Six Ways to Use Reclaimed Wood in Your Restaurant

You may have noticed recently that using reclaimed wood is all the rage. It’s vintage, it’s trendy, it’s hipster. Not only is reclaimed wood pleasing aesthetically, but it is a green product. By re-purposing old barn rafters and flooring, you are giving new life to the lumber. If the wood was not used again, it would end up in a landfill and eventually turn to dust, or it would be burned sending smoke pollution into the air.

Some people might have concerns that the wood might not be as strong since it has been previously used. What you might not know is that reclaimed wood is actually a stronger product than virgin lumber. It also saves energy. It takes fewer natural resources to use reclaimed wood than it does to use new forested trees for a project.

Also it just looks really cool. With such awesome stories behind where the wood came from, how could you not be intrigued? So here are tips on how to incorporate reclaimed wood into your restaurant.

1.Table tops/Counter tops


One of the easiest ways to bring some reclaimed wood into your space is by using it for your table tops or counter tops. Reclaimed wood table tops bring a softer look to your restaurant, and can offer a rustic charm to your décor. The same can be said of reclaimed wood bars. When put with the right décor and can really make a place stand out. And it is one heck of a conversation starter.

2.Seats

 

A rust colored chair with a reclaimed seat.

A rust colored chair with a reclaimed seat.

If you want to match your new table tops or just are not quite able to afford an overhaul of your furniture consider purchasing reclaimed wood seat for your chairs or barstools. Reclaimed wood seat tops on a metal café chair can give you an industrial vibe with a twist. You are saving the environment one step at a time.

3.Wall paneling

 

Found on afflante.com

Found on afflante.com

If you have a passion for reclaimed wood and design, using reclaimed wood wall paneling might be a perfect fit for your space. Using wood paneling is not a new technique, but has recently come back in to style and add interest to a previously blank wall.

4.Shelves

 

Found on http://www.remodelista.com

Found on http://www.remodelista.com

No ready to commit to an entire wall of wood paneling? That’s okay. Consider using the same old barn wood for shelving. You get additional storage, dress up some wall space, and are doing your part to save the environment, clearly a win-win-win situation.

5.Display Cases

 

Reclaimed Display Case

Reclaimed Display Case

If you have any signature items or merchandise that you want to display in a classy way, consider purchasing a reclaimed wood display case. These cases are a great way to show off your items while adding a contemporary rustic aesthetic to your space.

6.Flooring

Probably one of the most common uses of reclaimed wood is to repurpose it for flooring. Doing this is a wonderful Eco-friendly option. The refining process is a little more complicated if you want to use it for flooring. Nobody wants to have uneven flooring. So the wood has to be re-milled and sawn into new smooth planks for use. A lot of times this process takes away a lot of the beloved characteristics of old barn wood that people love. For this reason some establishment owners may choose to also incorporate their reclaimed wood in to other pieces. This allows them to complete the look they are searching for.

So whether you are ready to make the leap towards an entire wall of wood or simply want to add a few accent pieces, reclaimed wood adds character and style to any venue. Not to mention the peace of mind knowing you chose an Eco-friendly option, all while fulfilling your dream of managing a beautiful bar or restaurant.

TOLIX® Model A Chair History and Its Replica, Our “Viktor”

Have you been seeing a resurgence in industrial chic interior design? So have we!  The combination of cool metal furniture with warm wooden accents join forces to pull off something organic and awesome. Popular especially in cafes and bistros, the use of classic steel furniture is both vintage and urban.  We know what’s hot in restaurant design today, so we’ve created an inexpensive replica to the famous TOLIX® Company Model A chair that you’re seeing a lot of lately. This vintage seating design has inspired one of our newest furniture lines!  We call ours Viktor, but here’s a little history of how the Viktor came to be.  Because you shouldn’t have to pay tall prices for good design…agree?

