Open Design in a Restaurant Setting

Arne Hendriks

The Instructables Restaurant 1 is the world’s first open source restaurant. If you like the food, the restaurant gives you the recipe. And if you love the chair, or any of its other products, the restaurant provides the instructions for how to make it yourself.

The complete menu and interior are based exclusively on the open-access recipes and instructions available online, which are shared by members  COMMUNITY of, a web-based platform for users to create and share detailed instructions for their own DIY projects, known as ‘instructables’. 2 Nothing in the restaurant has been designed by its proprietor or its chef; they just make what they find online.

The restaurant not only appropriates this information to create its content, décor and atmosphere, it also showcases it and passes it on. Everything you eat or use in the restaurant comes with full instructions on how to make it yourself. The members who originally uploaded the instructables that were chosen for use in the restaurant are credited on posters and flyers hanging in the restaurant, providing publicity for their instructable.

The online world enters the offline world

The Instructables Restaurant turns the online potential of shared ideas into reality, and opens up this reality to the criticism of consumers. It tests and is tested, adopting an online feedback system in which members can comment on each other’s instructables and rate them. Customers are encouraged to give feedback on the food and interior through the Instructables website. The feedback is immediately passed on to the member who uploaded the relevant instructable. Unlike a popularity contest, however, the restaurant also offers options for actually improving the instructable and how it works in practice. The restaurant’s appreciative attitude toward criticism creates an open space of trial and error for every item on the menu and product list, with increased quality as a possible outcome.

The restaurant attracts its customers from the general public, from people who have heard or read about the Instructables website, and from the website’s 1.8 million members. Everybody who is a member is a potential author (read: chef or designer) of the restaurant. This effectively creates a community of at least 1.8 million people who love the place, and may even have the ambition to be featured in it. In the end, the concept for the Instructables Restaurant was turned into an instructable as well. Everybody is welcome to start a similar restaurant and offer suggestions to make it even better.

  1. The Instructables Restaurant is a concept proposed by Arne Hendriks and Bas van Abel and developed in cooperation with Waag Society and Fab Lab Amsterdam.
  2.  Launched in 2005, was founded by MIT graduate Eric Wilhelm, who continues to play an active role as CEO; his profile on the website states his commitment to ‘making technology accessible through understanding’. This active online community isn’t just about sharing how you do what you do, though. Besides posting their projects, registered users can also offer suggestions and comments on other people’s projects, collaboratively improving the end result. From recipes and crafts to furniture and solar panels, Instructables offers a wide range of projects, and it just keeps getting better.
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