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!

8 Ways to Retain Restaurant Employees and Keep Them Happy

Staffing is one of the biggest headaches in the restaurant industry. So much so, that 59% of operators named staffing as their top challenge to success. Much of this can be attributed to the high turnover rate experienced by the restaurant industry. According to Toasttab.com, the average tenure of a restaurant employee is one month and 26 days. That is a lot of turnover that is costing your business about $3500 every time someone walks out the door. You might think “Well that is just how the industry goes”. Believe it or not, there are some strategies you can implement right now to increase the tenure of your employees, boost morale, and increase profits.

Measure Tenure

If you have done your work and hired a good staff that you want to keep, the first thing you need to do is start tracking how long your employees have been with your business. Understanding how long an employee stays with you, in all positions, can help you understand what you need to do to keep people. For example, if your average server stays for 11 months, design any incentives you may have around that. Use this information to extend the tenure of your employees. You can implement additional training, recognition, or pay raises at 6, 12, and 18-month intervals to see if it can help to extend the average.

Ultimately, tenure reveals more than turnover does. But you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.

Stay Interviews

Hiring interviews, and occasionally exit interviews, are a common practice, but implementing “Stay” interviews can have huge benefits. Take the time to sit down with a veteran staff member to better understand why they are happy with their job, and why they have chosen to remain an employee.  Also, give them the opportunity to talk about what you can do to sweeten the deal and keep them longer. This can help you put the finger on the pulse of what you are doing right, and some areas that could use improvement.

Memorable First Day

An employee’s first day is just like a first impression; you want it to be a good one. Do your best to demonstrate energy and enthusiasm. Be visibly passionate about the company culture, values, and mission. The easiest way to do that is by creating a great company atmosphere. An employee won’t want to stay long if all the other employees are complaining about their jobs and how much they want to leave.

Re-Recruit

Every shift should be a reminder of why your employee wants to stay with the business. Now, we all have bad days, but do your best to bring focus and energy to every shift. As a leader, you set the tone for the rest of the team. This can be accomplished by really focusing on the company atmosphere. Make sure your restaurant is a place that you and your employees are excited to return to shift after shift.

Encourage Mentoring Culture

By assigning a mentor to a new employee, you create a culture that fosters connection and allows a veteran to share insights they have acquired through experience. New employees can also become easily frustrated when not given the proper training to do their job correctly. Implementing a mentor program can help cut down on this frustration. Try to provide a mentor for every position; a dishwasher can benefit from a mentor just as much as a line cook.

Identify Stressors

Stress is inevitable. You won’t be able to fix every situation, but there are some you will be able to. Do your best to identify stressors and eliminate them if possible. Dissatisfied employees often report feeling that no one is in their corner and they receive minimal support. Talk to your staff regularly about their pain points and ask them how you can help. As an added bonus, this can often lead to improved processes.

Provide the Ladder

Employees become frustrated when they feel as if they are stuck in their job with no room for improvement. Chances are that isn’t the case, they just don’t know what they can do to advance their position. Providing a clear outline of what employees can do to progress is beneficial to them and you. It helps with retention when employees have a clear outline of how they can progress.

Thank Your Staff

It seems too simple, that saying “thank you” would turn things around with an employee. Thanking staff is easy to do but often forgotten. It is an uncomplicated way to let your staff know that you appreciate their work. This will also help to open-up lines of communication between you and your team. Listening to them can give you an insight into problems you had no idea were occurring.

The high turnover rate of the restaurant industry is not only a huge stress to operators and costs a significant amount of money. By listening to your staff, measuring tenure, and improving the atmosphere you can increase employee retention and profits.

Straws: Plastic and Pollution on Our Planet

Plastic Straws in Drinks

 

A little background…

2018 has not been kind to plastic straws. The restaurant and hospitality industries are being encouraged to change the way they use single-use plastic products like straws (“500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the U.S. alone”). In response, many corporations are coming up with alternatives and plans to change the way they use straws.

In 2015, a video was uploaded to YouTube named ‘Sea Turtle with Straw up its Nostril – “NO” TO PLASTIC STRAWS’ by Texas A&M Ph. D. candidate, Christine Figgener. This video has over 32 million views on the YouTube platform, not counting Facebook or other social media views. Although it wasn’t the first, this viral video put a face on the issue of single-use plastic items and raised awareness about the consequences that aren’t considered after a piece of plastic lands in a landfill, ocean, or beach.

