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Tips for Choosing the Best Commercial Seating for Restaurants and Bars

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Did you know that, according to the National Restaurant Association, there were more than 1 million restaurants in the US in 2019? If you’re running one of these many restaurants, or opened yours in 2020, then you know how competitive the restaurant and bar industry can be.

One of the most important ways to stand out to customers is by providing them with an incredible dining or drinking experience. Great food and drinks are paramount, of course, but so are design, plateware, and commercial seating and table options.

If you’re currently looking for commercial seating, then there’s a lot you have to consider. From choosing seating that’s made from the right materials, to trying to get it to match your restaurant’s decor, it can feel overwhelming to decide what seats are right for your restaurant.

It’s also stressful, if many choices seem pricey, or if you have to shop online only to find that the seats you’ve ordered don’t actually go with your restaurant. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. By having the information you need, you can focus on running your restaurant.

Read on to learn more.

Form and Function

When it comes to finding the right restaurant seating or bar seating, the first thing you’ll want to think about is the form and function of your establishment. If you don’t do this, then you might end up getting beautiful chairs that actually don’t function well in your restaurant or bar.

Come into your restaurant from the front door and imagine the coming and goings of people in it. Where do the people waiting for a table or seat wait? Where do waiters walk through most often? What’s the path from most tables to the bathrooms?

This is also an opportunity for you to reimagine how your restaurant or bar might work—which will also impact the seating choices you make. Is there an area in your bar or restaurant where people often gravitate toward?

Maybe you’ll want to buy small tables and seats so more people can sit there. Then there’s the COVID-19 Pandemic to consider. If there are restrictions in your area that make you distance seats out or put up barriers, this will have an impact on your seating choices.

And if you’ve done any construction as a result—for example, built an outdoor patio—then this will also impact your seating choices.

Finally, simply ask yourself where people sit most and how long they stay there for. If they stop by the bar quickly to grab a drink before waiting for a table, then you might not need to splash out on comfy bar stools.

However, if your bar is a big date spot where singles like to sit for hours chatting to each other over cocktails for hours, then getting an upholstered bar stool is probably a better choice.

Branding and Aesthetics

Once you’ve considered the form and function of your restaurant or bar, and how that might impact your choice in commercial restaurant and bar seating, you should think about branding an aesthetics.

This is because the restaurant and bar seating you choose should match with the branding and aesthetics of your restaurant.

For example, if you run a hunting lodge-themed restaurant that has a fireplace in the corner and fake moose heads on the walls, minimalist metal seats will look completely out of place. It’s best in that case to stick to wooden seats that are upholstered with dark patterns.

Just like you did when thinking about the form and function of your restaurant, enter your restaurant through the front door and look around. What are the colors you see around you, in the furniture you already have, in the drapes and decorations?

These details represent your brand, and the aesthetics, of your bar or restaurant. Pay attention to materials as well. If there’s a lot of wood, then wooden seats are best. If there’s a sleek metallic bar, then modern metallic seats are best.

The Right Materials

Once you’ve thought about the form, function, branding, and aesthetics of your restaurant or bar, you can start thinking about what the best commercial seating for your space is. To start off, you need to be aware of the different materials seats are made of.

If you’ve got a classier look at your restaurant or bar, then you want high-quality wooden seats, which can have wooden seats or be upholstered.

However, if you’re looking for more durable seats—let’s say you have fast turnover—then metal’s the way to go.

Plastic offers versatility, since you can use these seats both in indoor and outdoor settings. However, it can look a bit cheap, so if you have a fancy or formal feel, we wouldn’t recommend choosing this material.

Keep in mind too that there are bistro style seats, which have a metal frame with a wooden seat and backing.

These are modern yet formal, and easy to carry, so they’re perfect for a fancy, chill place where customers might stop by for a quick lunch, coffee, or drink.

Dimensions of Seating

It’s important to know what the dimensions of seating you need are for your restaurant or bar. The last thing you want is to spend a ton of money on seats, only to find that they’re too high or too low to sit on.

You also need to think about the legal requirements related to seating; for example, you may need to have a certain area of your restaurants totally clear in case there’s a fire, including exits.

Generally speaking, you want to reserve around 30 to 35 square feet per seat, so that your customers are comfortable while seated—and so your restaurant or bar doesn’t get too crowded when you’re at full capacity.

