A look at restaurant furniture trends

Tone-on-tone, texture and a shot of bold colour is in style, and busy patterns with multiple colours are out. The trend is to layer tone-on-tone coloured fabrics and a variety of textures to create less visual chaos and a more luxurious feel. This idea even applies to a sports bar in today’s design market. Add a shot of accent colour in a few of your choice furniture items to add punch and flair. Keep the accent colour solid to create a bold effect. This achieves a timeless look with the majority of your furniture in a tonal palette, while your bold-coloured accent pieces can be altered as trends change.

Setting your table

With the removal of table cloths from the majority of dining establishments, real natural hardwood table tops in 1 1/4” and 1 1/2” thick slabs are all the rage. “The more rustic, the better” seems to be the formula. Wormy maple and wormy walnut (wood with streaks in the grain) are the varieties of choice. No longer is laminate the standard. Due to the availability of less expensive lumber in Canada, the cost of a solid wood top has become more affordable. Often, it is your patron’s first point of contact – they can touch and feel the quality of a slab table. A live wood edge community table that shows the shape of the tree becomes a show piece. This trend originated on the west coast where access to spectacular wood species and sizes has set the standard.

Marble, granite and quartz table tops have also become popular choices as they are both durable and represent higher quality finishes. The durability and clean-ability of natural and manufactured stones  have driven up the popularity of these items, regardless of the additional expense incurred.

Look “booth” ways

Booths that look like a piece of furniture and are built more like couches are making their appearance in all types of restaurants. These days, booths are less likely to be fixed in place and offer greater flexibility. In upscale restaurants, a booth adds a feeling of sophistication and allows for a combination of seating groups or parties, or the ability to close off sections during slower times. In quick-serve restaurants, this design allows greater ability to move items out of the way for cleaning. It is a look also perpetuated by both the ever-growing influence of residential design elements and the need to maintain a sanitary environment.

Leather look

With the ongoing advancements of vinyl fabrics, it is getting hard to distinguish real leather from fake. Synthetic leathers come in a wide range of designs, colours and durability that just can’t be beat. The look of distressed leather is also achievable in vinyl at a fraction of the cost of real leather. The use of faux reptile skin such as alligator and snake is very popular and can be had in a multitude of colours. The look and feel is highly textured and adds a sophisticated global appeal. These options allow unlimited affordable options that can elevate a standard bench or booth to new heights.

Mix it up

Restaurant owners looking to give their regulars a multitude of experiences under one roof are now opting to have multiple types of seating available. This allows patrons to experience their restaurant in many different ways. Switching out some seats for lounge chairs, adding round booths or adding bar stool seating around a community table changes the landscape. With the growing popularity of quick-serve casual, Canadians are getting more comfortable with being seated at community tables, eating side by side with other diners. More comfortable bar stools will encourage patrons to dine at the bar if regular seating is not available on busy nights. The idea is to inspire regulars to return more often by giving them options to enjoy your restaurant through multiple seating arrangements.

Metal on metal

Exposed and finished raw metal in chairs and stools creates an industrial look that is hot, with more and more metal seating options being created by suppliers. Custom chair designs from metal are more affordable than a custom wood option. Wood or metal seats are also extending the life of a previously upholstered seat.

On the flip side, chrome is still a popular choice for added glitz and glam and now more gold metal is finding its way into mainstream restaurants looking to update their design. Metal chairs and stools inspired from 60’s and 70’s high school furniture have crept into current restaurant designs. Retro designs appear modern in today’s marketplace – they say “hip and cool” to their patrons. Comfort may be secondary to diners looking to be seen in the latest on-trend restaurant.

Regardless of what type of restaurant, it seems that the most common trend in 2014 is that anything goes. Many diners are open minded and looking for new experiences that challenge not only their taste buds but their expectations. An eclectic mix of furniture or a single style of table and chair scheme can work for similar types of restaurants in today’s restaurant design landscape. When carefully selected, the options for your furniture package are unlimited, setting the scene for a truly unique dining experience, and specific only to your establishment. Following industry trends will assist owners in making the most appropriate furniture choices for their establishment and will give them years of use and an excellent return on their investment.

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About the author

Steve Forler, a Toronto-based registered interior designer, has been designing and renovating restaurants and retail stores for 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) and is an Associate Member. He established his firm Squarefoot Design Inc. in 2001 to provide creative, common sense interior design solutions for their clients’ restaurants and hospitality projects.