The importance of wayfinding in restaurant design

We talk about the brand. We talk about menus, websites, interior design, staffing, and on and on. However, what’s rarely touched upon is the importance of wayfinding in a restaurant’s design and it can be the difference between a good and not-so-good experience. Think about it.

You walk into a new restaurant, obviously you heard the hype in their restaurant marketing/advertising and just HAD to get there. You enter the door and … now you’re not quite sure what to do. Do you go to a counter? Where is it? Do you wait for a seat? Where’s the hostess? Where do you order? Where are the menus? Are there specials? What time do they serve breakfast till? What’s the line for? For waiting to order or waiting for food? Will they bring the food to me? Do I bus my own table?

Those questions pump through your patrons mind nearly immediately causing debilitating anxiety. Anxiety they bring with them throughout the entire experience. What could have been a Grade A brand experience has immediately been demoted to Grade B all because of poor wayfinding signage.

So, what’s “good” wayfinding signage?

The answer varies for each restaurant format, but the theories are relatively the same.

1. Identify the key points of interaction. Ordering, seating, pickup, restrooms, etc.

2. Design verbiage and graphics that point out these areas using common, identifiable words, or words that people will easily understand. Think arrows.

3. Make sure the signs don’t detract from the design experience, but instead, look for ways to use them to accentuate and support the brand experience. They shouldn’t be eye sores. They should add to the design and give them something to talk about.

The key to wayfinding that’s well done is signage that guides the patron through the entire experience, soup to nuts, adds to the brand’s experience (funny, classy, sporty, etc), and leaves the customer with less things to worry/think about.

If you can nail this part of the design, you’ll be one step closer to better customer experiences which builds your business.

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