According to the company’s website, the original chair was first created by French designer Xavier Pauchard (1880-1948) in 1934, who started the company TOLIX® to produce galvanized metal household items after WWI.  He soon began using sheet metal to build chairs and stools, and he trademarked his company’s brand in 1927.  The Model A chair was born, and matching stools soon followed.  Pauchard was entrepreneurial, and the furniture he built soon became popular mainstays across many residential and commercial settings, including offices, hospitals, museums, and cafe terraces.  Their international popularity peaked in the late 1950s, when the company’s 80 workers were producing 60,000 units annually.

The TOLIX® Company stayed in the Pauchard family until the early 21st Century. In 2004, Chantal Andriot bought the brand and began its revival.  She recruited new designers to re-invent the functionality of the vintage French industrial chair to meet today’s tastes and market expectations. With new technology and manufacturing processes in place, the Model A chair has once again found unfailing popularity across the globe.

Because many of the restaurant owners who turn to us for their furniture needs began asking about this same design, we talked to our manufacturers about creating a similar chair at a fraction of the price without infringing on the original artist’s label.  Enter Viktor. This chair is an affordable alternative to the name brand and is proof that we care about what our customers are looking for in terms of quality and style. We listened, so you can put the Viktor steel restaurant chair, bar stool, and backless bar stool to work in creating the industrial chic and urban atmosphere your restaurant decor demands.

Our Viktor line has been commercially weight tested and is made of 16-gauge rolled and stamped steel.  With a ten-step finishing process, the restaurant furniture shows off its characteristic abrasions and markings, which are topped off with a clear powder coat finish.  The full sigma welds ensure its industrial strength, and Viktor comes complete with non-marring rubber glides to protect your restaurant’s floor.  We also wanted to give restaurant owners the ease and flexibility by making sure that the steel restaurant chair could stack on top of one another. Our owners are really pleased with how well this chair has been designed to meet our customers’ aesthetic and functionality needs.

What’s more, we had a special employee-only naming competition internally at East Coast Chair & Barstool to name this new line. With a gift certificate on the line, one of our customer care specialists, Kerry, took the honor with her name recommendation of Viktor, which stuck.  Now when you see an industrial chic steel restaurant chair, you’ll just smile and think to yourself, “that’s Viktor!”

Are you interested in our other sources of inspiration? From following popular trends to creating original designs, East Coast Chair & Barstool continues to grow its own restaurant furniture lines. Let us know what you’re interested in learning about next!

Source:  http://www.tolix.fr/en/pages/1-history

See how the Viktor can be the center of your restaurant’s design!

Restaurant Booths: What Features Should You Consider?

Buying restaurant booths for your cafe, restaurant, or dining hall can seem complicated at first.  You might be overwhelmed with all the available options or different upholstery choices.  Here, we break down the options and features to make your purchase as simple as possible!

First, let’s talk size.  What size restaurant booth fits your space and style?

Commercial restaurant booth

Standard double restaurant booth features vinyl upholstery.

  • Single v. double:  Do you know the difference between a single and a double?  A single is merely one booth bench – the back is flat and can be placed against a wall if desired.  A double booth has two back-to-back benches.  Double booths can save you money if you are creating back-to-back seating along a wall.
  • Length: A standard booth is 48″ long.  That booth seat length comfortably sits 2-3 people.  A single person booth seat is available for order at 24″ or 36″; these smaller booths are often called deuces, because paired with the opposite bench or a chair, the table configuration seats a total of two people.  Many restaurants mix the standard booths with deuces to create more flexibility in seating and take advantage of space constraints.  Plus, if you have deuces in your restaurant, two-person parties won’t eat up more seats than necessary, and also, deuces tend to produce a quick table turnaround time.  When choosing seating lengths, keep in mind that you need about 20″ per person.
  • Seat depth: Booths tend to be a little roomier for guests than the average restaurant chair, which usually has a 16-17″ seat depth.  Most booths on the market offer an 18″ seat depth, and our booths feature a 19″ seat depth for ultimate comfort.
  • Overall height: The height of booths are measured from the ground to the top of the back – the overall largest height of the booth.  A standard booth tends to be 42-43″ high.  However, shorter booths are available at 36″, and taller booths are also available for order at 48″ high.  When creating your space, height is a critical element.  Do you want to create social flow?  Have windows that you do not want obstructed? Going for an open and airy atmosphere?  If so, you will want to consider the shorter booth height.  But if you are trying to create privacy or a more cozy, intimate seating for your guests, then a taller booth height is ideal.  Consider your brand and the style of your space before choosing the right overall height of your booths.
  • Table size: We recommend pairing a standard 48″ long booth bench with a 30″ X 48″ restaurant table top.  We also recommend using that table with either a booth mounting base or two 5″ X 22″ end bases, however a 24″ disc base or a 30″ X 30″ x-style base could also be used.  Keep in mind that you will want the same length table as your booth bench, so they match up.  If you need help selecting the correct table base, please let us know!

