What is Communal Dining?

Over the past few years, you may have noticed an increase in large dining tables in restaurants. In the past tables of this size were usually relegated to the family dining room, but now these communal tables are popping up in restaurants all over the country.

These tables are used to facilitate communal dining, which is the practice of dining with others, usually accommodating more than one party. While they might be reminiscent of cafeterias and beer halls, they have gotten a facelift in recent years. With both indoor and outdoor options designed to work with current trends, these tables help to complete the look of a restaurant, instead of just being a way to save space.

The concept is centered on food and people coming together to share a meal. The sharing of a table helps to break down the barriers of the restaurant and promotes conversation flow among patrons.

Most restaurants never dreamed their patrons would tolerate dining with strangers, but it makes good business sense. The large tables allow restaurants to accommodate large groups more easily. Even when the table is split into several parties, it adds seats, creating a good use of space.

Many cities with a large “foodie” market have seen great success with communal dining tables. Cities like Boston, Chicago, and New York see small groups come in, sit down, and interact with each other. Then they end up discussing the food and end up buying each other drinks and making new friends.

If you have the right space, and think it will work with your concept, there are many options to choose from to fit your look. It is recommended that the tables be large enough to seat from 8 to 12 guests and be at least 30 inches wide to ensure that everyone has enough space for food and electronic devices.

Do you think a communal dining experience would enhance your restaurant? Let us know in the comments below!

Can You Use Wood Tables Outside?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & BarstoolThe simple answer here? No, you should not use hardwood table tops outside your restaurant. Hardwood tables can include any sort of oak, maple, beech, cherry, walnut, or untreated pine woods.

Wood table tops are commonly used in restaurants because of their durability, strength, and the character they bring to your overall design. But to keep them that way, there are some rules you need to follow.

Climate control is crucial for the longevity of wood tables. Wood table tops should be in rooms that are 68°-72° with 40-45% humidity. This is extremely important, even when it comes to adjusting the thermostat (which should be done gradually). Wood tables will crack or warp in rooms where temperatures vary. Abrupt temperature changes, dryness, and humidity can all lead to the wood expanding or contracting, while losing structural integrity.

You should also avoid putting wood tables in direct sunlight, next to heat sources (like radiators or ovens), and under bright lighting. Even wood tops in storage should be in a climate-controlled area to retain their original state. Many customers try to put these hardwood tables under a covering, but the real issue isn’t just the weather; it’s the humidity levels. Climate control is crucial when keeping wood tops in their best condition, making it impossible to use them outside because you can’t control the humidity.

Another reason why you might not want to use wood tables on your outdoor patio is that you’re likely breaking your warranty for that table top. Before you ever put any furniture in your outdoor space, you’ll want to be sure that furniture item is warrantied for outdoor use. This is the best way to protect the investment you’ve just spent to furnish your restaurant.

If the wood look is a must for your restaurant or bar, consider wood look-alike. There are many textured poly lumber options out there that have the look and feel of a wood texture, but don’t require the rigorous maintenance.

Textured Wood Grain Finish Options

How Do I Maintain my Outdoor Restaurant Furniture?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

The sun is starting to shine, more and more of your customers want to eat outdoors. Before you say yes, you need to take a moment to consider the condition of your outdoor furniture. After an off-season spent in storage, there is a good chance they are going to need a little bit of maintenance.

Materials such as aluminum, poly lumber, and teak are commonly used outside because of their durability in outdoor conditions.  By taking a look at each of these materials, and more, we will examine the best ways to maintain and clean your outdoor furniture to not only keep it looking its best but to make sure it lasts for years to come.

Hardware:

Every year before placing your furniture outdoors, you should tighten any loose screws and double check for any missing hardware. As the season continues, be sure to check them intermittently and tighten as needed.

Glides:

This is also a great time to check glides. Replace any that are missing or broken to help protect your flooring and keep your furniture level.

Umbrellas: Umbrellas are a great way to make your outdoor areas more appealing to customers. To keep them looking their best, regularly wipe off loose dirt to avoid it becoming embedded into the fabric. For larger spots, clean with a soft bristle brush, soap and cold water as soon as possible to prevent staining.

Most umbrella poles can be easily wiped down with soap and water. If your umbrella pole has metal joints, then using a spray lubricant will help to increase the life of the pole. For a wooden pole, a paste wax applied with a soft cloth, will restore its shine and create a finish to help protect against scratches.

