Restaurant furniture is one of the first visual cues a diner encounters when entering your business, setting the tone for their dining experience. In this guide, I break down the furniture needed for restaurants, what you should look for when filling out your space, how much you should expect to pay, and where to find the best options.
Dining Room Furniture
Let’s start out with some of the most important furniture you could spend money on in a restaurant: dining room furniture. Your dining room furniture is not only what your customers will physically use to dine in your restaurant, but it also sets the tone for their dining experience.
If you want to see how important restaurant furniture is, then look closely at successful groups such as Chipotle. Its aesthetic is based on the idea that simple, basic elements combine to make a much better product. When you see its restaurants built out, you find solid wood, and metal pipes with an industrial feel, simple wooden chairs with steel frames, booths with wooden pegged walls behind them—these furniture choices create a cohesive look.
Below is a list of some of the essential dining room furniture you should not only look for but also how you should go about finding them in your search.
Dining tables are key to your guest’s dining experience. For tables, you first need to decide on the sizing to ensure that they fit the estimated party size of your customers. For example, a 24” x 48” table is perfect for four people to sit comfortably. But if you anticipate larger parties, then a 30” x 72” table will be needed. Your tables should also fit in your dining room and offer enough room for food and plates.
The next big consideration is how the tables are built and how they will perform. For example, some tables can be bolted into the ground. While this prevents you from moving them around, it ensures they will not wobble or bounce, which does lead to guest annoyance and discomfort. You also need to know the material they are made of and how they look. Will you be putting tablecloths over them, or must the finished material be able to withstand use without the protection of a cloth or other covering?
Lastly, your table design should speak to the tone of your restaurant and how you want your food to be portrayed. A large, wooden communal table will do well with tons of shared plates and bottles of wine being passed around. An elegant, white tablecloth-laden space will offer a great contrast to artistic plates and cocktail coupes filled with different alcohols. When you pick out your table, envision how your food will look in contrast and what tone you want the end consumer to feel.
Costs can range from $250 to $1,000, and can be bought on restaurant warehouse sites, at auctions, or directly online from a website.
Chairs are the counterparts to the tables you choose. For starters, your chairs should be comfortable to sit in and match the aesthetic of the table you have chosen. The seating you choose may not even be a chair but rather a bench, bar stool, or high-top stool, depending on the different types of tables you offer your guests or how high your bar may be. Chairs should be well-made, not wobble, and be able to hold up to a lot of use.
What your chair is made out of speaks to your restaurant’s character. Chairs wrapped in leather can offer sleek and luxurious notes, while a chair made out of wood can be more rustic and friendlier to approach. A chair with a soft cushion and nice back support can show your customers the time and effort you have put in to ensure their comfort. So, how you pick your chairs and how you pair them with the tables you choose can make a world of difference.
Your chairs should also be easy to maintain and keep in good shape. The truth about chairs is that they come in all shapes and sizes. They can be pulled out with one hand or require two hands and some lifting to pull out from under a table. They can be made to offer seating for a short period of time or are designed to be sat in for hours of dining. Know your menu food type and the aesthetic you are going for before deciding on the kind of chairs you want in your dining room.
Chairs and stools can be found on Amazon, restaurant supply websites, auctions, or furniture stores. They can cost anywhere from $50 to $500, so knowing what material and size you are looking for is key. You may also find deals if you buy a certain amount of them.
Booths are a great seating type that offers your guests a more intimate dining experience and, often, a little more comfort. Your booth should be well-made, easily cleaned, and match the rest of the decor and furniture in your restaurant. The booths you choose should make sense for your staff in how you need to maintain them, and it should also make sense for the number of diners you will expect to use them.
Vinyl booths are popular, as they are easy to maintain. But if they tear, then more heavy maintenance is required to fix them. Wooden booths are another great option, but they must be polished and require more regular and consistent care.
Booths today can be designed to fit into your space. A fully upholstered booth with different print options may be what a more fine dining restaurant would like. Sports bars and fast-casual restaurants can have their logos imprinted onto their booths to drive home their branding and the tone of the space. Vinyl booths offer a comforting tone or a throwback to diners and other nostalgic dining spaces. Either way, your booths can be custom-designed to offer privacy, comfort, nostalgia, and a space where customers can truly enjoy your food.
