oil diffuser can work, but avoid oils that smell too medicinal. Instead, go for light floral or fruity scents.

World-themed restaurants can consider burning incense, traditionally used in many Asian restaurants, but less is more here, too: just one stick of a light incense blend will be enough.

10. Add Fresh Flowers to the Tables

Finally, don’t underestimate the joy fresh flowers bring to a small restaurant’s interior design.

You don’t have to spend a huge amount of money on expensive bouquets: simply placing a single fresh flower on each dining table shows your diners that you care about them and your restaurant.

Consider commissioning a floral centerpiece from a local florist if you want to add a bit more flair to your restaurant design.

They’ll be able to put together a display that uses seasonal fresh flowers and plants that will last several weeks without needing a replacement.

Bonus Tip

Kokoro Sushi – Restaurant Branding by Hue Studio

Your restaurant menu, logo, and signage can all be incorporated in the overall design of your restaurant interior design. For more inspiration see the following posts:

Key Restaurant Interior Design Takeaways

These simple low-budget small restaurant design ideas will help you achieve the small restaurant space of your dreams.

Start with the layout, the seating and lighting, and the walls. Then, add some simple but quality tableware and individual decorative touches to your restaurant scheme.

You will be pleasantly surprised by how big a difference these easy additions will make to your business, delighting your customers, who will want to come back again and again.

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Jan is a writer and content creator at with a focus on the restaurant and food service industry. Drawing from his background in tech and UX design, Jan breaks down complex systems into digestible, actionable insights.

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