Wrought Iron/Cast Iron: As with all furniture items, it is good to regularly check for dirt. This can be sprayed off with a garden hose, but it is important to dry it completely with a towel to avoid future rust. To help extend the life of your wrought iron furniture, applying an automotive spray wax once a year can help to create an extra barrier against rust.

If rust does occur, sandpaper can be used to lightly sand the rust and then touchup paint can be used for coverage.

Poly Lumber: For light dirt, some soap and water should do the trick for poly lumber. For more persistent stains, you can use a power washer. If you don’t have easy access to a power washer, a magic eraser also works very well.

One of the biggest benefits of poly lumber is just how easy it is to maintain. Simply check to make sure that no screws have worked themselves loose and you should be good to go.

Aluminum/Stainless Steel: When pulling out your aluminum furniture for the season make sure you check all of the welds. It is important to check these pressure points to ensure safety. While looking at the welds you can look for any nicks or scratches on the coating. If you find some, they can be touched up with a damp cloth and a nonabrasive product, such as Soft Scrub.

Much of the aluminum/stainless steel items on the market today are powder coated and rust proof but be sure to check with the manufacturer before you make assumptions. If the furniture isn’t, you can use a paste wax to help protect the surfaces. When the furniture is in need of a good cleaning, some mild soap and water should do the trick.

Teak: Teak can be a bit of a temperamental wood when it comes to cleaning. To clean it and maintain the color, mix a solution of one cup of vinegar with one gallon of warm water. Apply the cleaning mixture to the teak using a soft plastic brush and gently scrub into the wood. Allow the mixture to sit for about 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.

All teak furniture needs to be oiled once a year to prevent it from losing that beautiful teak color. If you see some water marks appear, they can be sanded with a light sandpaper.

IsoTop and Werzalit Table Tops: A big draw of these table tops is that they can be used both indoors and out. When used outdoors, these table tops are super easy to clean and can be hosed down on your patio using soap and water.

While cleaning, take some time to confirm that your table tops and bases are firmly connected. Flipping the table over and viewing it from underneath is a great way to check the screws and clean any of those hard to reach spots.

Finally, if you don’t use your outdoor furniture year-round it is best to store it over the winter months; it will increase the lifespan of your furniture exponentially.

What is a Patio Umbrella?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

When you own a business, restaurant, or hotel, purchasing strong outdoor furniture is key. Buying well-made restaurant furniture can save you from buying replacements after every outdoor season. And buying a patio umbrella is no different.

A patio umbrella is an umbrella made to be used heavily in commercial environments with higher grade materials. These umbrellas are made to be more durable and resilient to wind, rain, sun damage, or salt spray.

A big difference between commercial patio umbrellas and their residential counterparts is the materials that are used. If you analyze what an umbrella is made of, you’ll have a better understanding if it will give you peace of mind (or not) as a part of your business’s patio.

To give your customers a shaded space on your patio year after year, buying lasting umbrellas for your patio is an important investment. This is not a scenario where it’s safe to grab the first umbrella you see at your hardware store. We’ve put together criteria to remember when it comes to purchasing commercial-grade patio umbrellas. How does your umbrella stack up?

Patio Umbrellas in Sidewalk Cafe

Sturdy frame- A patio umbrella frame should be made of wood, aluminum, or fiberglass. A traditional plastic is not going to have the same strength as these frames. Wood frames, commonly teak, are often chosen for their classic look but require the most care to retain their original integrity. Aluminum frames offer a lightweight structure that are low maintenance and affordable, which could be a good option for you if you’re buying a high volume. Fiberglass frames rely on strong glass fibers embedded in resin to create a pliable material that thrives in windy areas. Fiberglass frames can be pricier but can hold their worth in the long run when it comes to durability.

Canopy fabric quality- Think about it this way. The only thing between your customers and the sun’s rays is the umbrella’s canopy. The fabric quality of your patio umbrella’s canopy, like the frame, should be made with tougher materials for extended use. Canopies should be made from heavy gauge vinyl or marine-grade fabrics like Sunbrella, polyester, or olefin. Materials like these can help better prevent color fading and the breakdown of the fabric.