Many restaurant owners are being faced with purchasing questions that they will need to answer. Single-use plastic has long been used in the restaurant and hospitality industries religiously for the past fifty years. It can seem difficult to find alternatives, but not impossible.

What’s the issue?

Plastic straws (used in homes, restaurants, etc.) are turning up in the ocean and harming wildlife while also adding themselves to heaping piles of garbage that can’t be recycled.

What are other companies doing about straws in their restaurant?

Food industry behemoths like Starbucks and McDonald’s were some of the first to make headlines in the fight to abolish straws. Starbucks is looking to ditch plastic straws for their strawless lid cup in all locations by 2020. McDonald’s is banning single-use plastic products in their U.K. and Ireland locations while also testing plastic straw alternatives in the U.S. Other players like Aramark, Hyatt Hotels, Fox Restaurant Concepts, Eataly, Shoney’s, the Four Seasons Hotel group, and even Ikea are just a few of the food/hospitality companies are in the process of or have promised to change their straw policies.

What do restaurant owners need to consider?

Consider where your restaurant is. Cities like Malibu and Seattle have already passed ordinances banning plastic straws, forcing restaurant owners to offer an alternative.

Don’t forget to look at your menu. Could you save money by reducing straw distribution? Could you serve your mixed drinks without cocktail straws? Are there alternatives you could use instead? Read on…

 

Plastic and Paper Straws

 

What can I do in my restaurant?

If you’re thinking about making the switch from plastic straws to an alternative, here are some options to consider. There are pro’s and con’s to each alternative so it’s important to choose what is right for your business model and menu.

Sippy-type cup (aka no straws)

Getting rid of straws all together in larger companies seems to be the way of larger corporations (like McDonald’s and Starbucks). While this may seem like a grand and great gesture, it’s also a major point of contention for people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities rely on straws to avoid aspirating liquid into their lungs. Another issue with the strawless lid is the additional plastic that goes into their production. Although no straw is needed in this redesigned lid, the new recyclable lids actually have 0.32 or 0.56 more grams of plastic product than the current lid and straw combo. While this lid is recyclable, it’s still likely to end up in a landfill or in the ocean.

Paper straws

The biggest complaint? The straws get soggy and collapse after a couple sips. The key to finding a good paper straw is to have one made with higher quality materials. Straws from companies like Indiana-based Aardvark focus on materials like special paper with a cleaner carbon footprint and a food-grade safe adhesive to maintain a quality straw. Paper straws are pricier but reduce the plastic consumption. This will hopefully be a better alternative in the future as the technology becomes more widespread.

Metal straws

Not a bad solution, in fact it may be a great one for dining-in situations as they are a little expensive. By using metal, this alternative basically becomes part of your silverware set. If you plan on using this type of straw, opt for those with a bend in them, an important characteristic for customers with mobility issues. The drawback? You may want to also invest in another alternative such as compostable or paper straws for your take-out orders.

Pasta straws

They may be firmer than paper straws and less bendy than plastic straws, but pasta straws don’t have all the answers. These can get soggy and don’t work for customers who have a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.

Compostable straws

These straws have a very similar consistency to plastic straws but are compostable, meaning if they reach a landfill, they will break down. It’s important to note that these straws can be 70% more expensive traditional plastic ones, causing business owners to cringe at this alternative.

Available upon request

For independent restaurants where the decision-making lies with you or your general manager, having straws be available on request can lessen the straws given out. Most people use straws because they are handed one, making them just another step in the dining process. If customers have the need or desire to have a straw, having them available only upon request will cut down on those who just use a straw for convenience. And in the same move, you are still providing an option for those who have mobility issues. Having straws available upon request could also help you save money since you’ll be cutting back on how many you order by not giving them out as freely.

Is your restaurant making moves to sustainably serve your customers? If you are in a straw-banned area, how has it affected your business? Tell us below.

For more information on anti-single-use plastic campaigns, please visit The Last Plastic Straw for more details on what your restaurant can do.

Pairing Beer and Pizza: What You Need to Know

Some things just go together. Foods like PB&J, wine and cheese, and burgers and fries are matches made in heaven. There’s possibly no better pairing than that of pizza and beer. You might be tempted to say “all beers go well with pizza” and you wouldn’t be totally wrong, but some variations are better suited to different pizzas. They can help to enhance the flavors and take your dining experience to the next level.

