A bar’s seating is as important to the overall brand as the menu, music and service. Consider the fabric, frame material, size of seat, upholstery, weight and color as the seating sets the stage for the dining experience.
The concept type impacts the seating, whether it’s casual or fine dining. This narrows down the choices. While vinyl is appropriate for a sports bar, plush seating is warranted in fine dining. Turnover and the level of comfort also are considerations when choosing seating design and materials.
Operators want the maximum number of seats in all the restaurant zones, because drinking and eating spaces are the profit centers. Designers carve out circulation space for service and compliance with fire codes and then artfully place seating to fill the space. Corner spaces are perfect for larger tables and booths. Booths can maximize space and encourage flow. For this seating, the dimensions, material, frame and positioning are key.
The furniture selection needs to address relevance, comfort, style and culinary point of view. In fine dining, the seating is more comfortable, often has upholstered armchairs and is heavier in weight, allowing for longer dining times and bigger check averages. These same chairs would be out of character in a more casual setting where dining is more relaxed and turnover times are more frequent. A concept that has a healthy and fresh menu, regardless of level of service, will often promote the use of reclaimed wood in its furniture selections.
High seat backs not only are more comfortable but provide additional privacy and intimacy. Operators also need to take ceiling heights into account, making sure the seating proportions match the space. A higher chair back may not work with lower ceilings, for example.
Chair and stool size and height in relation to the table, high top or bar is a big factor. Armchairs need proper clearance to fit under tables. The chair width determines how many will fit at a table. Also, chair bases should not bump up against table legs or bases, but instead pull all the way in. Clientele size may indicate larger or wider seats are necessary.
When looking at function, swivel bar stools make interaction easier and exiting seating more convenient. Many times, when it comes to seating, function over style is the way to go.
Durability is especially important in higher-volume and fast-casual settings, since chairs tend to be moved around more often and seating is subjected to more children who may test the durability. In commercial foodservice, chairs have stretchers on two or four sides that enhance the frame’s stability and provide added sturdiness.
Several considerations come with specifying seating that might not be obvious at first. For example, does the chair rock? Also, how difficult is the seating to move around? This is especially important for restaurants that often have large parties or groups.
Also consider noise factors when moving furniture. Some chairs offer rubber feet and levelers that help keep noise levels to a minimum when used on hard floors like wood, tile or concrete. Gliders for chair and stool leg bottoms are typically dictated by the flooring. These are available in a variety of materials, including plastic, metal, felt and vinyl. Metal is typically used on laminate floors but will scratch wood or tile. Flooring manufacturers are a good resource for glide material recommendations. Also, operators should be cognizant of how glides are removed, as these may need replacing during the life of the seating.
Another factor to consider is lead times when ordering furniture pieces. The availability of necessary items can make or break a restaurant opening, so it’s important to allow enough time to ensure items are ready when needed. Lead times typically span 6 to 8 weeks but could be as long as 20 weeks. In many cases, it makes sense to have spare seating on hand in the event of breakage or damage. Available storage will impact if this is feasible and how many chairs the storage area can accommodate. Manufacturers recommend ordering 5 percent more chairs for extra stock, depending on storage space.
Also consider replacement parts and touch up paint. The warranty also comes into play and can be as long as 25 years for commercial grade furniture.