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Comfort Seating: A Throwback at Restaurants

May 8, 2018

Project designer Kevin Tyjer weighs in on the perks of selecting upholstered materials for comfort seating in restaurants and bars.

In today’s fast-paced world, dining out offers an opportunity for social interaction--a chance to spend time with friends, family, or significant others. Despite our increasingly busy schedules and the proliferation of food delivery services that make it possible to get almost any type of food delivered directly to our doors, restaurants remain social hubs. To maintain this, creating comfortable spaces and comfort seating for guests is key, especially in high-end restaurants with higher average checks and longer table turnover rates. 

Taking cues from residential design, more and more restaurants are returning to throwback comfort seating options such as old-school booths, banquettes, and cushioned seats. While it’s true that fast-casual restaurants often offer less comfortable seating options in order to facilitate table turnover, high-end establishments give guests an opportunity to relish their time in the space. For example, upholstered comfort seating is warm and inviting, welcoming guests to sit and enjoy another round. Employing plush, upholstered seating can bolster the design of a space, fostering a sense of luxury and imparting a higher-end aesthetic to the area.

For high-ceiling interiors, such as Le Lapin in Macao, China, booths and chairs with clean lines not only add a sense of coziness, but also complement the contemporary feel. 

Balancing Aesthetics & Operations

At Wilson Associates’ specialty food and beverage studio, Blueplate, we always look to balance aesthetics and proportion with operational needs when selecting seating options. Some things to consider:

  • Will the design of the seating fit in with the overall concept and design of the space?
  • Does it work proportionally with the dining table and other furniture?
  • Will this chair or banquette be comfortable to sit in?
  • Can it withstand a high-traffic environment? Is it durable enough for hospitality use?

More Comfort Seating: Tangram Interiors’ DTLA Showroom Disrupts Traditional Office Design

For some of our recent projects, we’ve made comfort seating choices that strike the right balance between aesthetic and function. Catering to large groups at Fairmont Quasar Istanbul’s signature restaurant, Aila, the Blueplate team designed only two banquettes and employed mostly loose seating options throughout the space to allow for greater flexibility. Additionally, all the dining chairs have arms for added comfort and luxury.

At Aila, high-backed upholstered barstools add warmth to the Fairmont Quasar Istanbul’s signature restaurant and bar.

Inside Chica at The Venetian in Las Vegas, the comfort seating choices help define the feeling and purpose of each zone. For example, casual spindle-backed dining chairs along with walnut and leather stools can be found in the indoor “courtyard”, with heavier leather seating in the surrounding dining area. Although the restaurant does not offer natural light, Wilson Associates used a faux skylight to create a pergola-covered indoor courtyard along with casual seating selections to help conjure the feeling of sitting in one. In the bar area, lounge seating--an eclectic mix of sofas and easy chairs--creates a more relaxed environment, perfect for cocktails and light bites.

As seen at Chica in The Venetian in Las Vegas, plush seating in the dining rooms is all about guest comfort, making it an overall enjoyable experience.

When designing or selecting upholstered seating it is important to take into consideration how it will complement the color palette, finishes, and materials in the project. In Aila, there are two main dining rooms. One features dark colors, floors, and walls with molding offset by sleek, upholstered dining chairs in white. The other dining room, which is brighter, features a unique dining chair design with a dark wood frame and neutral leather upholstery that blends well with the warm palette of the space. 

Upholstered comfort seating is a great way to bring color into a space. In Chica, aside from some pops of color, most of the architectural finishes and wall coverings are neutral. As a counterpoint, the fabrics used feature rich purples, greens, bright turquoises, and yellows. Taking inspiration from Latin American design, many of the chairs feature beautiful wood frames and caning that are paired with colorful leathers and patterned cushions. The upholstery also helps to strike a balance, creating a softness against a backdrop of hard architectural finishes.

Beautiful & Functional Comfort Seating

While it’s important that seating is beautiful, it must also be functional. Food and beverage spaces need seating that can withstand heavy use, and this goes for the construction of the chairs--from the wood frames to the seat to the back cushions. We shouldn’t sacrifice aesthetic for function but should be designing and selecting comfort seating that will look great and hold up long after the restaurant’s opening day.

Many of the Blueplate team members have experience in operations and continue to work closely with restaurant operators to make sure the spaces and furniture we design meet their functional needs. As people continue to spend more of their social time in food and beverage spaces like restaurants, bars, and lounges, comfort and flexibility will remain key factors in creating comfortable concepts and unique settings.

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