Craft beer is still taking the country by storm. New breweries are popping up every day with exciting and refreshing new beers. Now is a great opportunity to thoughtfully set up your pizza menu to promote sales of pizza and beer.

I spoke to Cody Kelly, a brewer at Timber Creek Tap & Table on pairing beer and pizza. “Typically, meats go with darker beers and seafood with light. But malt really brings out the flavor in the bread of a pizza,” Kelly said.

With this in mind, we delved deep into the world of pizza and beer to find some perfect pairings.

Cheese Pizza and ESB (Extra Special Bitter)

A plain cheese pizza is a staple at large gatherings and in the homes of picky eaters. Pairing this with an ESB is a great combination. The bitterness helps to cut away the grease and leaves you with a nice cheesy flavor. The beers nuttiness is a natural fit with the slice’s saltiness. The caramel tones in the beer also pair well with a salty taste.

Pepperoni and Black IPA

A black IPA has spicy hops that bring out the pepper flavor in pepperoni, cut through on the greasiness, and prepare your tastebuds for the next bite. A nice dark roast is also able to draw out the smokiness in the pepperoni for an enhanced taste.

Meat Lovers and Scotch Ale

A scotch ale with a caramel taste is the perfect companion to a meat lovers pizza; it can handle the impact of multiple meats in one bite while attracting the sweeter flavors of the sauce and dough. This helps to balance the spicier notes commonly found in pepperoni and sausage. If you can find one with a wisp of smoke it will complement the taste of the meats for a perfect dining experience.

Hawaiian and Blonde Ale

People tend to have very strong opinions about Hawaiian pizza. If you are pro-pineapple, consider pairing your pizza with a nice American blonde ale. The beer’s simple malt sweetness connects with the sweetness in the ham and pineapple but helps to tone down the fruit’s acidity.

Barbecue and Rauchbier

Rauchbier is known for having a smokey flavor, and where there’s barbeque there is smoke. The beers campfire wisps bring some grill flavor to the super sweet barbecue sauce. With a clean lager after-taste the rauchbier refreshes the palate.

Veggie and IPA

The IPA’s of today tend to be very green/veggie oriented, so what better to pair with a garden-inspired pizza. Find an IPA with hops that lean green such as oniony or grassy. The vegetal hops will give crispness to the onions and peppers on the pizza.

Chicago Deep Dish and Zwickelbier

With deep dish pizza, you need a great crust that can support all that food. By selecting a Zwickelbier, which is a less full-flavored variant of a kellerbier, the flavor will highlight the taste of the crust so that it doesn’t get lost in all the toppings.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza and Fruity IPA

It may sound a little crazy, but the fruity notes will help to wash down the spice and goes well with the acidity of the buffalo sauce and blue cheese. It also has a solid malt backbone to pair with the bread.

White Pizza and Light Ale

When speaking of white pizza, Kelly recommended lighter ales. As the name suggests, this beer is lighter in color and lower in alcohol. It is often consumed with meals and will complement the freshness of a white pizza. The malt will help to emphasize the toasted taste of the crust.

 

Whether you are delving into a classic cheese pizza or experimenting with something a little more complex, there is a beer out there to compliment it. Darker beers are great with meat and veggies toppings, while white pizza’s and seafood pies go well with lighter beers. Selecting the right beer to pair with your pizza is a great way to turn a casual night’s dinner into a dining experience.

Let us know your favorite beer and pizza combo in the comments below!

 

 

What is the Difference Between Reclaimed and Distressed Wood Tables?

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

If somebody had told you twenty years ago that, in 2018, restaurants would be lining up to serve their food on tables made from century old barnwood, you probably would have laughed and thought they were crazy.  It’s true!  Everything old is new again, and the trend toward modern rustic decors in the restaurant industry means that old reclaimed wood tables are more popular than ever.  It’s kind of ironic when you think that restaurants, in their race to create the ultimate “Insta-worthy” moment for customers armed with tiny computers that weren’t even possible in the 20th century, are turning to the past for their inspiration.

You may or may not know this, but reclaimed wood isn’t the only way to get a weathered, rustic looking table.  In fact, given the relative scarcity of reclaimed wood, and subsequent higher price, many restaurants are turning to distressed new wood to meet their needs.  In this article, we’re going to talk about both types of wood tables, including what they are, the benefits of each, and when to choose one over the other.