Secondly, let’s consider your upholstery and finish options.

  • Vinyl: Did you know that vinyl is measured by weight in ounces to determine its quality?  The higher the ounce, the better the grade of vinyl, and the more durable it is for commercial uses.  The ounce weight is measured by linear yard.  In addition to ounce weight, manufacturers and vendors of vinyl-made products often introduce a scale to measure their own product qualities.  These scales are not necessarily uniform across the entire industry, so the key factor in comparing vinyls between competitors is looking at the difference in ounces.  Sometimes, you’ll see Grade A, B, C, etc. vinyl, and sometimes, you’ll see Grade 1, 2, 3, etc. vinyl.  Most hospitality industry vinyls are named in the Grade 3-7 range, and higher grades outside that range would be a marine grade vinyl (such as that you’d find in a boat).  A normal ounce weight range would be 22-37 ounces for a standard commercial vinyl.  The better grades of vinyl feature stronger backing to prevent rips and tears.   On our restaurant booths, you can choose a standard 22-ounce vinyl, or select from different vinyl lines which come in higher quality grades.  Most vinyl restaurant booths come with a 1-year warranty on their upholstery.  It’s important to note that the type of stitching and seams used can decrease the amount of wear in certain spots on the booth.  Vinyl can wear over time, and it can even rip and tear.  It’s a great economical choice for your restaurant booths and can be replaced relatively easily.
  • Fabric:  Fabric upholstery on your booths adds more style.  Because fabric comes in a number of patterns and designs, fabric offers many new looks to your restaurant booth.  Sometimes, restaurants can even supply their own fabrics for a custom designed restaurant booth. Fabric tends to ignite a more upscale feeling than vinyl.  Sometimes, booths have vinyl seats but feature a fabric back.
  • Plastic/Laminate:  Economically speaking, a plastic/laminate booth is often the least expensive option.  That’s why they pop up in pizza joints and ice cream shops a lot.  They also have a home in many quick service restaurants, much like your favorite fast food chains.  They are popular at snack bars and in cafeterias.  Offered in very simple designs, there are typically no upholstery or cushion options with a plastic/laminate booth. We currently do not offer a plastic/laminate booth, but we can help you find a vendor if that is the right booth look for you.
  • Wood:  Is your restaurant decor more rustic?  Trying to create a warm, traditional vibe?  Want to add booth seating in a more classical, or even upscale, way?  Wooden restaurant booths might fit your brand the best.  Or, consider adding wood trim to your upholstered booths for a more detailed and finished look.  Once you know wood is going to be visible on your booths, you’ll need to choose what wood species will give you the right look!  Oak, maple, and cherry are popular hardwood finishes for booth construction.  Oak is probably your most traditional wood finish and looks great in country, rustic decors.  Maple offers a lighter, brighter finish, great for contemporary or more spatial, open designs.  Cherry provokes a more upscale or fine dining sense.

Next, let’s look at all the style options.

