One of the most important investments that any restaurant owner will make involves the purchase of furniture. Restaurant furnishings provide more than mere function. Furnishings set the tone of a customer’s experience by providing comfort and functionality as well as ambiance. Furniture that quickly deteriorates imparts a shabby feel to the restaurant thereby lowering the customer’s perception of the restaurant as a whole. Although cost is arguably a major factor in the purchase of restaurant furniture, the wise investor knows that cost cannot be the only consideration. The initial cost of furniture often belies the actual, long-term cost. Furniture that breaks down in a short period of time and must be replaced is no bargain.
Knowing a few facts about how to recognize quality furniture will ensure that the furniture is functional, fashionable, as well as durable. Long lasting furniture is often supported by a longer, more comprehensive warranty. Quality wooden furniture is produced from solid hardwoods such as oak, maple, or cherry. Hardwood furniture is often the best investment because it can be repaired rather than replaced. Solid hardwood furniture provides the longest-lasting service of all wood furnishings. Beware of the term “solid wood” however, as it may also indicate the use of pressed wood products and chip board products, known as engineered wood products, which are not nearly as durable and do not lend to repeated repairs. To check for frame sturdiness, place pressure on the frame and wiggle it.
Quality upholstered furniture is again evidenced by the length and extent of its warranty. Frames constructed of solid hardwoods are more durable than soft woods or engineered wood. Upholstered furniture should be assembled with screws and/or dowels as opposed to staples which will clearly not hold up to sustained commercial use. Joints should be tight and the frame should be straight and level. For furniture that contains springs, the springs should be tightly packed for the best comfort and support. Finally, the padding used in upholstered furniture has a great deal to do with how the piece wears. Inadequately padded furniture allows the fabric to rub against the framing which will cause the fabric to wear faster resulting in its needing to be replaced sooner. Most reputable manufacturers of upholstered furniture will provide a cutaway view of their product(s) with complete descriptions of what materials have been used in construction. If the furniture has seat cushions, the weight of the cushion is a good determinant of quality. Quality cushion foams are heavier than lower quality grades of seat foam. Any furniture selected should be sturdy and have “reupholstery potential”. Upholstered furniture is easier to maintain if the seats and backs are removable which renders them easier to transport. Fabrics should be of commercial grade quality. Generally, fabrics made of nylon and/or olefin give longer lasting wear than natural fibers. Additionally, fabrics should be flame retardant and stain treated.
Metal furniture is a viable selection for restaurant furniture because it presents durable comfort at a reasonable price. Metal furniture is generally constructed of either steel or aluminum with steel being the more durable, and more expensive, option, and aluminum being the more lightweight one. Generally, there is a finish applied to the metal to enhance the appearance of the metal and to protect it from wear and tear. To determine which metal is which, place a magnet on the metal. A magnet will stick to steel, but not to aluminum. Steel is categorized into low, medium, and high carbon strengths with higher strengths associated with higher costs. However, low carbon steel is adequate for most general use applications. To determine the quality of aluminum or steel furniture, look for weight, joint quality, sturdiness, floor protection, vent holes, and reupholster potential. Lightweight furniture may be an indication of the use of aluminum or other thin metal. Quality joints are determined by the use of screws, bolts, rivets, or welding, with welding being the preferred method. The most durable weld is called “brazing” which uses brass to join two pieces of metal. Brazing is smoother than other forms of welding and scratching the finish will reveal the brass underneath. Rivets should be solid with smooth heads and bolts should be countersunk with self-locking nuts that will prevent the joint from loosening. Screws are the least durable way to join metals as they tend to work loose easily. Salvation Army Pickup
Quality is also determined by point of manufacture. Many developing nations have now entered the furniture market and produce a significant amount of today’s restaurant and commercial furnishings in addition to residential offerings. These developing markets produce inexpensive furnishings quickly and efficiently. However, they often work with outdated equipment and substandard components. Third world markets product furnishings constructed of softer woods because they are inexpensive to import; these areas just to not have hardwood lumbers available within their own borders. Additionally, harder woods are heavier, making them more expensive to ship, therefore softer, lighter woods prove to be significantly more economical for these developing markets. The furniture manufactured by third world markets is often mass produced so quickly by using substandard methods of construction, such as staples, spot welding, and poorly applied finishes. A significant portion of the design process in these markets is devoted to fashion, not function. Although the products that are manufactured are often the latest designs and look nice, they are of poor quality and will not last under sustained commercial use.
To avoid significant replacement costs, restaurant furniture should be purchased with quality and durability as the major deciding factor. Budgeting for quality furniture will reduce the overall cost of the furniture by acquiring furniture that can be repaired and/or reupholstered rather than replaced when it becomes subject to the significant wear and tear that restaurant furniture inevitably sustains. Spending extra money up front will pay off in the long run. Comparing quality and long-term cost against the purchase of cheaply manufactured, poor quality furniture undeniably indicates that investing in good quality furniture with attention to detailed construction is the better bet. The difference between replacing restaurant furniture in six months as opposed to several years will produce a significant return on the initial investment.