When you make this calculation, include the entirety of your restaurant and bar—not only the seating area, but any storage areas, the bathrooms, the kitchen, an area you might have reserved for customers waiting to be seated, and the area behind the bar.

Depending on what experience you’re providing your customers with, these calculations can shift a little. If your customers are mostly sitting in booths, then you’ll only need to calculate for 8 square feet per person.

However, for full service, you want to provide 12 to 15 square feet, and for dining that’s slow and provides privacy and intimacy, you’ll want to provide 14 to 20 square feet per person. Aisles should be at least 18 inches wide, possibly wider if your waiters carry many dishes.

If it’s a bar you own, then there should be a space of three and a half to four feet alongside the bar for guests with their bar stools—providing about two feet of space for the bar stools themselves.

Different Types of Commercial Seating

You should also think about the different types of commercial seating you can choose from. Even though you might think it’s pretty obvious, what your restaurant or bar needs, it’s better to take a step back and think about what your customers’ expectations are.

For example, if you run a sit-down restaurant, then chairs should be comfortable, and probably a normal height to go with the normal height of the tables.

However, if you run a sports bar, then you’re going to have more bar stools—potentially ones that have a rotating seat so that your patrons can talk to friends, watch the game, and reach for their drink and nachos much more easily.

If you have a restaurant that’s more of a lunch place where people go in during their 9-5 for a quick sandwich and smoothie, then you might not need to spend too much on chairs, because they won’t be staying for long and won’t mind sitting on a cheaper plastic seat.

The different types of seats available to you are booth seats, bar stools, and restaurant chairs.

Booth Seats

Booth seats are some of the most popular seats out there for customers, because they immediately create a sense of privacy and intimacy for them. They’re also durable and strong, which means you won’t have to replace them often.

Booth seats, because they’re pressed up against the wall, make it easier for your waitstaff to get around when they’re serving food and drinks.

You’re also more likely to get larger parties, which means more money spent on drinks and appetizers, since these seats usually sit four to six people.

They can be against all walls at a restaurant, but if you run a bar, we recommend having a booth area in the back.

Bar Stools

Restaurant bar stools are useful because they take up less room than usual restaurant seats. They also tend to be light, which makes them easier to move around to accommodate a change in seating arrangements. (This is not the case, of course, if they’re bolted to the floor.)

There’s also a huge variety of bar stools, which means you can have a bit of fun when choosing them. Do you want a seat that spins? A retro vibe? Do you want upholstery that matches the interior of your restaurant or bar?

If you run a restaurant where there’s a section where diners eat on bar stools, keep in mind that they’ll be seated there for a while—so it’s smart to think about adding upholstery to the seat and arms to make the dining experience more comfortable.

Additionally, remember that bar stools come in different heights. As a general rule of thumb, the height of your bar stools should be about twelve inches below the surface guests are drinking or eating off of.

Restaurant Chairs

Then there are restaurant chairs to think about. If you’re running a bar, it might be worth having a few private tables where you place restaurant chairs, so that anyone who wants a more intimate conversation over candlelight can do so.

As for restaurant owners, restaurant chairs are a must.

Just like you might with bar stool heights, restaurant chairs come in a variety of heights, too—so, when selecting which one is right for you, use the same measurement of twelve inches below the dining surface.

Considerations That Impact Your Choices

There are a few considerations that will impact your choices when you decide which seats you want to get for your bar or restaurant. For example, there’s the shape of the seat. Do you want a larger, comfortable chair with armrests, or ones that are smaller?

Then there’s the size of the seat. Generally speaking, most restaurants and bars should be providing 300 square inches per diner to move around in, including the seat and table—though if you have large plates, this space might be larger.

Cleanability is another factor to consider. Especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic, there might be regulations that require you to clean more often. Even after it’s over, it’s likely your cleaning standards will be quite high.

For this reason, it’s smart to get seats that are easy to clean, and that aren’t made from materials that are likely to soak up bacteria and viruses.

Finally, you need to think about cost. Before buying any commercial seating, sit down and create a budget so that you know what you can afford. Otherwise, you might fall in love with a seat that you can’t actually afford.

Need More Tips?

Do you need more tips on finding the right commercial seating for your restaurant or bar? Or, maybe, you need help with interior design? Whatever your needs might be, here at Richardson Seating News, we can help you.

To learn more or ask us any questions, visit our contact us page.

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