Australia has some of the best dining spaces in the world. With such an incredible variety of landscapes and environments providing a unique atmosphere in which to enjoy exquisite foods and the company of good friends and family taking time to choose the right furniture will provide improved business outcomes.
The dining experience is either enhanced or hindered by the décor, and the furniture selection plays a major role. Obviously, most budgets do not extend to the point of updating the furniture every year so making the right selection is paramount in the continued viability of the business.
This article will provide you with some insights that will assist you as you consider various ideas the next time you are refreshing your dining spaces both indoor and outdoor.
It is generally accepted that 21% of all dining seats are in outdoor areas. This number increases the further north you travel and as the temperatures become more consistent with longer outdoor periods. If you choose to use the same tables and chairs in both spaces, thereby increasing your options and flexibility you should consider the ability of any furniture to endure outdoor conditions. Alfresco type environments at least provide protections from the harsh sun and rain.
Products that should be avoided are laminate tops on tables which hold moisture and upholstered seats for obvious reasons. Moulded and sealed table tops are available in the SM France or the Werzalit brands. These are good brands which have a wide variety of colours, designs, and size options. Compact laminate offers another sound solution, however the price will be a consideration. Of course, solid timber tops are exceptionally eye catching and when appropriately finished and stored, can also be an attractive outdoor and indoor solution. Your café furniture selection should by design be convertible and configurable allowing the dining space to accommodate various party sizes.
I always recommend a variety of size options in any dining space to increase your ability to meet the needs of your guests. Yes it’s easy to put 2, 800mm square tables together to allow 6 people to dine in a group, however in my experience this inevitably means that the 2 tables don’t meet as they should. The ultimate outcome is that your guests become annoyed in their vein attempts to stop the “table wobbles”. I recommend the inclusion of 20% of the tables being 1200mm x 800mm to accommodate the larger groups successfully. Larger round tables are also an option however you should be aware that an 1800mm diameter table for example, will create an increase in chatter volume as people try to communicate across the table. A 1500mm size table is a good compromise.
Café Chairs – Upholstered
The venue décor will determine the chair. A more sophisticated dining experience will see the inclusion of a high back upholstered chair or possibly a low back chair to provide the illusion of the larger space. Upholstery does however bring with it the necessity to undertake a regimented cleaning regime. Even the most expensive commercial grade fabrics will not resist red wine, die from the guest favourite blue jeans or the odd stud that rips the fabric (that is jean studs). I have a strong leaning towards Warwick fabrics, a local provider that has a wide selection for dining environments.
Café Chairs – Non-upholstered
The alternative to an upholstered chair is a timber or PVC moulded seat with either 4 legs or a sled base. A more casual dining space should consider these options. Cleaning is simple and can be done in a timely manner. A wide range of colours or wood stains are available to make the desired décor quite easy to achieve. Although an unupholstered chair can be surprisingly comfortable the inclusion of a fixed seat cushion can provide additional comfort. Often this does not add a great deal to the price depending on the fabric selected. Let me make one further point on the subject of fabric. If you allow some flexibility in your fabric selection you will likely find that your chair supplier can keep the additional cost of fabric quite low if you are prepared to select an “inhouse” fabric. In house fabrics are provided by the factory who buy large quantities to keep the price low, however normally the range is quite limited. It will however assist you to achieve a budgeted price point.
The decision for a sled base versus a 4 leg style comes down to your visual preference. I have not found any great strength variables or any inherent difference one way or the other. Some of my clients prefer a sled base others don’t. If you are selecting a chair with a timber frame you will need to run with the 4 leg style.
Salt and Sun
The 2 things we love about our great country are the enemies of outdoor furniture. A UV resistant element can be present in a PVC chair which will provide some inherent protection against the harsh sun. It should not however be considered as a silver bullet and a life-long protection. It will however keep the furniture looking good for longer.
Salt breeze brings with it problems for mild steel furniture however solutions are available to prolong the life of your investment. Let me list a few
- Galvanised coating being applied prior to a powder coated finish.
- Aluminium frame which will corrode but won’t rust.
- Stainless steel ensuring that a marine grade product is used.
- Fully moulded PVC chair or table
The fully moulded PVC options are becoming more widely available providing sound and visually attractive solutions in outdoor spaces.
Every club, restaurant, bar and café seeks to provide a unique environment and atmosphere. The furniture selection will play a major role in that, in addition to the colour palate and accessories etc. The look and feel of the space will provide the first impression and you will never get a second chance to make a good first impression. A lasting impression is however only supported by comfortable, well throughout and appropriate furniture that goes well beyond look and feel. The task will always be a balance between form and functionality. Those who are able to get that balance right will see their guests come back and bring their family and friends with them.