How to Choose Restaurant Seating
Although you may think that it’s your food that keeps customers in their seats, it’s not just that. Sometimes, it really is the seats! Many factors have to combine to create a restaurant that diners find appealing and that they keep returning to. And while your chairs, barstools, sofas or other seating options may not be your #1 priority, it can make or break your customers’ dining experience. Seating is worth a second look.
Things to Consider When Choose Seating
Planning the layout and seating capacity of a restaurant dining room involves more than just setting some tables and chairs out in a room. To start with, for safety reasons, you must comply with occupancy limits set by state or local fire codes. In addition, you want to make your restaurant’s patrons comfortable.
The type of restaurant seating you choose will probably be contingent on the size of your restaurant and the space you have to work with. Overcrowding can make for an unpleasant dining experience and result in lost customers. Obviously, a big space allows for just about any kind of seating: tables of different sizes, space-consuming couches, armchairs, etc. If, however, space is limited, you should consider booths – the type you find in retro diners – which are compact and comfortable in a small area. In addition, if you have a window facing the street, you can put in a high table with bar stools, which allows you to squeeze in a number of diners, all facing the window. This type of countertop seating is a space saver that lets customers sit alongside each other, while doing away with tables and chairs in that area.
Keep Traffic Flowing
When a restaurant’s seating configuration is in the planning stages, there is a natural tendency to want to fit in as many seats – and, therefore, as many customers – as possible. Although on one hand you want to maximize capacity, on the other hand, your seating design shouldn’t sacrifice traffic flow, or your customers’ privacy. Make sure you leave enough room between tables to allow wait staff to maneuver and to let diners have conversations that aren’t overheard by neighboring customers.
Plan for Parties and Events
Although you may have classy restaurant chairs in mind for your restaurant, you should think long term when choosing seating. Are you planning to hold large parties or events in your establishment? If so, you should have an additional stock of folding chairs and/or stackable chairs, which offer you the flexibility of arranging the space for the maximum number of diners. These don’t have to be your permanent seats; but having folding chairs on hand gives you the chance to expand your party space without actually expanding the space.
Keep Theme and Concept in Mind
Every restaurant should have a theme and a concept. The décor is based on this concept, and it affects the establishment’s mood and atmosphere. Done correctly, your restaurant should embody the concept that you envisioned when your restaurant was still just a dream. Every aspect of the décor – from lighting and wall decoration, to furnishings and flooring – should enhance the concept and further the sought-after vibe.
Therefore, an elegant French-style restaurant won’t have the same furnishings as a casual family-oriented restaurant. Booths and high-top tables won’t work in an upscale restaurant, while candle-lit, intimate tables-for-two are not the ideal arrangement in a fast-food joint or a pizza parlor. Fabric-covered chairs are beautiful and elegant for a high-end, romantic restaurant, but they won’t work when kids and crowds pile in, with spills and ground-in food following soon thereafter.
When children and families are your target audience, make it a priority to choose seating that’s easy to clean. That means chairs and tables that can be wiped down easily, and that don’t have ornate decorative touches that collect dust and crumbs. In addition, for family-style restaurants, always keep a nice supply of booster seats and high chairs on hand – your customers will appreciate it!
Comfort Is of Primary Importance
It’s hard to find a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to seating, but accommodating customers of all sizes is vital to ensuring their comfort. Yes, a wider chair takes up more space; but even your thinner customers will appreciate having more wiggle room when they dine. The comfort of restaurant seating is so important that the Curbed New York website offers a list of the most comfortable restaurant chairs in New York.
Make Sure It’s Built to Last
Commercial restaurant furniture is designed to withstand the wear and tear of restaurant use, so your goal is to look for the most durable chairs you can find. This is not the place to save money, as buying cheaply made furniture will backfire on you in the long term. While you don’t want to overspend, it’s still important to focus on quality: You’re looking for well-constructed chairs that meet your space and concept requirements, and that won’t be hard to upkeep and maintain.
Welcome Customers with the Right Seating
Today’s diners expect more than just good food from a restaurant – they look for up-to-date décor, an attractive theme, and, yes, comfortable seating. A chair that is too small or uncomfortable will turn customers off as quickly as yesterday’s re-heated Sweet Potato Ravioli. The right seating, on the other hand – chairs that combine form and functionality – is a top priority if you want to keep customers coming back for more.