What is Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed wood is old wood that has outlived its intended use – a barn, boat, flooring, wine barrel, etc – and is repurposed for some other use.  Technically reclaimed wood doesn’t have to be old, but older wood is more highly sought after.  Wood from “old growth” trees, such as those that were abundant in the 19th and early 20th centuries has a number of advantages over modern lumber; it is denser than new wood and less prone to warping.

What Are the Benefits of Reclaimed Wood

Character – Character is a word that is often thrown around when talking about reclaimed wood: most often as a euphemism for old and time worn.  The rich colors and patinas that are the hallmark of reclaimed wood can only be had through constant weathering and aging.  Even more, the old nail holes, knots, and natural imperfections of the wood itself add to the unique character of reclaimed wood.

History – Every restaurant has tables, but not every restaurant can say that their tables came from a salvaged barn erected in a field in Ohio in the late 1800’s.  Reclaimed wood is not only prized for its utility, but also for its story.  Even if you don’t know the exact origin of the wood in your table, the fact that it served a completely different purpose for the first half of its life is a worthy story in and of itself.

Uniqueness – No two reclaimed tables are exactly alike because no two reclaimed boards are exactly alike.  Think about that for a moment…in today’s day and age of mass production, it’s still possible to own something that is uniquely yours.  Each reclaimed piece in your restaurant will share the same benefits and characteristics, but no two will look the same.  Even if your table is one hundred percent red oak from the same barn, each board will have weathered slightly different, and will have its own unique coloration, textures, and natural imperfections.

Resilience – What happens to wood in a barn?  It gets banged up, scratched, and dented.  Now quick, what happens to wood tables in a restaurant?  They get banged up, scratched, and dented.  The beauty of reclaimed wood lies in its imperfections.  Unlike a brand new, perfectly stained wood table, reclaimed wood looks ok if it gets a little beat up.  Now that’s not to say that we would encourage damaging your table on purpose, but it is nice to know that one little scratch or dent won’t completely mar the look, it will just add more character.

Environmentally Friendly – One of the biggest benefits of using reclaimed wood is that it reduces the number of new trees that are cut down to be used as building materials.  It also reduces the harmful emissions that are created by logging equipment and the trucks used to transport the lumber to factories for processing.  In addition, it keeps a perfectly reusable resource out of the landfill and gives the old wood a new life.

What is Distressed Wood?

Distressed wood is new wood that has been artificially distressed and/or weathered to make it appear old.  Distressing techniques often include putting nail holes in the boards, creating circular saw marks to replicate vintage logging techniques, or adding a patina to the wood so that it looks like it has aged over decades of use.

What Are the Benefits of Distressed Wood

Consistency – If you need a consistent look throughout your restaurant, then distressed wood is the answer.  While it isn’t mass produced, distressed wood boards tend to look similar in that the same distressing process is applied to all of them.  They may have marks in different spots, but the overall color and pattern of wear is usually the same.

Price – Reclaimed wood is more expensive than distressed wood because it is labor intensive, and due to supply and demand pressures.  As the demand for reclaimed wood has blown up in the past 5 years, the price has risen; there are only so many old barns available to reclaim.   If you are looking for a rustic look without paying for reclaimed wood, then look at distressed wood.

Colors – Distressed wood can be stained to whatever color you want while keeping the characteristics of the wood, whereas reclaimed wood looks best in its natural color.

Reclaimed vs Distressed Wood Table Tops

Should I Choose Reclaimed or Distressed Wood for My Restaurant Tables?

The answer to this is, as always, it depends.  If you are looking for an authentic rustic look with a story behind it, then reclaimed wood is definitely the way to go.  If, on the other hand, you’re budget conscious and just want consistently great tables that look vintage, then you can’t go wrong with a distressed wood table.  Either way, your customers will start taking out their phones to snap away as soon as they enter the place.

If you need help figuring out what type of table would work best for your restaurant, give our customer care team a call at (800) 986-5352 and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Introducing the Toledo Backless Bar Stool

Toledo Backless Bar Stool

Design is cyclical, and this draftsman-esque bar stool has made its way back around. You’ve probably even seen a similar backless style pushed up against a kitchen island in the current issue of your favorite home magazine. While Toledo stools all over are bringing vintage metal work back into kitchens and dining rooms, it’s also finding its place in restaurant design. Using a 16-gauge steel frame and industrial-era finish, the Toledo Backless Bar Stool can bring the same mid-century look to your restaurant with commercial-grade strength.

