Buying Restaurant Furniture | Shelby Williams

Designing for Restaurants

5 Tips for Buying Restaurant Furniture

1. What type of furniture do you want?

The material used to manufacture your chair may say a lot to your clients about the type of restaurant you are. Wood chairs, or chairs with exposed wood, convey a feeling of warmth and quality. Chairs made of metal can be noisy and appear cold. There are many products that mix metal and wood together, creating an interesting look, yet providing many of the benefits of both materials in one chair.

Consider comfort when making your decision. Restaurant chairs are made in many sizes. However, the size of the seat and the height of the back are two very important features. Seats are generally 16, 18, or 20 inches wide. The smallest of seats tends to be used in café areas or areas where higher turnover is required. The largest of options is reserved for fine dining or country club type applications, where an owner wants to create the most comfort and turnover is not a driving factor.

Back height is important as well, not for comfort as much as design aesthetic. Rooms look better when the height of furniture or décor vary. Chairs taller than 30” will sit above the table top, creating a more substantial and interesting look.

2. Buy only commercial grade seating

Buyers beware. The Internet and big box retailers often sell chairs that look appropriate for a restaurant but lack three important features. First, the joinery is often not designed for heavy use. Second, the finish is often residential grade and will not perform when cleaned with commercial cleaners. Most importantly, the manufacturer has not tested the product for commercial use. In most cases noncommercial chairs are excluded from product liability claims if used in a commercial setting. In other words, if a chair fails and your customer is hurt, the manufacturer will have limited liability in the claim and you will be 100% responsible for the claim. This can be a very costly mistake.

3. Is the furniture an important part of your establishment?

Restaurants at their core are entertainment venues, of course people come to eat. However, do they only come to eat, making the décor irrelevant, or are they choosing an establishment based on experience and nourishment. The answer is probably it depends. If you desire a business that is a true destination, you must consider the personality of the environment. Casual dining locations often require a different look than a fine dining establishment. Furniture can be important to your brand, as well as helping a customer learn what to expect when they see your name on the building. Do you want to look like your competitors or do you want to be unique?

4. Know the impact of the floor on your chair

Whether wood floors, carpet, or tile, each floor surface requires a different glide. Think about it, the glides are a lot like your shoes.   After you have been standing for long periods of time, you feel fatigue, not just in your feet, often times all the way to your shoulders and neck. When a chair has the wrong glide for the application, friction can cause vibration to travel up the product, impacting the joinery or the amount of noise generated. Wood floors often require felt tip glides to prevent scratching. This is a very costly solution, they wear out quickly and must be changed often. Chairs on carpet perform best if a nickel-plated glide is used. They will slide better than plastic options. Tile floors can use many different plastic or nylon glides. However, depending on the slip coefficient rating of the material, plastic may also wear quickly. Glides made from nylon are desirable because they are much harder and will perform over time. As an owner you may not be able to tell a plastic from a nylon glide so be sure to ask or check the specifications.

5. Know your budget

While budgets may limit options, never allow yourself to think that a non-commercial option is right for you. The risks are incredible. However, quality of finish, type of fabric, size of chair, and production origin may all impact price.   We suggest trading options or style to save money, versus accepting a chair that is not rated for commercial use.   If cost matters, many times you can find overrun production of chairs that are made with limited options and will save money.


Restaurant Furniture Brochure

Download Dining & Lobby
Brochure »

Booths Specialty Seating Brochure

Download Booths &
Specialty Seating Brochure »


Furniture Care White Paper

Download White Paper »