Strong foundation- The wrong base or stand for your patio umbrella can be a liability for your patio. Not only will your umbrella have trouble providing shade, but a weak base can send your umbrella flying. Take note of your patio umbrella’s recommended base weight to accurately choose your base’s material. Consider bases that are steel-plated or aluminum options that use a gravel filler to add weight.

The details- Be sure to inspect functional parts that help the umbrella tilt, move, and open. These parts need to be made from a hardy material like a powder coated steel to prevent rusting or breaking off, making it impossible to use the functions of the umbrella safely.

If you have any questions about choosing the right umbrella for your patio or pairing a base, please call our customer care team at 800-986-5352 for further assistance.

What is a patio umbrella?

What’s the Difference between Outdoor and Indoor Furniture?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

What makes a piece of furniture better suited for outdoor use versus indoor?

The easy answer is the material, but why does it matter from one material to another what goes outside? It’s all about how that material holds up against weather conditions and how often it is used.

Of course, you can technically place any outdoor chair inside your restaurant and it’s usable. But should you? The answer is no. Much of outdoor furniture is made from aluminum, a softer metal, that is not up to the heavy traffic of being inside a restaurant. Using an outdoor chair inside will lead to replacing your seating way sooner than you would like.

Outdoor furniture is made specifically to hold up to the weather. For example, aluminum is a popular choice for commercial outdoor furniture because it is rust-resistant. Untreated steel does not typically fare as well on patios and will rust when exposed to moisture. Another common example is wood furniture on a patio. It can be tempting to put a reclaimed table top outside, but it is sure to absorb moisture and warp, leaving you out of luck on your investment.

You should always pay attention to these warranties to get the most out of your product when you properly use it. Not adhering to a product’s intended use can void the warranty completely, making it very difficult for you to protect yourself as the buyer if something goes wrong.

Outdoor and Indoor Furniture

When you invest in restaurant furniture, you want it to be reliable and hold up for your customers. This requires action from you as a business owner to use the product for its intended use. By placing furniture where it doesn’t belong, you can damage the integrity of the furniture without realizing and cause injury to your customers. Protect yourself and your customers by knowing the difference between indoor and outdoor furniture and using them properly.

When Is a Good Time to Order Furniture For Your Restaurant?

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Something even the most knowledgeable restaurant owners seem to be unsure of is when they should order furniture for their new restaurant. In the world of express shipping and Amazon Prime, consumers tend to think that they don’t need to order things very far in advance. This is not the case with commercial furniture. When asking yourself “when should I order my furniture?” The answer is: the sooner the better.

Ideally, you should begin your search at around 10 weeks before you want the furniture to arrive. It seems like a lot of time, but it will go by faster than you think.  Starting earlier gives you time to research, place the order, and receive the furniture before your opening.

The time it takes for your furniture to arrive on your doorstep is dependent upon a couple different factors. This first of which is the type of furniture you order. Items that are custom built such as reclaimed booths, or custom vinyl seats, have a production time, where other items might not.

By calling in advance, you can also check the stock of the item you have your eye on. Popular items sell out quickly. Stock fluctuates daily and can affect your expected arrival date. Even if an item says out of stock it is good to call and see when the next shipment is arriving. The earlier you call the better to either reserve your items, or get your name on the preorder list.

Transit time is another factor in your furniture’s arrival. Most large furniture items ship LTL. You’ll want to take into account the location of the place you are ordering from in relation to where you are located. Items traveling from across the United States are going to take longer than items coming from across the state.

Purchasing outdoor furniture can be a little different than purchasing indoor items. If you are looking to get outdoor furniture for the spring/summer season, February is a good time to order. You want to have your furniture before the weather breaks and customers start asking to sit on your patio. Waiting too long to call could put you in the danger zone of not being able to receive your furniture until part way through the season.

It is best to order your restaurant furniture well before your open date, about 10 weeks, to make sure that you can get the items you want, in the time frame that works for you. If you have your eye on some pieces that we offer at East Coast Chair & Barstool, you can get your order started today by calling our Customer Care Team at 800-986-5352.

What types of finishes can be used on restaurant table tops? FAQ’s from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

Restaurant table tops can be finished with any finish available on the market, the question becomes more which should they be finished with. We’ve broken down the ins and outs of the three most popular finishes for solid wood tables to help you figure out what is the best finish to select for your restaurant tables.