Toledo Backless Bar Stool Finishes

This bar stool has a stylized metal seat, a 360° swivel, and an ornate foot metal foot ring that completes the vintage feel. The Toledo Bar Stool sits fixed at commercial bar height; it has a height adjustment lever that is purely intended to complete the vintage look and is not functional.

Backless bar stool designs are great for smaller bar areas because they take up less space by being backless. The ornate foot ring at the bottom of the Toledo gives it a larger footprint, letting your customers still have wiggle room.

The Toledo Backless Bar Stool has a niche look that you get to customize! First, choose between an antique gray and rustic brown finish, then, choose your seat. You can either leave the seat as the standard metal or upgrade to a vinyl, urban distressed wood, or reclaimed wood seat. With so many options to choose from, you can be sure that the Toledo bar stool will match your bar space or table tops.

See the Toledo Backless Bar Stool and other restaurant furniture with the industrial look here.

How to Update Your Menu to Better Serve Your Customers

When to Change Your Restaurant Menu

You probably got into the restaurant industry because you love food, right? You’ve come up with a great concept and menu, there are customers in your seats, and you’ve developed some regulars. But how do you keep customers coming back for more?

The restaurant and food industries are an ever-changing landscape of ideas, food, and flavors rushing together, with fads that last a day and methods that are used for centuries. Change is imminent in these industries because consumers get bored and are ready to move on to the latest and greatest concept. Restaurants that are complacent with their food offerings are doomed to lose the public’s interest.

Customers look for new, fresh, and exciting items to order when they come to your restaurant. And unless you’re a famous mom and pop diner that has had the same menu items since 1953, it doesn’t matter how great your food is. Changing your menu will help entertain regular customers and attract new ones, which will put your restaurant in a sweet spot for innovation.

To keep your profits and restaurant in the green, doing a menu analysis is worth the time and manpower. Think of it like a professional sports team; you have your all-stars, rookies, regular starters, and the players who just aren’t quite cutting it. Look at these so-so players before you trade them for something that will perform better. Is there any way you could rearrange them to help them perform like changing their price point, the season you’re in, etc.? If the answer is no, make room on your menu for an item than can do the job and keep you profitable. Take the opportunity to analyze the following about items on your menu:

  • What’s doing well on your menu?
  • What hasn’t been popular?
  • Is a dish costing you too much?
  • Are you making enough on a dish?
  • Are these ingredients too seasonal to keep the item profitable all year round?

Answering these questions can help you really put each of your menu items under a microscope and analyze their performance in your restaurant. It is important to pull your general manager and purchaser in on the breakdown to help you through the process of what stays and goes. Don’t forget to also consider what your waitstaff thinks since they will be the ones “selling” your menu to customers. By being on the front lines, your waitstaff are also helpful in gauging customer reaction and how often they convert to the new items.

Cafe Menu

Keep in mind, these menu analyses should be conducted once a year (at minimum) for price and twice a year for seasonal items. Revisiting old and new items will keep your restaurant on top of what the hot items really are and what’s working when you introduce seasonal items.

Go Crafty.

Changing your menu does not mean going back to square one, and it’s important to keep fan favorites around. If your restaurant is best known for its burgers, don’t replace them with poke bowls. But, what you could do is add a barrage of new toppings for your burgers. Add pineapple, mac and cheese, or a specialty sauce. Get creative! This will keep your burgers interesting and lessen the chance customers will grow tired of stagnant fare.

Digital World.

It’s easier now than it ever has been to let your customers know what to expect when they eat at your restaurants. According to OpenTable, “86 percent of diners regularly check out menus online before dining out”, which could make or break their decision. Use Facebook or your website to post your regular menu and hype new specials, allowing new and old customers alike to stay in the know about what they can expect when they make a trip.

Make it Special.

Another way you can switch up your menu without recreating the wheel is to add a specials list. This can be where your seasonal and new items are housed while leaving the rest of your menu as it is. By only changing up a handful of appetizers, entrees, and desserts, you can have a consistent purchasing strategy and only worry about oddball ingredients with what’s going on the special portion of your menu. It can also allow you a section to play with trends, without going all in.