  • Crumb strip:  Have you ever been part of the waitstaff or a bus team at a restaurant?  Then you know how tricky it can be to really clean off the booth seats, when crumbs fall in the crack between seat and back, especially, when you are standing in the aisle and trying to reach in the back corner to get a good swipe of your rag.  Restaurant staff will love the addition of a crumb strip, which leaves room behind the seat and below the back to wipe out all the crumbs.  Your customers will notice a clean restaurant, and I’m sure your Health Dept. inspector will be impressed, too!  By adding functionality with just a narrow strip on your restaurant booth designed to catch loose crumbs, you can save your staff time and create a cleaner restaurant.
  • Channel design:  The back of a booth can be visually divided with vertical seams to create multiple channels.  We offer a three-channel booth design in our quick ship restaurant booth program.  The most common channel-back designs feature 3, 4, or 6 vertical channels.  However, you can find horizontal channels or even V-back channel designs.  Channels are separated with seams or stitching to provide linear division for aesthetic appeal.
  • Head roll: Many booth sellers create a head roll option.  A head roll is a long horizontal piece that runs at the top of the booth back.  It can either be similar to a cushion or pillow that sticks out further from the back or simply be a change in color, fabric, or pattern than the rest of the booth back to add another type of aesthetic appeal in some designs.  We currently do not offer a standard or quick ship booth with head roll, but we are willing to do custom work and can discuss your head roll needs when building your booths.

Finally, what custom choices do you need in your booth?

Do you have specific needs for your restaurant booth design?  Perhaps, you want a 54″ length to fit larger parties, or you want the booths to be bar height, so you can use your bar height table bases.  What you want and what your space demands matters when you order your restaurant booths.  We are here to help and can most likely match your design needs.  Your satisfaction is important to us.  Our custom-made projects produce some of our favorite items!  We’ll be happy to discuss the options with you.

Did this article help answer your questions about purchasing the right restaurant booth?  Let us know your feedback!

Mr. Hero Gets a Fresh New Look with Help from East Coast Chair & Barstool

From our news desk…

Restaurant Chair for Mr. Hero RestaurantsWhen Mr. Hero Restaurants, a network of specialty sandwich quick service restaurants in Northeast Ohio, needed a fresh new look in their 89 chain stores, they turned to the Internet to see who could help.

“When we found East Coast Chair & Barstool online and saw that they had started very humbly as a husband and wife duo from the basement of their home and have grown into a company generating multi-million sales dollars, we knew they would be a great fit for our own locally started business,” says Sharon Merico, Director of Operations at Restaurant Developers Corp., the corporate franchising company behind Mr. Hero Restaurants.

The husband and wife who started the e-commerce hospitality furniture company in 2002 are Dave and Janene DiSanti, who have taken what began as an eBay hobby to what East Coast Chair & Barstool is today – a family-operated corporation which operates three uniquely branded Web sites, manages in-house production of hand-crafted restaurant booths made by on-staff Amish craftsmen, and specializes in restaurant and resort furniture.

“When I received the call from Mr. Hero, I couldn’t wait to meet with them in person and show them some options for their new restaurant furniture,” Dave says.  “I took several samples, but after discussing their stores’ interior designs, we decided to create a custom look for their restaurants.”

The new chairs are a redesign of our standard window pane back metal restaurant chairs.  The frame of the chair is a true 16-gauge metal with a durable black sandtex powder coat finish.  Adding a solid beech wood accent top and matching wood seat not only was fashion forward but took the standard 17-pound chair and made it a heavier 24-pound commercial grade chair, which will serve the customer for years.

“It’s exciting to work with Mr. Hero, because we are working with not just one company but 89 different franchise locations.  Being able to give them a consistent look in all their stores has been rewarding,” says Dave.  “I think their customers will really enjoy how sharp their stores will look.”

Mr. Hero Restaurants are scheduled to receive their new restaurant furniture in October.  You can visit Mr. Hero online at: http://www.mrhero.com.

Restaurant Booths: Are they right for your eatery?

