How to Calculate the Seating Capacity of a Restaurant | Small Business - Chron.com

# How to Calculate the SeatingCapacity of a Restaurant

With more than 1 million restaurant locations in the U.S., according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA, it's clear that eating out is part of American culture. If you're opening or redesigning a restaurant, you probably have a lot of questions like average restaurant square footage and how many seated diners can be served in such spaces.

Many factors must be considered, including type of restaurant and type of food served. A good starting point is knowing how to go about calculating occupant load for restaurants to determine if a space can hold enough diners to be profitable, while still allowing for comfort and safety.

The design occupant load serves the primary purpose of determining the maximum number of people that can be in a room at one time and be able to escape safely in case of a fire. It's also used to determine the number of plumbing fixtures, fire sprinklers and fire alarms you need, according to an article in Building Code Trainer.

You've probably seen signs – placed prominently as required – listing a room's maximum occupancy and barely given it a glance. Your local building inspector will give that number to you for each room you intend to have in your restaurant, including private and banquet rooms.

Chances are you've been a diner in a restaurant where, when sliding your chair back, you were annoyed by the crack of the chairs hitting and you still didn't have enough room to stand up. Whether or not the restaurant is keeping within building code limits, it's uncomfortable to dine in such packed environments.

This is important because a 2020 survey done by the NRA revealed that 63 percent of Americans would rather pay for an "experience" than buy an item from a store. To most people, dining out is as much an experience as it is a convenience.

To avoid your customers' experience being a negative one, try calculating the occupant load for restaurants, which is different from that of theaters, museums and other venues. In fact, the occupant load is even different for varying types of restaurants.

For example, fast food restaurants could put diners side-by-side on stools to eat their sandwiches or burgers, but fine dining restaurants need to give customers more space for their entrees, bread plates, wine and water glasses and multiple types of flatware. Wait staff, too, need ample room to move around without elbowing customers in the head or dropping food in their laps.

## Calculating Occupant Load for Restaurants

The average recommended space to allow for a full service restaurant is 12 to 15 square feet per person; for fine dining, allow 18 to 20 square feet per person, according to an article about restaurant layouts on dimensions.com.

While that may sound like a lot of room, remember that to determine square footage, you multiply length times width; so 20 square feet could be five feet between customers and four feet for each person's sitting and eating space, including all the extras on the table for fine dining. Also allow 18 inches between occupied chairs that back up to each other.

Of course, the size of your tables is also a consideration, and even whether they're round or square, according to Restaurant-furniture.com. You can squeeze extra chairs around round tables, but square tables are convenient for pulling them together to serve a large group. They give examples on number of guests accommodated per square table size:

• 24" x 24" = 2
• 30" x 30" = up to 4
• 36" x 36" = 4
• 42" x 42" = 4-6
• 48" x 48" = 8

And for round tables:

• 24" round = 2
• 30" or 36" = 3-4
• 42" = 4-5
• 48" = 5-6
• 60" = 8-10

Also consider details like the size of table bases, to see how many pairs of legs can comfortably fit, and allow room for serving stations and walkways.