When plotting the floor plan, designers consider the flow of traffic through the space, fire code compliance and table placement. Depending on the level of service, tables are placed to allow for a sense of intimacy while always maximizing seats. Traditionally, corner spaces are perfect for larger tables and booths.

For commercial foodservice operators, table selection directly impacts a diner’s experience from an aesthetic as well as a comfort perspective. The tables should reflect the type of restaurant, design, scale and menu.

With so many options available, there is no reason to sacrifice style, comfort and relevance, regardless of the furniture budget. Tables need to coordinate with chairs, counters, booths, bar tops and stools to set up the dining expectation.

Though square and round tables are the most common shapes by far, more operators are incorporating pill-shaped tabletops with rounded edges, which are longer and intended for larger groups.

Typical table sizes range from 32 inches by 48 inches, 24 inches by 32 inches, 24 inches by 24 inches, 32 inches by 32 inches and as large as 30 inches by 84 inches. Square tables can maximize space and are often put together or connected to create more seating for larger groups. Rounds are generally 36, 42, 48 or 51 inches in diameter. Round tables also may have drop down leaves that create more seating space.

Table heights are standard at 24 to 30 inches, compared to 36 to 42 inches at bar heights and 30 inches at counter heights. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an accessible table has a surface height of no more than 34 inches and no less than 28 inches above the floor. At least 27 inches of knee clearance must be provided between the floor and the underside of the table. An accessible route provides access to each accessible table, and a clear floor area 30 inches by 48 inches is provided at each accessible seating location. This clear floor area extends 19 inches under the table to provide leg and knee clearance.

Common vernacular for table sizes is two top, meaning two people can be accommodated at a 24-inch-by-30-inch table, and four top, or meaning four people can be seated at a table that measures 30 inches by 48 inches.

Table materials used most often in commercial foodservice include wood, resin, composites/plastics, granite, laminate, synthetic wood and metal. Cast iron, steel, aluminum and natural wood are common for outdoor tables. Frames can be wood, steel or aluminum.

There are advantages and disadvantages with each type of material. For example, aluminum and steel are more durable for a longer service life, but if there are expectations the interior will be changed or updated with new furniture, the more economical wood may be the better choice. Mixed materials combining wood and metal also are available.

Table service life depends on the material and finish, but most can last between 10 and 15 years if taken care of properly.

Table Bases

Table bases serve as the foundation and are a key component of this furniture. They are usually sold separately. Materials include metal, which is most common, and wood.

In the past, most tables were four legged, but today pedestal table bases dominate the commercial marketplace. This sturdy design creates more space around the table for seating.

Pedestal base styles include cast iron three-prong, cast iron and stainless-steel four-prong, cast iron or stainless-steel round bases and stainless-steel square pedestals. Cantilever table bases accommodate permanent wall-mounted tables.

Wrinkle finishes in black, silver or brown minimize wear and tear while hiding dirt and scuff marks. Custom powder coat finishes also are available.

Table base components include top plates that hold the tabletop, center columns in cast iron or stainless, column foot rings, base plates in cast iron or stainless, and glides suitable for all floor surfaces.

Purchasing Considerations

The number of tables needed is dependent on the space, layout, expected volume and how much elbow room is required. It also is contingent on the type of concept. For example, fast-casual restaurants typically use a resin or standard beechwood material for a more casual appearance and easy cleaning. Sports bars are more likely to go with butcher block or distressed wood. Fine dining will typically utilize a tablecloth, so solid wood is more common.

When looking at sizes, seat spacing requires 24 inches per place setting. For clearance, there should be at least 36 inches between a table edge and walls, other chairs or other tables. In operations with fixed seating, such as booths, a 24-inch clearance is recommended.

The table’s use will help determine its size and width, as a wider table is less intimate and may not work for louder environments.

Also, the table’s finish is a factor. A natural look can be achieved with wood, and an oil and wax finish will help with wear and durability.

The table base will ultimately determine how solid and sturdy the table will be. When choosing a base, the tabletop material is a factor. Cast iron is the most appropriate base material because of its weight, and it won’t flex or bend. A cast iron top plate provides extra strength when patrons lean or push up from the table continuously on one side or the other. Fine-dining establishments are more apt to choose wood or granite tabletops, so the table base’s sturdiness is key. The base finish should withstand the rigors of day-to-day operations.

The best base style for your table will depend in part on the size of the tabletops. Larger tabletops require more support than smaller bases. Tables that are 48 inches or longer may require two (or more) table bases for proper support. In addition, larger tabletops typically require larger tabletop plates. Table base columns that are 4 inches in diameter provide additional support for larger or heavier tabletops.

For operators who plan to affix tables to the floor, bolt down table bases are required. Tall or bar-height table bases with foot rings are often chosen for the comfort of patrons. These are common in bars and pubs, diners and fast-food restaurants.

The shape and size of the tabletop will help dictate the appropriate top plate and base shape.

There are considerations with furniture design that may not be top of mind initially. For example, does the table rock? Also, how difficult is it to move the table around? This is especially important for restaurants that often have large parties
or groups.

With tables, it’s about matching decor and the operation’s vibe, as well as maximizing the end with space. Some concepts require just a few tables in a large space for communal dining, while others are looking to include as much seating as possible.

On the hospitality or hotel side, sustainability has become more of a factor with table purchases. This may have to do with sourcing of the raw materials and/or the chemicals used in creating the products. Sustainable options include reclaimed material in wood or metal. The wood may include local oak, pecan, cherry and walnut.

Lead time is a key factor to consider when ordering tables. The availability of necessary items can make or break a restaurant opening, so it’s important to allow enough time to ensure items are ready when needed.

A typical lease term is 10 years, and the furniture should be selected to last throughout the life of the business. Therefore, the selections should be able to be cleaned and easily maintained without making major investments.

There are advantages and disadvantages with each type of material. For example, aluminum and steel are more durable for a longer service life, but if there are expectations the interior will be changed or updated with new furniture, the more economical wood may be the better choice.

Table Trends

There are a number of notable table trends in commercial foodservice.

Popular materials are wood, aluminum and acrylic. Manufacturers have mastered the art of colorization and can customize finishes to match the overall theme. For some themed concepts, designers find original designs and have local manufacturers make replicas. Also, distressed wood tables provide a rustic look that has been popular for some time now. Sometimes new tables are treated to look aged.

Options include synthetic material, with honeycomb on the inside and commercial grade melamine on the outside, engineered to look like wood, concrete or another material.

A popular material for outdoor tables is synthetic teak, which has the look of wooden slats but can better weather the outside elements.

Care and Maintenance

Tables used in the foodservice industry typically do not require much upkeep, other than wiping down with a gentle cleaning solution and a soft cloth. Abrasive cleaners or scrubbers will scratch or otherwise damage a tabletop, and bleach-based or ammonia-based cleaners should be avoided.

When purchasing, access to replacement parts and touch up paint should be considered. Busy foodservice operations typically utilize tables for between three and five years before replacing or opting to update the decor.

Because wood reacts to moisture and expands and contracts with temperature changes and humidity, these tables are best used indoors in a cool area. Manufacturers recommend oiling wood finishes a couple of times a year, which brings moisture back to the finish.

Glides on table base bottoms keep the base plate or legs from scratching the floor. Bases should be periodically washed with soap and water.

Table service life depends on the material and finish, but most can last between 10 and 15 years if taken care of properly. Cracked or warped tabletops may warrant replacement, depending on the age and severity of the blemishes. Table bases can last 30 years or more.