“Can we have a booth, please?” If you’ve ever been a host/hostess at a restaurant, you have heard that request more than just once or twice.  Those dining out often prefer sitting at a comfortable restaurant booth.  Here’s why we believe booths fit almost any restaurant seating design:

  • Maximize space. Booth seating which has guests back-to-back requires less space, because you don’t have to allow for the room for guests to pull chairs in or out or walk in between back-to-back chairs.  The overall footprint of a booth tends to be less than a table and chair configuration.
  • Create privacy. There are a lot of reasons people love dining out, but if they sit in a sea of open tables with strangers chomping down their food an arm length’s away, they feel uncomfortable.  Give them the privacy to carry on their own conversations.  Naturally, people like their own personal space, and booths create barriers between tables and the other people in the restaurant.

    Restaurant Booths

    Restaurant booths are preferred among eatery guests.

  • Use a wall – or don’t. Most people think that booths have to be against a wall and tables with chairs are the only seating that can float in the middle of the room.  Not true!  Create a row of booths down the center of a room, or use the finished backs of a line of single booths to create a room divider – and a long aisle of seating.  The design possibilities are really endless, if you are open to trying something a little less traditional in your restaurant design.  However, if you like the look of booths up against a wall, that positioning, of course, works well, too!  Your restaurant layout is up to you!
  • Offer kid-approved seating. When used against a wall, though, booths are proven to be family-friendly, as grown-ups can “trap” their rambunctious youngsters into the booth by sandwiching their tots between them and the wall.  Plus booths allow a little wiggle room, and are usually more comfortable for a child than a traditional chair designed for an adult.
  • Upsell, upsell, upsell. In addition, using a wall to “anchor” a table could increase dollars spent per party.  People who sit at anchored tables, or booths against a wall, tend to feel “out of the way” from your other busy areas and stay longer.  Sales at anchored tables are more likely to include an appetizer and a dessert than free-standing tables near busy areas, like an entrance/exit, a waitress station, the kitchen, or a bus station.
  • Be flexible. A family of five arrives at the busiest dinner time, and you don’t have tables of a 4-seater and a 2-seater available to push together, but you do have an open booth.  Chances are, even if you make it a habit to only seat four people in a booth at a time, that family will be able to squish together their smallest and be just fine.  Because there is no set number of seats in each booth bench, your seating automatically becomes flexible, especially among families with youth.  They may actually prefer the booth, which means you only use one table instead of two.
  • Choose class. Restaurant booths can be very basic or upscale.  They go great in pizzerias and fast food joints, or they can be added as seating at a fine dining restaurant.  Custom designs allow for the right look for your place, so you can make sure they match your atmosphere and meet customer expectations based on your level of quality and service.
  • Choose style. With so many color and style options, matching your restaurant’s decor will be easy!  You may choose an all wooden look, an all vinyl upholstery look, a combination like vinyl seats and a wooden back, or just add some wood trim to your vinyl booth.  Both wooden booths and vinyl booths offer several color options.  Choose your wood finish or your upholstery color to match your other restaurant furniture and overall design.  Restaurant booth styles are truly endless and can also be customized, so find the right one for you!

Most restaurants offer a mix of booths with tables and chairs for a balanced seating solution.  Some also use banquette seating, which places a booth bench on one side of the table and chairs on the opposite side.  Keep your customers in mind, and give them the restaurant seating they prefer.

PS: Your hosts and hostesses love to answer positively when a guest asks about a restaurant booth – trust me! I was in their shoes once.

Restaurant & Banquet Space Planning: Tables & Chairs Seating Capacity

What size tables do I need?  How many people can fit comfortably at each table?  How many tables can I fit in my space?  How much room do I need to leave between tables?

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These are all questions that run through your mind as you design the layout of your restaurant or banquet center. Choosing the correct elements is crucial for efficient operations and creating the ideal atmosphere for your guests. Here is a checklist of considerations you will need to address during planning.

Space Planning:

Figuring out your goals of the space will save a lot of headaches in the end.  You want to take stock of your main priorities with your space before taking any action. Determine what you as a business require from the space and run with it.

