Restaurant Design Trends 2018

Experts sound off on the trends that are redefining the dining experience (and why you should actually care)

Restaurant design seems like it'd be one of those topics that appeals only to industry insiders or those who want to location-scout for their Instagram posts. But there's a good reason to be in the loop: The decor trends you see now in "hot" restaurants are the ones you'll see in your living room in the coming years.

Besides, the overall look of a restaurant's interior actually does impact the experience of dining out. An interesting plate can enhance a thoughtfully assembled dish, dark materials can make a space seem cozier and seating upholstered in luxuriously soft fabrics can make you feel briefly like a member of the 1 percent.

We get the scoop from the experts on what 2018 has in store for restaurant design.

Design Is Going to Get Decadent 

"We're also going more towards the 70s and 80s. The expanded use of chrome, plexiglass, linoleum, neon colors is more and more present. This year, in line with the design trends, we assume we'll see more of these influences in branding, too, including: more flashy colors, metallic touches, gradients, patterns on patterns and risographs." 

Amy Morris and Anna Polonsky, founders of The MP Shift

No More White Walls

"At least in New York, I'm seeing a massive break from the sharp and clean aesthetic that took over the restaurant scene for the past few years. A return to the bold color schemes of the 60s—millennial pink and bright red, turquoise and jet black, forest green and muted gold, to name a few—has arrived on the East Coast." 

Sasha Bikoff, interior designer

The Industrial Look Is Out

"All the reclaimed wood, bare light bulbs and exposed brick feels overdone. These were all definitely design choices that were part of a huge trend but are starting to feel dated and overused. There is a very monotone feeling to walking into a space that's all wood, exposed brick and off-white."

Andrew and Briana Volk, owners of Little Giant and Portland Hunt + Alpine Club

Old-School Is In

"Perhaps as backlash for how unstable we feel things are politically and socially, we seek comfort in what has stood the test of time. Not only do we seek comfort, we praise it. It becomes cool. The steakhouse reemerges, classic French cooking comes back into fashion, and the 'dad' and 'grandpa' aesthetic are seen on runways worldwide. . . . Go to any Houston's in L.A. It's equally populated by older people as it is tattooed hipsters. Dan Tana's. Lawry's. To me, it's all the same story. It's about a new demographic's appreciation, acceptance and delight of things classic."

Jonah Freedman, owner and designer of Freedman's Los Angeles 

Plants, Plants Everywhere!

"We are seeing a lot of landscape elements coming into the interior space, whether a living green wall or potted plants, from fast-casual to specialty restaurants. At La Centrale Miami, we've even gone as far as designing a seasonal vegetarian-focused restaurant inside its own serra (Italian for 'greenhouse')—which features a gabled ceiling and hanging planter baskets suspended from the ceiling that recall the winter gardens of northern Italy."

Giancarlo Pietri, architect/designer for Urban Robot Associates 

You'll Actually Be Able to Have a Conversation

"We're going to see restaurants incorporating soundproofing materials into their style and design from the get-go. This is something that we did at Don Angie by hand-stitching a unique fabric into a fluted design pattern." 

Michael Stillman, president and founder of Quality Branded restaurant group 

Casual and Formal Environments Will Coexist

"In 2018, we will see the design of restaurants pull influence from culinary trends like it has with our newest project, Scampi. The food is top quality but very approachable. We were able to mimic this within the restaurant's layout by creating a flow and separation between the two distinct areas within the space—a more casual walk-in-only bar and communal dining experience at the front, and a more formal and intimate dining setup toward the back. This plays into another trend that we see taking shape—creating a warm and inviting restaurant that enables a space to transition from daytime to nighttime with ease."

Jeremy Levitt, principal at Parts and Labor Design  

Paneling Is Back

"The elements of wood and stone will dominate over manufactured metal, glass and ceramics, which we use as subtle accents. . . . At Leuca, the rich oak wood paneling is illuminated by soft cove lighting and custom-designed sconces wrapping the room in a red amber glow, both unexpected and comforting. KŌST, which just opened in Toronto atop the luxury hotel Bisha, is another great example. Featuring extensive white oak wood paneling complemented by exotic marbles in shades of jade, peach and ivory, our dining room is modern yet inviting with a bright and relaxed atmosphere." 

Studio Munge, the interior design team for Leuca at The William Vale

Food Halls Aren't Going Anywhere, but They Will Be Less Themed

"In 2018, you'll see more food halls that are platforms for great ideas. Collaborative environments spread out the financing risk, and that creates a space for creativity. I also think that food halls are increasingly growing into simple, beautiful spaces. I believe that the food and the people are the pallette."

Will Donaldson, founder of St. Roch Market Miami and St. Roch Market New Orleans

Brie Dyas is a contributing writer for Tasting Table and an avid collector of your grandmother's fine china. You can find her occasionally sharing photos on Instagram at @briedyas.

Paneling Is Back

At Leuca in Brooklyn, rich oak paneling is taking the place of manufactured metal, glass and ceramics.

Photo: Leuca via Facebook

No More White Walls

"At least in New York, I'm seeing a massive break from the sharp and clean aesthetic that took over the restaurant scene for the past few years," interior designer Sasha Bikoff notes.

Photo: Genevieve Garruppo

What's Old Is New

For Jonah Freedman, owner and designer of Freedman's deli in Los Angeles, old-school motifs are comforting designs that stand the test of time.

Photo: Freedman's

Plants, Plants Everywhere!

"We are seeing a lot of landscape elements coming into the interior space," Miami designer Giancarlo Pietri says.

The interior of La Centrale in Miami, opening in February | Photo: Urban Robot Associates

You'll Actually Be Able to Have a Conversation

In NYC, the hand-stitched fabric in Don Angie's interior helps absorb sound, so you won't have to shout to be heard by your dining companion across the table.

Photo: Katy Sears

Casual and Formal Environments Will Coexist

At Scampi, one of Parts and Labor Design's latest projects, casual communal tables contrast with a more intimate seating area in the back of the restaurant.

Photo: Evan Sung

Food Halls Are Going Minimalist

"I believe that the food and the people are the palette," Will Donaldson, founder of St. Roch Market in New Orleans, notes.

Photo: Rush Jagoe