Drink Seasons.

Changing up your menu should not be limited to only food items. A cocktail list is a great space to enhance your profits with seasonal or trendy items. Like with food, you don’t have to completely order new ingredients for these drinks, just add a splash of seasonal flavor. Add peppermint during the holidays, pumpkin or apple in the fall, or even more tropical fruits like pineapple or mango in the summer. People are more likely to shell out for the added expense of a seasonal drink over a dish to get in the “spirit of the season”, making the right seasonal cocktail lineup a must. If you don’t already have a revolving door of drinks, drink menus should be updated at least quarterly to give guests something new to try.

Varying your menu based can help bring in new customers but still maintain regulars. Online promotion, special lists, and rotating drink menus, along with regular menu analysis, can help your restaurant stay vibrant and profitable for years to come.

The Complete Guide to Buying a Booth

Most restaurants and bars have at least some booth in their dining area, which is no coincidence because booths offer many benefits like comfort, privacy, and more space for customers. With their soft padded seats and backs, booths enable customers to sit back, relax, and fully enjoy their meal. The additional padding, paired with a high back, also helps to block sound and keep conversations confined to the booth, giving more privacy to patrons.

Booths are a favorite of customers, and the average customer spends more while sitting in a booth than at a table and chairs. According to a study by Cornell University on The Impact of Restaurant Table Characteristics on Meal Duration and Spending, booths received the highest spending per minute compared to other types of table and seating arrangements. On average diners spend $2.00 more per person.

With all the benefits booths have to offer, they are an important element of your restaurant. But, with so many options to choose from, it is hard to know where to start when deciding which booth is right for you. In this booth buying guide, we will walk you through the process: picking a design, selecting the materials, and placing your order.

Sizing

The most important dimension in the sizing of a booth is its length. The standard booth length is 48”, but larger sizes are common as well; a good rule of thumb is to allow at least 24” per person. From there you have the option of how tall you want the back. Back heights usually start at 36” and go up to 43”, which is the most commonly chosen height. Heights can be customized as well.  If you want additional privacy, you could choose a booth that is 60” or even taller.

Do you have an area of your establishment that doesn’t fit perfectly with the booth sizing we currently offer?

That’s Okay. We can make a custom size booth for you. All we need are measurements and a diagram

of what you want it to look like. If you want a large booth, for example, to cover an entire back wall of a

restaurant, then it will be made in 8-foot sections that then can be put together to create one long

section. We can customize any booth to fit your needs.

Shapes

To achieve the perfect fit you’ll need to consider what shape you want your booth to be. There are three traditional shapes for booths. The most common is the straight booth, which is exactly what it sounds like. The majority of restaurant booths are straight. It can be backed up against a wall or positioned with its side against a wall or window. It can also be double sided, so that you can use 1 booth to seat customers at 2 tables.

The second shape is the L-shaped booth, which is two straight booths pushed together to form an L shape.  L-shaped booths work well in corners and in areas where you want to create private little dining nooks.

The third shape is a U shape. It is three straight booths arranged to look like a large U.  It is commonly used to create small private areas that can seat entire families.

The fourth and only booth shape that we do not currently make, is a circle booth. We do this so our booths can be made in a timely fashion and can be sent to our customer as quickly as possible.

Materials

Once you determine the size and shape of your booth, you can now choose your materials and options. A few materials come standard in every one of our booths, including 2.5 pound density foam and high quality no-sag springs. Many other booth manufacturers use 1 or 1.5 pound density foam, a much thinner material that won’t be as comfortable, nor hold up as long. The higher density allows for more use without losing any integrity. We chose to use this foam to give our customers the best quality and value possible.

Our foam also meets the California fire code requirements.

An integral part of determining a booth’s durability and comfort is the springs. We use no-sag Leggett and Platt springs. These springs have a unique coil design that is responsible for the no-sag feature. In addition to these high quality springs we use paper covered wires that string from one end of the seat to the other. We do this for an added layer of stability and protection. If by chance one of the heavy duty springs does break (which is unlikely), the extra wire will hold it in place so that the user doesn’t feel a broken coil.  It also reduces the chance that the coil could poke through the vinyl.

 

Frame

All of our booths are made using wood, not particle board, which provides additional support and a longer lasting product.  Be wary of purchasing a booth that is framed with particle board, as it won’t be as strong.