  • Determine the square footage of your area. Physically, you must know how much room you have to work with in order to organize it.
  • Make a list of all the functions you plan on using the space for (e.g., restaurant dining, banquet style seating, classroom/seminar seating, with or without dance floor, bar and cocktail areas, buffet or stage areas).
  • Know what your brand is and how you want to portray that. The atmosphere that you are trying to convey to your public can be used as the inspiration for creating the layout.
  • Understand customer expectations. There’s a fine line between what customers want from you and what you are able to do for them; find that line.

Restaurant Furniture Pro Tip

Brainstorm, brainstorm, and brainstorm! This is not something to just jump into; it requires time and effective planning to lay the creative foundation for your dream space. Now is the perfect stage to mentally move your ideas around without having to do any heavy lifting.

“When you’re working with a sales member, it’s important to know what your vision is so we can better serve you, the business owner. If you’re at a loss for inspiration, I recommend studying other people’s layouts in restaurants or bars. What works, what doesn’t work can jumpstart your own ideas.”

– Chris Miller, Customer Care Specialist

 

It's important to measure your space before planning for your restaurant furniture.Go the Distance:

It’s always helpful to have some requirements to keep mind while you’re getting the measurements you need for your space. Here are some industry-standards to help you when it comes to furniture placement.

  • Allow 18″ from the edge of the table to the back of each seat
  • Allow at least 12″ between chairs that are back-to-back
  • Allow a minimum of 24″ of aisle or service space (please note, the Americans with Disability Act requires greater room in at least 5% of the dining area for wheelchairs)
  • Allow 54″ between round tables and 60″ between rectangular tables to create the needed service space
  • Allow 24″ – 30″ between table corners when placed diagonally
  • Allow 12” between your seat and the bar or table

Pro Restaurant Furniture Tip

Map it out with the right materials. While taking the above measurements in mind, don’t forget to start with basics. Pull out the graph paper and set a scale to determine the approximate number of tables and chairs that will fit.

“Try drawing or modeling out your layout with chalk or boxes. This can give you a better idea of the space you’re working with, reducing mistakes when you order. It can help a sales team member be able to help you more efficiently.”

– Chris Miller, Customer Care Specialist

 

Choose Your Table Shape and Size:

The most important part of selecting a table shape and size is that the tables have adequate space and go with your vision for your particular establishment.

  • Square tables offer the most flexibility and are easiest to move around or rearrange. For a durable, streamlined option that’s easy to push together, check out our Isotop collection.
  • Round tables are often considered the most elegant and are great for banquet seating. Drop leaf round tables can offer some additional flexibility in case you need to accommodate a large party.
  • Rectangular tables are most common for the everyday dining experience because of their versatility. Our rustic  farm tables are a popular choice for large or small seating needs.

Cork-Tables

Follow our recommended table seating capacity chart, and think about how and what you serve to your customers.  Are you just a coffee and dessert establishment, or are you a fine dining restaurant that offers 8-course meals?  Envision everything that will be taking up space on your table tops.  Will you have candles, salt and pepper shakers, water pitchers, wine cantors, etc?  Do you serve full-course breakfasts that come on three plates per person?  Or do you serve bar food that takes up less space?  Keep all these things in mind when you choose your table size and how many chairs you put around each one. While it is recommended that each person have 2 feet of the table’s circumference or perimeter, or an estimated 300 square inches of table top space, your patrons may require more space depending on what you are serving.  On the same token, elementary school cafeterias would not need to offer as much space per person as a college or corporate cafeteria. These concepts are subjective to your needs.

Many restaurants incorporate varying sizes of tables to allow for maximum seating capacity, the flexibility to serve differing sizes of parties at the same time, and to create a more aesthetically appealing restaurant space.

Pro Restaurant Furniture Tip

A variety of seating styles can change up any area. Mixing booth or “anchored” tables (edge of table against wall) with floating tables is a great way to maximize space. Placing square tables diagonally also saves floor space and can restrict views from one table to another to create a more private dining experience for your guests.

