The restaurant business is full of questions. Is Pepsi alright? Soup or salad? Cup or bowl? Wheat, white, or rye? Booth or tables? If you’re a restaurant owner, that last question is especially important, since customers’ choice of seating at your restaurant is every bit as important to them as their steak being done medium-rare or having extra napkins on hand when they’ve ordered gyros.
Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that preference for booths or tables for restaurant seating are relatively evenly split. If you don’t have or haven’t considered booths, there are some compelling reasons that you should. Families — especially families with children — tend to like booth seating because it helps to keep their kids corralled. Couples enjoy the sense of intimacy that comes with sitting in a booth. Some folks, especially if they’re the type who like to talk business, read, or write while they eat, appreciate the relative privacy of a booth.
Most restaurants will need a mix of booths and tables. With rare exceptions, tables serve a practical purpose. After all, you can’t just move booths if you have a leaky ceiling, an unexpected party of twelve, or if you’re accommodating a customer with mobility issues. With all their benefits, you’ll still need to take a few things into consideration when deciding how to incorporate booths into your seating.
Consider the size of your establishment: For some establishments like manufactured diners, with their mix of booth and counter seating, tables simply aren’t practical. For most diners and restaurants, from fast casual to formal, a mix is both necessary and desirable, since customers’ seating preferences can change based on the number of people in their party, their relationship to those people, and the purpose of their visit (business versus pleasure). You’ll also want to be mindful of where your seating is situated relative to windows, HVAC vents, baseboards or radiators, and even certain elements of your decor. If lines of sight are important — whether you’re operating a dinner theater, sports bar, or comedy club — be mindful of those as well.
Consider traffic patterns: There are a few considerations here. You’ll want to pay attention to how your customers interact with your space. Is there enough room for them to move comfortably through the dining area? Can they remove their coats without elbowing fellow diners or accidentally knocking over someone else’s shrimp cocktail? Is the area ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant? And think about your servers’ needs. Seating should leave them with ample room to move among tables, sparing enough space to move if they need to dodge a running toddler, a dropped plate, or a customer getting up from the table. There is, admittedly, a balancing act here: you need to maximize square footage to maximize profits, but you should also ensure the comfort and safety of guests and staff. Thinking about that now will spare you headaches later.
Consider the type of booth: Here, we suggest thinking about how the booth fits into the style and space of your establishment. Remember that booths that are wider will give your customers more elbow room and comfort. Seat height can also be varied depending on the degree to which you want to create privacy. Seat depth, as well as the length and width of the table, should also be taken into account. This will seem like a balancing act, and it is. After all, you’re trying to ensure a maximum of customer comfort in a limited amount of space.
Consider materials and cost: First, figure out what’s best for your restaurant. The formica seating and tabletops that are just the right fit if you’re slinging burgers isn’t going to give the same first impression if you’re doing fast casual Mexican, and neither of those approaches will sit well with the patrons of an upscale steak house. Once you’ve settled on a style, decide on your budget, leaving yourself enough room to tack on some additional money if you find a booth setup that’s perfect but costs slightly more than anticipated.
Try before you buy: There are a few key things to look for when you’re making your buying decision. Build quality is front of mind for most people, and for good reason; you’re in business for the long term, and your seating should be right there with you. Consider the dimensions of the booth relative to the size of your restaurant and (let’s be honest) the size of your diners. A feeling of privacy is good; feeling like you’ll need a can opener to get out of the booth isn’t. Also make sure that the booth is deep enough to comfortably sit back in, but not so deep that your shorter customers’ feet dangle above the floor.
If all of this sounds like a lot to consider, that’s because it is. Just like your customers, we know you have questions. We also know that those questions are a lot more pressing than, “Beets, peas, or creamed corn?” You’re concerned with attracting customers, ensuring that they’re happy while they dine with you, and — perhaps most importantly — making sure they come back, preferably with friends and family in tow… all of that while keeping an eye on payroll, expenses, suppliers, and so much more. We’ve been there, and we know the headaches that accompany the rewards of the business. If you have questions about booth seating, restaurant furniture, or restaurant supplies, call us. We can listen, and more importantly, we can help.
Tom Chuong enjoys reading and writing for the restaurant industry. He’s currently working on projects for Seating Expert Inc., a restaurant booths manufacturer in New Jersey. They can also customize furniture for restaurants, bars, hotels, and government agency.