Varnish is commonly used in the residential and commercial furniture sectors. Varnish is an oil-based wood finish that has been in use for centuries, while it has been around for some time, it can be a process to use. Before application can begin, all bubbles need to be stirred out of the varnish to avoid being transferred to the table top. When applying, end users should take care not to overbrush. Too many brushstrokes can be visible on the finished product. The varnish also has a slower drying time (ideally 10-15 hours between coats) than that of lacquer, running the risk of dust settling and corrupting the finishing process. Therefore, it has become a common practice to thin the varnish before use. After dry time, varnish is an extremely durable finish for highly used furniture pieces such as bar counters and restaurant table tops. But this lengthy wait time is a drawback for mass production, leading varnish to mostly be used by DIY-er’s and custom residential projects.

Lacquer is a popular commercial finish that comes in a variety of transparent sheens on many restaurant table tops. Lacquer uses resin-based liquid solutions that quickly dry into a hard film when exposed to oxygen by way of a catalytic agent. In the restaurant industry, most lacquer formulations include a catalytic agent. When the lacquer is dried, the catalytic agent allows the finish to form a more protective and durable coating. To apply, lacquer is typically sprayed on with its quick dry time of 5 to 10 minutes making it time efficient for manufacturers. A lacquer finish can easily be repaired with a trip to the hardware store by the end user since the table top normally does not need stripped down. On our table tops, we typically finish them using a three-part application of catalyzed lacquer sealer and top coat.

Polyurethane finish is one of the most durable restaurant table top finishes because of its similar characteristics to plastic. Polyurethane finish takes on many of the positives of varnish and less of its drawbacks. This finish can be oil or acrylic based, depending on the blend, making it chemical resistant and waterproof. This finish is applied with a brush and involves waiting four to six hours between coats. After applied, the polyurethane is harder and more durable than lacquer. You can often find polyurethane finish as an upgraded option because of the detailed processes it takes to apply. While there are different formulations of polyurethane, on our products, we use a commercial-grade formula as a premium on option on all our solid wood table tops.

Finish Comparisons

Which finish should you use on your table tops?

The answer is not so cut and dry. It all depends on what your intended use is for your table tops.

  • If you’ve been collecting antique tables to give your restaurant a certain look, it’s likely they will have a varnish finish because this method has been around for many years. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that these tables are not commercial-grade, which could present structural issues with the table itself in the future.
  • If you’re a restaurant owner in need of basic solid wood tables for a swiftly approaching open date, then a lacquer finish will do just fine. Lacquer-finished tops are easy to repair should something happen to them.
  • If you’re putting quite a bit of money down on specialty tables and want to increase their resistance to water, chemicals, and body oils, a polyurethane finish would be your best option. This modern finish is formulated to resist standing liquids caused by spills and cleaning.

There are pros and cons of all finishes, but in the end what will determine the ideal finish for your table tops is how you plan on using them.

How Do You Attach a Seat to a Chair or Bar Stool? FAQ’s from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

FAQ's From the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

When your furniture arrives, you’ll need to attach the seats of your chairs and bar stools. But don’t worry- attaching your metal or vinyl seats safely and securely is a simple process.

These steps work with any of our standard GLADIATOR chairs or bar stools. Check out this instructional video to walk you through the steps or read the directions below.

To attach your seats to your chairs or bar stools, you will need a powder drill with a Philips head bit, four ¾” all-purpose screws, and safety glasses. The screws are provided in a hardware bag in your furniture box.

Attach Your Seat to Your Chair or Bar Stool:

  • Place your seat on a flat, sturdy surface (like a table top) with the U-shape facing you.
  • Flip the frame onto the seat and line it up. To align the chair and frame as much as possible, you can use the straight, front edge of the seat as a guide.
  • With your drill and screw in hand, you’ll want to begin with the top-right corner of the seat and then work your way to the back-left corner of the seat in a diagonal path. As you make this path, grip where the frame meets the seat to hold the two pieces together and steady them. This helps to keep the seat secure as you’re attaching.
  • Flip the newly attached seat and frame over for use.

If you have any further questions about attaching your seats to your chair or bar stools, please contact our service department at 800-986-5352.

What is the Weight Limit for Restaurant Chairs?  FAQ’s from the Files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

When looking at purchasing restaurant chairs, weight limit might not be the first qualification that comes to your mind but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Your customers will also appreciate your research as they will be the ones using the chairs.