Measuring/mapping your space out is crucial to avoid a mistake whenever you order. You don’t want to buy too many or too little tables and chairs. By knowing your space and what you can fit in it, the sales team can help from there. In the end, you don’t want to have to worry about shipping materials back or a restocking fee. It’s cheaper and more efficient to choose your products correct the first time.”

– Chris Miller, Customer Care Specialist

 

Some Additional helpful tips:

 

  • Check the local codes and be sure you always comply with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). As a rule, 5% of the total space should be accessible to people in wheelchairs. Wheelchairs typically require a 36″ clearance for aisle space in dining areas. Be sure the section of your establishment that is ADA-compliant is accessible to the entrance/exit and also public areas, such as the bathroom or cashier’s counter.
  • Do you foresee rearranging tables frequently for different events? Be sure to purchase lightweight tables and chairs that will be easy to haul around, and choose ones that will not mar your floors. You may also be interested in purchasing a chair and table dolly to lighten your staff’s load.
  • Want to be prepared for extra customers? Keep a few lightweight stacking chairs in storage in case you need to pull them out to accommodate larger parties.
  • Not expecting a lot of movement? If you are a finer dining establishment, you may want to choose the larger table per recommended number of guests and purchase heavier chairs that create an illusion of being more prestigious and luxurious.

While these guidelines and recommendations are helpful starting points, laying out a unique restaurant or banquet space for your particular establishment and utilizing the space you have for your specific goals will take a lot of thought. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and design a great looking restaurant or banquet space that effectively meets you and your guests’ expectations!

Was this helpful?  Let us know!

Check out our site for more tips and furniture to fill up your newly planned out space!

 

Was this helpful?  Let us know!

Resource: Seating Chart

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8 Restaurant Trends for 2012

A few days ago, we watched the ball drop.  Toasts were shared.  Resolutions were set into place.  And 2012 is now officially upon us.  Is your restaurant ready for what the new year will bring?  I’ve put together a list of restaurant trends for 2012 that I hope will get you thinking and help you reach all your new year hopes and dreams.

1. When it comes to design, less is more. We are just a bunch of minimalists.  Don’t let the few pat racks in the world that they make TV shows about influence the way you design your restaurant.  If you have shelves of dusty knick-knacks, it’s time to reinvent your image.  Anything you put into your restaurant design needs to celebrate your theme and brand; if it doesn’t, it should go.  Be picky when you choose your color scheme, artwork, lighting, and overall look of your restaurant.  If you are sports bar, then sports memorabilia is OK.  But if you are a modern, American family dining establishment, retro Hummels on a shelf probably aren’t doing anything for you.  Today’s consumers want to see shiny, germ-free, clean, and clutter-free surfaces.  The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of money or a complete overhaul to accomplish this design task.  Not sure what to do with empty shelves?  Why not turn them into functional space by storing wine bottles, dessert glasses, or pretty pieces of fruit or veggies?
–>We also recommend some contemporary tables, chairs, or barstools!  In keeping with the less is more idea, how about an aluminum table and base set, our simple cross back metal restaurant chair, and/or the new Z stainless steel bar stool.

2. Nutrition is important. While not everyone who goes out to eat cares about the number of calories they are over-indulging in, the fact remains – some people do care.  And that number is growing.  Balance your menu with the “I’ve been good all week, so I deserve to stuff my face” items with the “I want to keep my jeans buttoned on the ride home” items.  Make it easy for smart eaters to find your healthy menu items, and be sure to make all the label-readers happy by listing out nutrition/caloric information by those menu items.  It’s good practice to be transparent, and your health-conscience consumers will feel at ease knowing exactly what they are putting in their mouths.  A growing trend is also creating more healthy side options for children.  Don’t just give them chips or fries; offer their choice of a salad, vegetable, or fruit.  Don’t forget to list the kind of milk you serve (is it skim or whole?), and be sure to choose juices with low sugar content.  If your kids’ menu is filled with fried finger foods, consider adding some healthier options or creating smaller portions of your regular, adult menu items, like many restaurants do for senior citizens. As long as you don’t expect the children dining at your restaurant to eat liver and onions, you should be able to make both child and parent happy by finding that intersection of nutritious and delicious.