Restaurant booths can be $500 to a couple of thousand dollars in price. You can get them at warehouse stores, furniture stores or restaurant furniture sites such as Restaurant Furniture Plus.
A sofa can be a great way to offer some accommodation in the foyer or host area of a restaurant when there is some sort of wait for a table. It can also be a place where guests enjoy a cocktail while waiting for their table to open up. A well-placed and comfortable sofa, or even two, can change the pain of waiting into a comfortable build-up to an incredible dining experience. It can be a great investment to show your guests you are serious about their comfort and the experience they will have.
Sofas can also bring a lounge area together. I have been to plenty of amazing cocktail bars that offered sofas for cocktails and small plates to be shared on. They offer maximum comfort and a playful elegance that can really enhance the dining or drinking experience if done right. Below is an example of one of my favorite bars in the city of Chicago and how they utilize sofas to enhance the great cocktail experience they provide.
A quality sofa can run $1,000 to $5,000, especially if it is for a fine dining establishment. Furniture stores and websites are the best places to find these.
A restaurant coffee table should be at a height that makes it easy for guests to sit down, pick up their drinks constantly, and conduct other activities—like doing work on a laptop. Think of some cafes you have visited; some may have communal seating and individual tables. Coffee tables should be spacious enough but also easy to clean. For cafes, ensure that coffee tables are sturdy and well-made to withstand spills, crumbs, and other food debris.
Coffee tables can also be a part of your decor in smaller lounge areas. These areas can be for just serving cocktails, coffee, and small plates and can be one of a couple of places a diner could eat and drink.
Coffee tables cost a few hundred dollars and can be found at markets, restaurant supply stores, and online restaurant warehouse stores. If you are looking for a more “lived-in” aesthetic for your interior, finding unique ones on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace is also an option.
A bar is an essential piece of furniture for every restaurant. The bar is a special place—guests can come with other guests for a communal and lively experience, meet staff, or wait and have a drink while their table is being made ready. It can also be a place where last-minute diners can sneak in to have a delicious meal. You do need to account for how many guests you would like at the bar, as this will have an impact on the demands of your kitchen, waitstaff, and bartenders.
Your bar should be configured in a layout that makes it easy for your staff to work in and maintain. It can be one of the most touched areas in the dining room by both staff and guests, so an investment in a well-made bar is key. Your bar should also match the tone of the restaurant, whether it be made of aged wood with knots and divots from years of use or an elegant marble top that has been polished and cared for in pristine condition. Your bar is often the heart of your restaurant, as it is a major piece of furniture your guests will be pulled to. Make sure it is designed in a way that truly evokes the voice your restaurant has.
A bar is something you will have to build using a contractor, so pricing will vary. Contacting an interior designer to match your space is also advised. This cost can be anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the size of the bar and the quality of materials needed.
Table lighting, bar lighting, floor lamps, candles, and other light-based furniture can really set the mood and tone for your diners. I worked for a restaurant that had dim lighting and small little lamps at each table. This gave a “spotlight” effect on each table, allowed for the field of view to be drawn to the food and fellow diners, and gave an air of exclusivity and privacy—all because of this little lamp!
Lighting in restaurants can make a huge difference; even the tone of the bar photo above is made that much warmer by the lighting on the bar itself. Be sure to invest in lighting to really help make the furniture you purchase pop and resonate with your customers.
Lighting can be relatively inexpensive—candles are around $10 to $30 each. You can find more lighting options on Amazon, restaurant supply websites, markets, and furniture stores.
Tabletop accessories can include salt and pepper shakers, storage units for sugar packets, carousels for condiments, and much more. These little pieces of furniture can add style and even more of your restaurant’s brand and image to your guest’s dining experience.
Small caddies like the one pictured below have all of what a customer may need in one space. Or a domed, circular holder with mints and other end-of-meal treats can be another option. These are the types of touches on each table that can really add small but important touches that leave a greater impact on your guests. Webstaurant Store is a great site to find all of these items at reasonable pricing.
