Restaurant Design Trends Of The 1970s

Ahh, the 1970’s – the Gregorian decade of disco, rock and roll, gas shortages, economic upheavals, and the continuance of socially progressive values set out by the 60’s.

Often beguiled as a time of sustained peace and prosperity, the 1970’s were also a time of great conflict; the rise of Separatists in Quebec and the enactment of Martial Law in Canada, the elevated Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union, Iranian revolution, and the Vietnam War all became iconic and culturally significant events helping to shape the global society of the world during the 70’s.

This inclusion of global policy, culture, worldview and interaction also helped usher in some special trends in the culinary industry and restaurant design. In this post, we’ll take a look at how the 1970’s influenced the design trends of restaurant design.


Throughout the 1960’s, the number of disabled and immobilized people increased, but thanks to the advances of modern medicine, and a renewed sense of societal compassion, accessibility and mobility began to take centre stage in retail and restaurant design. Previously, most restaurants featured prominent and – albeit – unintentional physical barriers, impeding those in wheelchairs and walkers.

Public buildings began to take this into account, and a widespread change in restaurant design saw added accessibility become a focal point of structural and design aesthetics. In the early 60’s, the NSCCA (National Society for Crippled Children and Adults) sponsored numerous public surveys, which showed that accessibility to schools, courthouses, churches, and many businesses was preventing many disabled people from attending these institutions. By the mid 70’s, restaurateurs, home builders and public offices were constructed with accessibility features like ramps, restroom grab bars, and even elevators.


Restaurants and dining establishments experienced a massive spike in the 70’s – despite economic recessions and inflation due to times of war, energy crisis, and escalating crime and urban decline.

The president of the National Restaurant Association was quoted as saying “dining out is a significant part of the lifestyle of this great country.”  By the mid 70’s, one out of three meals was being consumed outside the home. Relaxed liquor laws saw an increase in alcohol consumption in this time frame as well – translating into larger, more open restaurants, with an added interest in comfort and speed.


The long-standing authority of French restaurants began to decline in the West, as did coffee shops, continental cuisine shops, drive-ins, and diners. Fast food continued to grow, as did use of new technologies like microwaves for added speed.

New for the 1970’s were restaurants focusing on ethnic cuisine and health foods, prompted by feminist and hippie groups readapting to life in the 1970’s. This made the restaurant model of the salad-bar a very popular design trend of the times. Themed restaurants also came hot onto the scene, prompting a new design trend of restaurant-as-entertainment venues, which used eclectic visual cues to boost the visual appeal of larger dine-in spaces. Stained glass, telephone booths, barber chairs, even chopped cars began to make appearances in restaurants as a show of identity and theme. —

The 1970’s were, in a grand sense, a time of reinvention and imagination. A broad desire to differentiate from the restaurant designs of yesteryear helped accessibility, global cuisine options, and health-related business models revolutionize the industry, paving the way for what was to come.

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