3. Minimize your desserts.  Think about the dessert shooters at Applebee’s or the collection of mini desserts at PF Chang’s.  Everyone loves a burst of sweetness at the end of the meal, but if you’ve already served them an appetizer, salad, and main course, they are probably close to skipping dessert.  If you can offer them a small but satisfying treat, you are more likely to make that up-sale, and they are less likely to feel guilty about ordering dessert.  It might not be so much about nutrition for your “I’m so full, I don’t know if I can walk to the car” guests, but creating a few mini-sized desserts on your menu will pay off for you in the long run.

4. Buy local. When possible, buy local produce, fresh ingredients, and otherwise support local business by using local vendors for your purchases.  Then, don’t forget to tell your customers that the tomato on their sandwich was grown at Farmer Bob’s down the street, that the buffalo-turned-bison-burger was raised on the outskirts of town, and that you support the local fishing industry.  Consumers love to feel good about frequenting a business that cares about the same things (and people) that they do.  So if you are supporting other local commerce, they feel as if everyone is doing their part to boost the local economy and help their neighbors out.  You many consider adding a local or regional section to your menu, as well, and feature foods that are staples in your neck of the woods.  For example, where I come from, it’s not uncommon to see ox roast, pepperoni balls, Lake Erie perch, or Pittsburgh-style slaw sandwiches on a restaurant’s menu.

5. But when it comes to menu, don’t be afraid to go global. While consumers, who are still shell-shocked from the recession, are not going to want to take a lot of risks in 2012, offering some exotic-but-not-too-exotic menu choices to show off your global culinary expertise will help you compete with your fellow restauranteurs.  But don’t go too daring.  Just add a little Asian or Indian influence in your cooking, or try some borderline unique ingredients, such as coconut, pistachio, or mango.

6. Cook, don’t just heat. Chain restaurants, especially, are notorious for ‘heating’, ‘unfreezing’, and ‘scooping’ their pre-packaged meals (sent from a faraway headquarters) onto their guests’ plates.  Adding just a few homemade items, made-to-order menu choices, or house favorites can go a long way with meeting consumer expectations.  As cooks and foodies alike get more savvy, bringing more of the prep and cooking in-house will prove to be a wise choice this coming year and into the future. Empowering your kitchen staff and training them to make some of your signature dishes can prove to be a successful HR strategy, too.

7. Promote sustainability. Have you gone green?  Do you use recycled paper for your menus?  Can you grow your own herbs for cooking at your establishment?  Are your light bulbs and appliances all energy-saving products?   This is a trend that we will continue to see grow in 2012, so being able to not only market your restaurant as such but to reap the economic advantages of being sustainable will be beneficial for your own business’s growth and prospering.
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8. Listen to your customers more/better. In the age of social media, customer reviews, online surveys, and let’s face it – a lot of chatter about where people go, how they spend their money, and what they expect, it’s crucial that every business owner or marketer listen and respond in the form of improvement and action.  You may even want to jump on the bandwagon of giving discounts to customers who complete surveys, start your own restaurant Facebook page, offer a social deal of the day, or start tweeting your restaurant news and events.  Whether you want to join the online conversation or not, you should at least listen in when people are talking about you.  Be prepared; you may hear some complaints.  Don’t let that discourage you, anger you, or turn you away from those conversations.  Instead, use your customers’ advice to create a better product, atmosphere, and well-liked restaurant.  More than ever, it’s easy to collect customer feedback, so take advantage of those channels and listen closely!  Savvy marketers, like mega pizza makers at Domino’s, can take hard-heard truths and turn them around into positive marketing…and better pizza!

Facing 2012 head on by making a few adjustments to keep up with these restaurant trends is a great new year’s resolution for any restaurant, whether you are a casual family diner, formal fine dining restaurant, or small cafe.

Your friends at East Coast Chair & Barstool wish you a very happy new year!