A restaurant patio is important for climates with great weather or for restaurants to seat more guests when the weather is nicer. Patio furniture can often be overlooked, feel cheap, and be given less thought compared to the furniture in a dining room. Don’t make this mistake—it could impact the dining experience for guests. Follow our guidance on patio furniture below to ensure your outdoor dining options match the quality of the options present in the dining room.
Patio tables need to be sturdy, weather-proof, and able to hold up to elements such as direct sunlight and changing temperatures. The tables should be water-resistant, especially in areas that can be covered in a lot of rain. They should also offer a solid space for diners to eat their food without the worry of the table tipping or other mishaps occurring. Finally, the tables should match the tone of your brand as a restaurant.
Patio tables will cost a couple hundred dollars, highly dependent on their size and how weather-resistant they are. You can find them at furniture stores or restaurant supply websites.
Like your outdoor tables, patio chairs need to be sturdy, weather- and water-resistant, and comfortable to sit in while also matching the tone of the restaurant. Being aware of the environment your patio is in is key when choosing chairs that are comfortable and actually viable for guests to use. For example, in very sunny climates, you don’t want your patio chairs to be entirely made of metal; they’ll be too hot to sit in.
Patio chairs can cost $50 to $250, depending on the quality and weather-resistant rating. They can be found at online supply stores or at local furniture warehouses.
Umbrellas are a must if your patio is open during sunny hours. You can find restaurant patio umbrellas at most restaurant supply or furnishing stores. Sometimes, liquor and beer brands will even give you complimentary patio umbrellas if you don’t mind filling your patio with logo-emblazoned umbrellas.
No matter where you are located, patio heaters are a good idea if you have outdoor dining in the evening. Warm nights can easily become windy, or a diner dressed for a sunny day can get chilly when the sun goes down. There are a variety of heaters, from freestanding heaters that you can move around your patio to built-in heaters with electrical coils that you need to install on walls or pillars.
Which heater type you choose will depend on your patio layout, the available structure to secure heaters, and your budget. Installed heaters tend to be more expensive upfront, but less expensive in the long run. Mobile propane-powered heaters cost less upfront because you typically lease them from a local propane company. These heaters ultimately cost you more long term, as you’ll have to cover the ongoing cost of propane and rental fees for the heaters. But they are mobile, so you can move them as your patio configuration changes (such as for private parties), and the propane company typically repairs or replaces damaged or faulty heaters for free.
Heaters will set you back anywhere from $700 to $4,000+ per heater. The costs depend on the heater type and what type of installation it requires. Rented heaters typically run from $50 to $100 per heater per month, plus the cost of fuel.
Coverage from the sun and some light rain/elements is the last major furniture piece you should look into for an outdoor patio. An umbrella for each table or an awning to cover the entire patio protects guests from the heat of direct sunlight and other weather conditions that are not excessive but could cause unpleasant dining experiences over time. A well-made awning or umbrella can be what draws customers in, knowing they can eat outside without the discomfort of the elements. Finding a cover that makes sense for your outdoor dining is crucial to making customers want to come back to your patio.
Awnings that retract can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000, including installation. For retractable awnings, a specialist in your area will usually suffice.
Outdoor umbrellas can cost $100 to $2,500 depending on size, the wind rating, and what bases you need. They can be found at markets, patio furniture stores, and some restaurant warehouses. Sometimes, liquor and beer brands will even give you complimentary patio umbrellas if you don’t mind filling your patio with logo-emblazoned umbrellas.
Back Office & Employee Space Furniture
The back office and employee spaces also need furniture, preferably furniture that is ergonomic, easy to use, and gives comfort to the people who make your business a reality. Below are some of the furniture you should look into that is not guest-facing but still offers your staff the ability to rest and store their belongings when they come to work each day.
Lockers and other shelving can be key components to the back area where staff will store their belongings during service. Lockers should be able to be locked and should be able to hold small handbags, purses, small duffel bags, and other personal items. While employee-to-employee theft may not be present in every business, offering a personal space to your staff shows your level of care to them while also offering a level of security to them and their personal belongings.
