rebecca kilbreath hsThere’s a very cute indie restaurant near my house that is always packed despite having odd hours and some, well, odd design choices. When dining there, I’m always struck by the fact that the seats and tables are poorly sized and don’t align. It feels like I’m a kid eating at the grown-up table for the first time. The coffee cups have strange handles — they stick out too far, and it’s hard to hold the cup gracefully. The silverware is attractive, but the handles are thinner than chopsticks. My husband’s hand looks like a bear’s paw around them. And the tabletops are a fake marble that are terribly marred despite being new when the restaurant opened a couple of years ago.

It’s the kind of place that looks great at a glance, but whoever specified the details didn’t understand some commercial design basics. Despite the drawbacks, I still enjoy dining there because the menu is great! The meal is usually filled with dishes that are flavorful and healthy, and the drinks are fun and inventive. And, of course, the bathrooms are clean and well kept — all important factors in why I go back to a place to dine again.

But I’d frequent that neighborhood spot more often if I felt more comfortable when I am there. If the chairs were sized to go with the tables, if the coffee cup was functional and felt good in my hand instead of wobbly, if the silverware wasn’t awkward to hold? I’d probably go there two to three times as often as I do.
I think putting form above function is a common mistake in indie restaurants. The operator wants a look or a feel but sometimes forgets that what I need from them is a spoon that works to stir my coffee.

While that’s my hot take, there’s plenty more where that came from. In this month’s feature, 10 Restaurant Design Mistakes to Avoid, writer Amanda Baltazar looks at 10 common problem areas in restaurant design. And in this issue’s pulse survey, readers weigh in on what they see as the most common restaurant design mistakes to avoid.

Thanks for reading,