Eat, drink and be stylish
Whether contemporary or classic, F & B furniture should look the part and be both durable and comfortable.
A successful restaurant, cafe or bar needs a recipe of different ingredients for the perfect mix. Food and drink quality and presentation; the service staff; price and the interior design all play their part, as does the style of furniture incorporated into the design, whether it be dining chairs, tables or barstools.
The required atmosphere and consequently design style of a hospitality venue is often dependant on the social group it wants to target. So a more mature clientele will be looking for comfort and relaxation, while a younger crowd is likely to prefer more innovation and interaction and this will affect the choice of furniture. But overall the furniture chosen should be attractive, create an inviting atmosphere and serve its function.
Lucie Bartle, marketing co-ordinator, Andy Thornton, agrees the type of atmosphere of the location will have the biggest impact on the choice of furniture for food and beverage outlets. She says: "Considerations when specifying furniture largely depend on the atmosphere the client wishes to evoke. This determines the size, colour and the configuration of the furniture. The size of the space is also important as well as the size of parties that are likely to use it." And of course it goes without saying that the choice of furniture should be comfortable given that eating and drinking out is meant to be an enjoyable experience. Ahmad Al Shafeai, Al Aqili Furnishings explains: "When choosing furniture for restaurants we have to choose cosier and more comfortable furniture which maintains healthy positions for dining. Furniture selection in restaurants, bars and cafe can be either contemporary or classic but should always match the theme or type of cuisine of the restaurant."
Kamal Helou, interior designer, Carpe Diem, considers the basics when looking into buying furniture for food and beverage outlets. He says: "For cafe I would say go for low seating like benches combined with low tables allowing people to engage in conversation. For bars, high chairs and tables allow free movement to roam around and bar stools against the main bar are a must. For restaurants it's the usual dining set of table and chairs to fit small or large groups. Long benches are also something that you should think about."
But with the amount of human traffic that this type of furniture will inevitably receive, the practicalities must not be overlooked, as Steel Olsen of Moroso explains: "Choosing furniture for restaurants, cafes and bars depends on the type and style of the space in question but designers have to consider the practical side regarding cleanliness and durability. Also some of these areas are used for other functions and cleaning will take place on a frequent basis, so the furniture shouldn't be too heavy and you might want them to be stackable. If the chairs are upholstered then they should be easy to wipe down."
Veenu Kanwar of Warps and Wefts adds that an initial higher investment may be needed if the furniture is to last: "In addition to aesthetics, the durability aspect needs to be kept in mind considering the use. Durable furniture that can withstand the rigours of 24/7 use reduces the expenses associated with repairs and replacements."
She advises designers to value quality over price: "When evaluating cost, the lowest price doesn't necessarily equate to the best value or return on investment. The use of certain finishes or fabrics may cost more up front, but over time will extend both the life and performance of the furniture."
Current trends in terms of shape and form seem to be veering in a number of different directions according to our experts. From organic shapes with slick soft finishes to build-your-own systems and the return of Art Deco, there is no definite style that is dominating the market. Bartle does admit however, that for practical reasons the square table will always be in vogue: "Square tables will always be popular as these give the most freedom with furniture arrangement, as the tables can be separated or brought together depending on the party size. More angular designs use the space better and therefore give the client more capacity [and flexibility]."
While Tanya Wakeham, manager, Selva Middle East believes that low lying furniture is making an impact. She says: "Bars and restaurants are becomingmore relaxed and are more reminiscent of lounges or low seating areas. We are starting to see the traditional Japanese low table used in a very modern way."
Materials used in the manufacture of food and beverage furniture are proving to be as varied as the choice of shapes. Helou describes the trend: "We are seeing lots of dark solid wood tables mixed with stainless steel combined with leather seats, which creates a very modern look." Corian, an advanced composite of aluminium-tri-hydrate pigments and acrylic resins is also proving to be a popular choice with designers as Bartle explains: "I think Corian is fantastic. It can be formed into most shapes with invisible joints, which gives the designer a lot of flexibility. This freedom of design helps to create some very innovative ideas." Corian can be fabricated like hardwood, using similar tools and with a non-porous surface, it proves to be very hygienic.
The use of polymers is also resulting in new ways of creating and developing furniture design. Injection moulded polypropylene reinforced with glass fibre is the basis for Moroso's new chair, Supernatural. Designed by Ross Lovegrove the chair is lightweight, stackable, and durable and can be used for indoor and outdoor purposes.
But according to Jens Mueller, head of marketing and sales, Go In, there is still a fashion for using aluminium and stainless steel frames with modern and resistant plastic materials for the tops and bodies of furniture for the hospitality sector. He adds that Trevira CS fabrics are becoming popular for their fire-resistant qualities and comfort.
In terms of upholstery Elsa Leite of Fenabel confirms that leather is still a primary choice for chairs along with leather look-alikes and velvet but adds: "There is also a fashion for upholstery in both Romantic and Baroque styles."
These two styles conveniently complement the Middle East's penchant for using the opulent colours of gold and red in their interiors, which according to Kanwar is making its presence felt within the hospitality industry as well. She says: "Colourwise we are back to neutrals with contrasting highlights, though the burlesque atmosphere of gold combined with red is also in at the moment. The indigo blue is also proving to be a popular choice."
A European perspective reveals this fierier trend is a global fashion according to Leite who says: "At the moment it seems that the colours that are most popular for seating are black and white, red, orange and lilac."
But it appears that colour trends seem to depend very much upon the design concept of the space in question with Wakeham admitting: "There is no one colour that is being asked for time and time again, as venues are so different depending on what they are trying to achieve, but white still seems to be extremely popular as you can mix it with so many other colours."
New on the Market
Innovative furniture products can be seen in many of this season's collections. Go In's new modular system allows the customer to create their own furniture through a combination of bases, columns, seats and tabletops in a range of shapes, forms and materials, including stainless steel, aluminium and wood. The result is a very personalised system, which fits in with many design styles and concepts. Extra add-ons such as swivel mechanisms, floor gliders and protectors, floor anchoring and screw-in-weights are also available.
Vincent Sheppard produces unique furniture solutions from Kraft paper woven around steel wire. The smooth finish of the material does not snag or deform and is surprisingly durable. Helou comments: "This furniture is environmentally friendly and is a trend that is dominating Europe at the moment. It is durable and has a graceful look that is trendy at the same time and it is suitable for indoor and outdoor use."
Investing time and money into the choice of furniture for F & B spaces is vital if establishments wish to maintain a good reputation as Wakeham concludes: "Venues are starting to realise that quality is a must and paying the extra goes a long way with regards to furniture. Imagine just how many times people sit and eat and drink in a place in one day. People need to feel special and if the place looks tired in a year they'll move onto the next place to spend their hard earned money."