In many locations, it is also a health code violation to store employees’ personal belongings in food service areas. So providing employee lockers can help you get an ‘A’ rating. You only need enough lockers for all of the staff to have their own during your busiest shifts. So if you have 15 employees between the kitchen and the front of house on a Saturday night, then 16 lockers should be enough, though 20 would be safer to allow for trainees and stagiares. Lockers can cost $200 to $500 and can be found online through Amazon or office furniture and supply stores.
An office desk and chair are essential for any chef’s office or any managerial office in a food business. This is where countless hours will be spent looking at invoices, running reports, writing schedules, contacting local vendors, placing orders, and a myriad of other duties.
A desk and chair for your management team should be comfortable to work in and sit in. The desk itself should be functional in its size and storage capacity. Some have even opted for standing desks for when managers need to come back quickly and get some work done. You can simply raise or lower the desk based on preference. This combination is a must-have in any restaurant or food business. A desk and chair can cost a couple hundred dollars, but you can often find deals on Amazon for these sets.
Shelving, Filing Cabinets & Safe
Having shelving for books, recipe cards, large amounts of documents, and any other office necessity is key to ensuring your desk remains clutter-free and usable. You’ll also need lockable filing cabinets for storing sensitive documents like employee files (sometimes legally required.)
Most restaurants also keep safe in the back office to store backup cash and bank deposits. An industry standard guideline is to keep two lockable doors between your cash reserves and the outside. So a back office is the best place for this safe. These items can be found on Amazon or through major stores like Target and Walmart.
Where to Buy Restaurant Furniture
Deciding where to buy furniture for restaurants can be just as much of a process as choosing the furniture. There are many different ways you can go about buying restaurant furniture, with countless websites, warehouses, and local sellers selling something in any given area at any given time. Below, we will go over the three major ways to buy restaurant furniture, with the pros and cons of each of them.
Buying furniture online may be one of the easiest ways to go about getting furniture for your restaurant. You can find better pricing, choose from an endless array of vendors, and have these items shipped to you rather than having to pick them up and find your own transportation. There are countless sites out there offering deals and ways to find restaurant furniture, so shopping online can be very rewarding for some looking for restaurant furniture.
One drawback of shopping for restaurant furniture online is the fact that you cannot see the pieces you are buying in person. This means you are relying on pictures, dimensions, and other feature descriptions. Also, shipping on some items can be expensive and cost you more in the long run. Finally, returning items online can be a hassle or sometimes not even an option, so being sure to do your research when making an online purchase is key.
Buying restaurant furniture from a furniture warehouse can be a great way to limit your search to a couple of options while also seeing your potential purchases in person. These warehouses can often customize your furniture and will offer you savings as they tend to sell in larger quantities. They often have a great selection and can even get you items that may no longer be in production.
The flip side to the pros above is that first, buying items no longer in production may prove difficult when it comes to repairing parts on furniture. Additionally, you will need transportation options if delivery services are not offered to your restaurant. You will also often need to buy in bulk, which may not be ideal for a smaller business. You also are limited to only whatever the warehouse is selling, which can be hard on your search if you are looking for a specific piece.
Used furniture can be hit or miss, depending on where you get it from and the condition it is in. This option will almost always be cheaper than new. I have found some great pieces of used furniture, including coffee tables, outdoor seating, and shelving and lockers for employee areas. You can also understand the history of a piece of furniture, and there are opportunities to find very good deals or unique pieces to add to your restaurant. I recommend non-guest-facing items or items that are still in new condition or are made to last with little wear and tear.
Used furniture can come with some issues—softer items such as sofas and cushions on chairs can be worn down and not viable for use. You also may find that some used furniture is not as sturdy as advertised, so a thorough inspection of each piece of furniture is vital. Finally, used furniture may look run-down and not in tune with the rest of your restaurant, especially if your design is newer and more modern. So, ensuring the pieces match your tone, are intact, and work as desired is key before saving money on your purchase.
Your restaurant furniture has an enormous impact on your guest experience. It allows your customers to use functional pieces that enhance their dining experience. The best restaurant furniture is an extension of your brand and withstands high-volume use. With some effort, concentration, research, and intentionality, you can distinguish your restaurant from competitors with the furniture you buy.