Why your restaurant seating matters

There’s more to restaurant seating than just a place to rest that butt of yours. Your choice of seating can either help or hinder your food business.

We’ve all seen new cafés or coffee shops open, where little thought has gone into the furniture choices. Too often someone opens a coffee shop, buys a load of brown wooden chairs, and brown leather sofas and tub chairs thinking this is the thing to do in a coffee shop. Perhaps traditionally it was. But, do you want your restaurant or coffee shop to be the same bland brown coffee shop as the ones you’ve seen before? Lets aim for something more exciting!

First of all lets talk about how seating can help or hinder your business.

How much furniture do you have?

You need the perfect amount of seating for your space. If you squeeze too much furniture into your space it can make getting to tables awkward and can put people off coming again. People don’t want to feel they are starring in an episode of total wipeout to get to their seat. It’s also pretty dangerous if people can’t get past a table without holding their hot food and hot pots of tea over somebody elses head. This goes for any food or drinks really. I once had a whole tray of jaegerbombs poured down my back after a waiter tried squeezing past, then tripped over a chair leg….mmm I smelled delicious and was a bit sticky for the rest of the day – this didn’t make me want to go back to that place anytime soon! As well as overcrowding you don’t want your space to look empty either – unless you have a nightclub then you need dancing space for your customers to strut their stuff. But, an empty café space isn’t particularly inviting.

Furniture types ARE important.

It may sound obvious but your seating needs to reflect your offer. If you’re offering sit down meals, people will want to sit at a dining height table rather than be leaning over a coffee table. Whenever your food is grab and go and hand held snacks then people are not likely to stay to eat. If they do, they’ll most likely be quick; so poseur tables or eating shelves where people can stand or perch at are ideal like the beautiful Muuto visu bar stools shown below.

Visu bar stool. Image credit ; Muuto

If you want to create a community, where people come in to socialise perhaps large communal tables would work well. This also gives you the opportunity to invite various groups or clubs to use your space or give people who are dining alone the chance to interact with others.

String Chair. Image credit; MENU

To be, or not to be upholstered?

If you want a fairly quick turnaround of customers in a day and you want there to be seating spaces available as often as possible, you probably don’t want customers lingering around for hours over one cup of coffee. Therefore, the trick is to make sure they don’t get too comfortable. Have a nice chair but if you make it too comfy people are going to stay for longer. This goes for stools too. If a stool has a back, the person sitting on it is likely to stay longer than if it hasn’t.

In a restaurant, your customers will be staying longer so give them a nice comfy seat. You don’t want their butts to go numb before they’ve finished eating their meal, they may be put off coming again. They’ll find somewhere more comfortable to go next time. This is a good opportunity to have some lovely upholstered chairs to suit your décor and inject some colour with stunning fabrics.  Fabrics is a whole thing on its own too. The fabrics need to be hardwearing and easy to clean!

Image credit; MENU

Most cafes and coffee shops are somewhere in between.

You want people to be comfy. But, not in there all day unless they’re spending money with you all day. Many coffee shops offer wifi so it has become a great place for freelancers and people who generally work from home to come, so they’re not too isolated. They like to get out of the house and see real life people. This is good if they have meetings in your establishment – this can bring in new customers. In order for this to work they probably require somewhere a little more private like a gorgeous booth like in Restaurant Italy in Copenhagen shown above, as this is where there is often electrical points too. If you are positioned near a college or offices; offering meeting spaces could be a good way to get customers in the door. However, you need to ensure they are paying customers. I have heard of some people using a coffee shop’s wifi and electricity all day but only ordering one soda water in all that time – Cheeky! But it does happen. Some people are oblivious to the consequences of not supporting local businesses. After speaking to people who use coffee shops as a place to work, most are aware and try not to over stay their welcome. If they see seating is in demand, they will leave especially at busy times such as lunch. If professionals are your target market maybe think about more private areas for people to work efficiently on their own or in contrast they may prefer communal tables or to be sat at a bar so they can chat if they want to?

Image credit; MENU

The most welcoming establishments usually have a mixture of seating types to suit different types of people. People are likely to use your coffee shop differently. Some stop to socialise with friends, some just pop in, drink up and go.

Also consider the size of your furniture. You may want your coffee shop to look nice and cosy with big chunky sofas, but two large sofas may only allow space for four people to sit at.  If your space is small they may take up most of your available floorspace. If you really want sofas then try using fewer but matched with different types of furniture, you could probably fit a few more low stools and armchairs compared to one sofa.  A popular alternative is banquette seating like the image above. This can be teamed up with side chairs and dining tables to make the most of the space. Banquette seating can be so varied – from finished in timber, to a few well positioned loose cushions to completely upholstered.

Do you use your space for other uses?

Visu chair trolley. Image credit; Muuto

In some cases your restaurant or cafe may have multiple purposes. So, you may want to rearrange or remove the furniture completely during events. In this case you need to think about using furniture that can be stored away easily.  Perhaps stacking chairs and folding tables – don’t forget you’ll need a space to store it all too. Don’t worry, not all stacking furniture is ugly. Check out the Visu chairs above from Muuto. Also, if you rearrange small rectangular and square tables to make one large table, make sure the table sizes are compatible. 700 x 700mm tables would fit nicely with a 700 x 1400 table for example. It’s a little thing but makes a difference when rearranging. Circular tables are not a good idea in this case. Also consider large communal tables if you’re looking to create a bit of a community to allow people to chat to eachother and mingle.

And what about high chairs. It’s always a good idea to offer some type of high chair for the little ones. If your café or coffee shop is particularly aimed at parents then maybe a few more high chairs than normal would be useful. Also think about where are the buggies and prams going to go? You don’t want them blocking fire escapes!

If you’re not all seating’d out – lets look at the style

Seating also has an array of aesthetics. If you have a strong brand, you want to make sure your seating matches the interior and your brand as a whole. Don’t just go out and buy the cheapest chairs you can find – unless they are in line with your brand.. Find examples in a previous blog post “How to design your restaurant to create the right atmosphere.”

A rustic looking café can beautifully accommodate reclaimed wooden chairs. But, sleek metal and polycarbonate chairs would look completely out of place.

There are hundreds of types of chairs. If you are overwhelmed by this it may be worth looking at getting an interior designer in. They can help you plan your space to use it to its potential and make sure you have the right type of furniture for the job.



So, Restaurant seating…

There’s more to furniture than you first thought!? Consider your offer. The size of your space and the size of the furniture. (Some chairs are bigger than you think). Who will be your customers and what will they be using your space for? Once you’ve worked out what type of furniture your going to have then you can consider how it’s going to look – this is where your brands visual identity comes into play .

I hope you’ve found this helpful. If you have why not sign up to Studio Vonnes mailing list, Here you can also keep up to date with more tips, advice and examples of beautiful hospitality interiors.

how to choose your restaurant seating. restaurant, cafe, coffee shop seating. choosing furniture for your cafe


Featured image by Muuto.