It goes without saying that all restaurants or places where people eat need tables to eat from. What is really important is what size and shape those tables are for the customer experience and also the operator to use to enhance this.
What an operator requires out of all of their furniture is value for money, maximising all the saleable space they have when they are busy and being able to turn around a table quickly to accommodate a customer allowing them to earn money.
Over the years I have worked with some of the best operators in the restaurant industry. Two of these have been Chris Corbin and Jeremy King. This partnership built up The Ivy, J Sheeky’s, Le Caprice,
and then sold this on. Caprice Holdings is currently owned by Richard Caring who has also built this up with the additions of Scotts of Mayfair, Ivy Club, Annabel’s of Mayfair to name but a few. Chris and Jeremy then went onto to build The Wolseley with Rex Restaurants and have now included The Delaunay, Brasserie Zedel and The Colbert on Sloane Square.
From this stable have come many other operators who bring the same ethos to the industry and we deal with them now. One such person is Russell Norman who was an Opps Director for Caprice Holdings and now owns and runs Polpo in London with 4 outlets.
I remember when I first worked with Chris at J Sheeky’s, following him around the restaurant with one of my workmen and watching him sit at each table position and cast his eye around the room from that position so he could understand what his potential customer would see and feel from that position. Legs were altered so they exactly lined up with the corners of the tables. Sizes checked that they worked in that space etc. The attention to detail was fantastic and this I took away with me into my own business.
At this time we were asked to add little flaps to the ends of tables so that the waiter could raise these and add another place setting. This could also be done quickly. I asked why at the time and was told that a famous person, who always liked to sit at this table and was known to do so, may find that their agent or a person who knew their dining habits might turn up and the famous person would most likely ask them to join them for lunch. The staff would then have to, as if by magic, raise the flap and quickly add an extra place seamlessly.
We also added a square to round table. This is exactly what it says, a table which would turn into a round table using spring loaded hinges to each side. This would make a square table for 4 turn into a table of 6 round. The beauty of this is the quickness it can be done. The fact that with very little space you can have a versatile table in two sizes. The operator is making this table really work for themselves.
One of the rules I always tell my sales people when giving training on tables is, that when speaking to a customer who says they only want round tables in their restaurant as they look better, is that they will be losing money. I agree round tables are better looking than square or rectangles but as an operator, you must make your tables pay for themselves
A typical example is when two customers arrive and all you can do is put them on a table of 4, you lose money on the cost of the table for 4. If your spend is £20 per head you have just lost £40. 2 tables of 2 pushed very close together but not joined would allow you to have two tables of 4 and therefore making a further £40. Customers will sit very close together if not joined.
Also the same applies when you have a larger group. You can push tables together to make tables of 6, 8,10,12 etc. With linking leaves joining tables of two in front of bench seating, this can add value and reduce storage space when these tables are not in use. Great for party bookings.
When talking through with a customer about tables in their restaurant I always suggest a mix of tables. The majority being two seater squares, some four seater rectangles. (making sure the width of the table is the same so they can be pushed together) and a few rounds to break up the room and give some curves to it. One rule I have made up over the years is ‘The last table in the house’. This table should be round for 4 and be in site of the windows or the first table you see when walking in. This table should always be clean and laid up and looking like the restaurant did when it opened for service. First impressions count hugely and customers will take this away with them.
Another one of my rules is to spend the money you have on the tabletop and not the base. This is true for the look. You may have to spend money on the base should the table be required to perform different tasks. But generally, the customer never sees the base but will look at the top.
Again, if you are wanting to cloth up get your manufacturer to use a low-cost substrate such as ply or MDF. This then should be covered in some form of protection such as a vinyl. With Chris and Jeremy, they would ask for extra padding so that when the customer puts their wine glass down it is soft to the touch. This again adds to the experience.