guest post by Shachar Banin
5 Essentials for Choosing the Best Restaurant Chairs
As a restaurant owner in Venice, Italy, where our streets are canals, we deal with certain aspects of the business that most entrepreneurs would never think about. Whether it’s renting a refrigerated boat to transport product or closing our outdoor seating because of high tides, there are an array of complexities to deal with. But, one thing that is standard regardless of location, is choosing the best chairs for your food establishment.
I’m always on the lookout for great products to enhance my guests’ time in GAM GAM. When people think about where they would like to go out to eat, the things they usually consider are: the food, atmosphere, guest service, location and price. These priorities stand out in the minds of any restaurant guest. However, seating is not usually something given much thought.
Atmosphere - Setting the Tone and Mood in a Restaurant
Eating out is relaxing, takes one’s mind off daily challenges and is a great way to step out of the usual and connect with family or friends. Guests save time cooking and cleaning and are able to reinvest that time with those whom they care about.
Sometimes, people choose a meal out to celebrate. We’ve hosted everything from birthday parties to graduations and wedding proposals to 50th anniversaries. We know that as a team, we are providing more than just a meal. We hope to contribute to an atmosphere that will help create beautiful memories for years to come. Often, guests are trusting us with some of the most special moments of their lives.
Especially now, as the world struggles to contain the Coronavirus, going out to a restaurant is almost deemed as a luxury. The time spent at a restaurant is more valued by the guests, and restaurant staff are happier than ever to see their usual clients come back for a visit.
There are also the things that enhance the atmosphere and the guest experience that are more subconscious. One of those things is the seating. Imagine your favorite restaurant. What words would you use to describe the feeling when you are there? That is the atmosphere. And before you even think about what type of chairs you need, you have to decide what kind of atmosphere you want to create.
Style is for More than Clothing
High back, low back, fancy and formal, there is so much to choose from. Knowing the environment you want for your guests, will help you determine in which style you should invest. Some style concepts to consider are: casual, chic, rustic, elegant, contemporary, artsy, modern and fabrics such as upholstery, leather and plastic.
Another aspect to consider is the chair frame. There are many types such as wood, metal, plastic or aluminum lightweight material.
Choosing a specific style of chair goes further than the aesthetics. The design and style allows the guests to sit closer or further apart. Some chairs inhibit leaning forward. Keep in mind that part of enjoying a meal out is that it provides a way for your guests to connect with one another.
Other style factors to consider are the flexibility of moving chairs when necessary. In facilities with a high guest turn-over rate, chairs shouldn’t be too heavy for the staff who will have to move them during cleaning. Chairs should also be easy to move around when rearranging the composition of tables to adjust for larger parties. And, if you have busier seasons where you’ll need more chairs than usual, consider stackable chairs to maximize storage space.
Feel Comfortable - Make Yourself at Home
A chair can actually affect how a person feels while they are dining. An uncomfortable chair can be likened to having a small pebble in your shoe while you are walking. It can make or break the entire experience, especially if the meal is a longer one.
It’s one of those things that you don't give too much thought to until you are seated in a chair that is uncomfortable. Have you have been seated in “the broken chair?” Or, where you can feel the inner parts of the chair itself because the cushioning is too worn.
Diners come to relax and you want them to be comfortable, but not that guests will linger unnecessarily. An important factor to consider is how long your guest will be seated. If you have a food establishment with a low-cost menu, it is likely that you rely on having a high turn-over of tables. If your guests are going to have a quick coffee and a croissant, then a barstool may be a good choice. Not only because this matches the more informal style of a coffee house, but it also lends itself to that sort of quick food service. On the other hand, if you run a more formal establishment, diners will likely take their time to enjoy a longer meal. Here, a more comfortable chair with proper cushioning will be more suitable.
Proper spacing is an important consideration as well. Guests should be able to comfortably walk between tables without banging into those currently dining. This is even more important to think about if your restaurant is located in a tourist area or in a shopping zone where guests may come in with their shopping bags. Or, in the Winter, if you don’t have a coat room or rack, your guests will need space to put their coats on the back of their chairs.
Adequate spacing is also important for waitstaff who need to safely transport food while moving easily and quickly. Your choice of chair size will help staff avoid frustration and help ensure they can provide quick service.
Durability is Key
When it comes to durability, there is a difference between commercial vs. residential grade chairs. Use from the sheer number of guests coming in to a food establishment far outweighs the typical wear and tear that a chair built for home use can withstand. Restaurants need chairs that are specifically built to tolerate this kind of use. Chairs are an investment in the restaurant. It’s not the part where you want to take the cheap route. Having to replace chairs more often than you should will end up costing you more in the long run.
Another factor for durability is the fabric. It can make all the difference.
Whether an elegant fabric or a faux leather, it should be easy to clean, especially if you have a family restaurant where there will be children dining. Consider chairs that can be cleaned using a light damp cloth to both eliminate dust and to easily and thoroughly remove food crumbs in the cracks and crevices where it can accumulate.
Hygiene is More Important than Ever
Restaurants are struggling to find ways to make their guests as comfortable as possible during this difficult time while abiding by the increase of health regulations because of the Coronavirus. Many restaurants have limited hours and reduced seating capacity as a result of having to remove some tables.
Here are some best practices during this challenging time:
Print signs for employees and guests reminding them to wash hands for a minimum of 20 seconds.
Hand sanitizer should be readily available in all public areas, such as at the entrance, restrooms, coat racks and the bar area.
Provide clear pathways for your guests to walk. Proper signage helps guests know where to enter and exit. Signs should also assist guests as to where to walk within the restaurant as to avoid, or at least minimize, direct contact with others as much as possible.
Menus are some of the most handled items in a restaurant. Just as it’s an obligation to maintain proper food handling practices in the kitchen, we train our staff to maintain health standards in the service areas as well. This includes proper maintenance of menus, which should be wiped down often. During these particular times of Coronavirus, we are using temporary menus that are disposed of after each use.
Soon we will be introducing a more permanent solution. Guests will be able to scan a QR code on the table and pull up the menu directly on their cell phone.
By taking these 5 essentials for choosing the best restaurant chairs into account, you will be able to enhance your guests’ experience in your food establishment. You’ll be able to create a great atmosphere and your guests will come back again and again, because they will know they can dine in a clean and stylish place with efficient service.
About the author:
Shachar Banin shares her expertise and knowledge from decades of business management and culinary experience as a restaurant owner & chef, wife & mother and community leader in Venice, Italy.She also shares her experience and recipes on her blog RebbetzinUnplugged.com