Technically, commercial furniture manufacturers can advertise whatever weight limit they want.  As a consumer, you have to be careful not to be taken in by large weight limits that don’t really mean what you think.  For example, there are chairs on the market that have a weight limit of 1,000 pounds, but they are tested using “static” weight, which means a load that is placed onto the chair and does not move.  Think of gently placing 100 pound bags of concrete on the chair one by one until the chair fails.  If the chair fails after 100-pound then the manufacturer can say that the chair is weight rated up to 1000 pounds.

In a real life, weight is not static.  When is the last time that you saw a customer gently sit on a chair and not move?  It just doesn’t happen.  Customers adjust, reposition, rock back on the legs of the chair, and worse; in other words, their weight is constantly moving or dynamic.  A chair that will support a 1,000 pound static load will only support a much lower dynamic load: probably even less than half as much.

So, what is the weight limit of most commercial furniture?  The short and sweet answer to this question is that the industry standard for most commercial chairs is 250 pounds. That doesn’t mean that is the highest weight that they can support, but it is what they are tested for.

One standardized way of testing a commercial chair is to get it tested by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association, known as BIFMA.  BIFMA creates the industry standards for commercial furniture.  They offer a series of standard tests to rate the weight of a chair. Most BIFMA tests are designed to measure dynamic weight.  For example, the seating impact test consists of dropping a 125 pound weight onto the seat from a height of 2 inches for 100,000 cycles.  The chair must maintain its integrity and serviceability throughout the test in order to pass.

The series of BIFMA tests are meant to mimic a weight load of around 250 pounds, which is why that has become the industry standard. Most manufacturer’s choose to go with the 250 pound weight limit whether they have actually had their chairs tested according to BIFMA standards or not.  Chairs that have been BIFMA tested could have the potential to hold more than the 250 pounds; BIFMA explains this further in their memo on chair weight limits and load ratings. They actually recommend not purchasing strictly based upon load-rating claims as they are not indicative of the life or strength of the chair.

You likely have patrons of all shapes and sizes, so it is important to find chairs that can support them.  Next time you’re in the market for restaurant chairs, you’ll now know what the weight rating is, and how manufacturers arrive at that number.

How Do You Attach a Table Base and a Table Top? FAQ’s from the files of East Coast Chair & Barstool

A column attached to an X-style base.

It’s time. You have received all your furniture, unwrapped it all, and made sure that you have everything that you need. Now it is time to tackle the assembly. One of the most daunting tasks can be assembling table tops and table bases. Don’t worry, attaching a table base and a table top is easier than you might think.

The first step, whether you are assembling an indoor or an outdoor table base, is to take the bottom of the base and attach it to the column. To do this, simply place the column on top of the center of the base and screw the bolt in until it is completely tightened. Next, turn your table top upside down on a flat surface. If you have a single base you will then center the spider. The spider is the smaller, usually square, flat part of the base. Once you have the spider centered onto the table, begin screwing in your eight screws until the top is secure. Each base comes with eight screws per spider. To install this you will need a Philips head screw driver or drill bit.

Purchasing a larger table top might require the use of multiple bases or a double base. You will repeat the process but instead of centering the spider, the bases need to be between 6 to 12 inches from the edge of the table top. This process works for table tops on both table height and bar height bases.

A table top placed on the floor with a base centered over the table top ready to be securely screwed in.

If you are assembling an outdoor table top and base, there are a few adjustments you’ll need to make. First off, most spiders for outdoor tops are an x-shape.(insert picture) Once the column is assembled, place the spider onto a table top that has been turned upside down on a flat surface. With our New England collection, the table is attached using an Alan wrench is provided in your shipment.

The table might have pre-drilled holes that your base lines up with and that you can use to attach the base. Some bases may not line up with the holes depending on your top and base combo. If this is the case, you will have been provided self-tapping screws to allow you to create your own holes. Make sure the base and table top are completely secure before use.

These instructions are based upon the furniture produced by East Coast Chair & Barstool. If you have purchased your commercial furniture elsewhere instructions may vary.

If you are still experiencing issues with attaching your bases and table tops purchased from East Coast Chair & Barstool please contact our service department at 800-986-5352 for help.