The industry standard life of a booth is between 3-5 years.We warranty our booths for 10 years against structural problems because we are so confident in their construction.

The insides of our booths are constructed from solid beech and beech plywood. Any wood that can be seen on the outside of the booth is made of either solid beech or solid red oak, stained in the finish of your choice. The difference between these two wood types is the grain. Beech has a less pronounced grain giving it a more modern look while oak has a more noticeable open grain, achieving a more traditional wood look. Both woods are comparable in hardness and durability, so quality is not a factor in the decision-making process; it’s more about personal preference.

 

Cover

Next, you have to choose how you want to cover your booth. Most restaurants choose to cover booths in vinyl because it is a durable and easy to clean material that works well in a commercial setting. When selecting vinyl there are a few basics to guide you in your search. The thicker the vinyl (which is measured in ounces) the more durable.  The durability of a vinyl can also be expressed in a measurement called a double rub, which are a

measurement of a fabric’s abrasion resistance.

Double rubs are found through a mechanized test called the Wyzenbeek test, where a piece of cotton is stretched over a mechanical arm and passed back and forth over the fabric in each direction. Each back and forth motion is considered one double rub. The cotton duck passing over the fabric simulates the wear of a fabric being used as a seat cushion. The test is run in sets of 5,000 double rubs until the fabric shows “noticeable wear.” Anything between 15,000-30,000 double rubs is considered heavy duty and suitable for commercial use.  We use Naugahyde vinyl, which is made in the US and is certified for 250,000 double rubs.

We have many color options available to our customers.  We don’t stock every color, but if you would like to see a sample, you can contact the company that makes the vinyl and they will send you samples free of charge.

Perhaps vinyl isn’t your taste and you would like to have your booth covered in fabric instead.  If so, we can accommodate you. If you source your own fabric, you can send it to our production facility in Mercer, PA, and we can upholster your booth with it.  Be aware, however, that not all fabric is suitable for commercial use, so it’s important to check the fabric for its recommended use. Fabric is also tested in double rubs, you can check this number to see if it can be used commercially. Please note we do not offer a warranty on cloth fabrics because they are less durable than vinyl.

Finishes & Stains

Once you decide on the type of wood you would like, you need to choose what color wood finish would fit the style of your business best. We offer five different wood finishes for our standard, solid wood booths: walnut, cherry, natural, mahogany and black. If you have your heart set on an Urban Distressed or reclaimed wood booth, you have additional finish options available.

Extras

Finally, after you’ve selected all of your materials, you still have a few additional customization options available. Would you like to add some texture to you booth? Consider 3-channel seaming, two strips of piping that divide the back of your booth into three sections and add a linear visual to your overall aesthetic. You can use the same color vinyl or select an accent color for the piping to really make your booth pop. Another option is a pillow top. Similar to the look of a pillow on a bed, a pillow top is additional cushioning at the top of the back that provides additional comfort and texture. Finally, some booth designs can be fitted with a coat hook. This can be a useful addition to hold not only coats but women’s purses. Or perhaps, some vintage style tufting. All of these options are available for an additional upcharge.

We have compiled a few tips and tricks to help you make the ordering process even smoother.

Tips

Start Early

It is best to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. For a custom order, plan on a 4-6 week production time, plus the time it takes to ship to your location.  We often see restaurant owners who are so busy with the other tasks of opening/renovating a restaurant, that they wait to order their furniture until a week or two before the grand opening and end up having to sacrifice the look they want so they have seating for customers.  You’ll want to be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to have your establishment looking perfect before the inspection or grand opening, so factor this timing into your calculations.

Production for a custom order does not begin until you approve the invoice in writing, so that you know exactly what you’re getting. Once that signature is completed, the 4-6 week production time starts. Please note that custom orders cannot be returned.

Do Your Research

It sounds like common sense, but search for something that you like, and don’t settle. The internet is full of examples of beautiful booths; gather a few and present them to your customer service specialist to help them better understand what you are looking for. We do have an album that displays our previous custom booth orders on our Facebook Page to help you get inspiration. Pinterest is another useful place to search for ideas. Another low-tech option is to go to restaurants near you to take a look at their furniture. If you find something you like, take pictures, and share them with your Customer Care Specialist.

