Memorable Restaurant Design Throughout the Years

by GR Chair

From those classic diners of the 50s to the bold and vibrant restaurants of the 80s, restaurant design has changed tremendously over the last 75 years. And while today we see more modern and simplistic design elements, we still like to occasionally reminisce about some of the restaurant designs we once loved. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites: 

The Classic 50s Diner

Who doesn’t want to put on a poodle skirt and grab a milkshake at these adorable greasy spoons? Diners of the 1950s combined bold accents and patterns to create a fun and energized environment for all ages to enjoy. After all, who needs a tablet at the table when you can have a mini juke box?



Fast Food Frenzy of the 60s

During the 60s, fast food restaurants become a staple for many family meals. McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (Now KFC), and Wendy’s became appealing options for fast family dining. These restaurants created vibrant and comfortable dining areas with unique decor elements to differentiate themselves from the many other options available. Take a look at one of Wendy’s original tables - each adorned with newspaper clippings paired with brown and orange chairs. (And what’s old is new again, this chair looks a lot like our Bentwood No. 18, doesn’t it?)


Gnarly 90s

No one quite did the late 80s and early 90s quite like Taco Bell. They took bold, geometrical trends to a new level throughout every area of the restaurants from the seats to the walls even down to the garbage containers. And if you can believe it, you can still see this design for yourself at the Lathrop, California Taco Bell location.


Obviously, today’s designs have taken a pretty drastic turn from those gnarly 90’s trends, with the implementation of clean lines, smooth surfaces and rustic industrial elements. Fast food restaurants are sticking with those bold colors, but designers are using them more carefully, selecting the places where it makes an impactful statement, rather than covering an entire dining area.

Although we may look back and laugh at some of these previous trends, design is always evolving with the current tastes and expectations of today’s restaurant customers. Brands that win with design are the ones who stay true to their customers needs as they transition through design phases.

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