Know Your Space

Knowing where you want to place your booth is a great start when getting ready to order. Where do you want the top of your booth? It is important to measure for yourself so you can get a visual on the height and width of the booth. What is 36 in. in your head might not be what an actual 36 in. booth looks like, so take the time to measure it out for a clearer understanding. Most windows are about 36 in. in height from the ground, something you’ll want to think about when choosing your booth area. If you want to put your booth under a window, this height could work for you. If not, you might want to consider something taller. These are all things to consider when looking at sizing.

If you have a particular area in mind for your booth it is always good to measure that area. You can then give this information to your customer care specialist and they can make sure to note that for our Amish craftsmen to consider while designing/building your booth. Something to consider is if you have a 40 in. space your booth needs to be a little smaller to allow for the padding and the vinyl that covers it. Please speak to your Customer Care Specialist about this matter. If you are concerned about sizing, a drawing with measurements could be helpful in making sure your booth is as precise as possible.

Do not forget to account for “wiggle room.” It is important to allow enough space for your customers to enter and exit the booth.

Booths have a variety of benefits for both customers and restaurant owners.  Customers enjoy the comfort and privacy that a booth provides, while owners take advantage of the fact that booth customers tend to spend more money…it’s a win-win.  East Coast Chair & Barstool booths are made of highly durable yet comfortable materials and are handmade by our Amish craftsmen to your specifications. We are confident that you will be pleased once your booth(s) arrives at your door.

Once you have thoughtfully considered all of your options and are looking to order a booth give us a call at 800-986-5352! You will be connected with one of our customer care specialists who can help guide you through the ordering process.

 

Custom Upholstery Options at East Coast Chair & Barstool

A great way to communicate your restaurant’s unique approach is by considering custom upholstery for your booths, seating, and one of a kind items. You might be thinking to yourself that custom usually means expensive. Fortunately, because of our in-house team of craftsmen, we can offer our customers one-of-a-kind looks at affordable prices.

Booth Options

While we do offer a selection of quick ship booths, where our Amish craftsmen really shine, is in our custom upholstery options. Whether it is on a booth, seat, or a completely custom product, our custom upholstery options can take your design to the next level. Whether you are envisioning a funky vinyl color or a reclaimed wood booth with fabric backing and a coat hanger, we can make it happen.

Fabric and Vinyl

On our restaurant booths, you can choose from a wide variety of colorful vinyl options to find the perfect fit for your look.  Our vinyl starts at 26-ounce weight and can vary depending on your vinyl choice. All vinyl comes with a 1-year warranty.

 

An Amish-craftsman creating custom vinyl buttons for a tufted booth.

Perhaps vinyl isn’t your taste and you would like to have your booth covered in fabric instead of vinyl; we can accommodate you. You can also send us your own fabric, which we can use to upholster your seating as long as it is commercial grade. Not all fabric is suitable for commercial use, so please be sure to check the fabric you select for its recommended purpose.

 

Piping

Adding piping to your booth gives it just that little bit extra to tie your look together. Piping is extra vinyl that is put over the booth seams to create almost an outline of the booth. The sky is the limit when selecting colors. Matching piping to the booth color looks great and so does choosing a different color. It mostly depends on what you’d like your booths to say about your restaurant.

Tufted

One of our newest custom offerings is our tufted backs. Our many vinyl options can be used to cover buttons which are then each individually placed on the back of a booth to create a beautiful tufting pattern. This tufting not only creates a unique texture but gives the booth an upscale aesthetic that will take your design to the next level.

Seating

Seats

Booths aren’t the only products that can get custom upholstery. Many of our metal seating options can be customized as well. Any furniture with a vinyl seat can be customized. Love our signature Viktor, Gladiator, and Simon chairs and bar stools but want to offer your customers something comfier than a hard metal seat? Vinyl cushions can be added to your furniture to accommodate your clientele.

Totally Custom

With our in-house team of skilled Amish craftsmen, East Coast Chair & Barstool is able to create some totally custom products. For example, a customer recently requested an ottoman with a tufted top made of fabric. Their burlap style fabric with tufting not only looks great but can be used as storage too. The sides of the ottoman also are engraved with the customer’s logo.

Custom upholstery can add about 2-3 weeks to production time, but if you are willing to wait you’ll have a totally unique item to help your restaurant stand out from the rest. To guarantee your order arrives with time to spare, give our sales team a call at 800-986-5352 to explore all of your options.

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?