Setting up and running a café isn’t always smooth sailing. As a company that supplies and installs café furniture, we have come across many problems that café owners across the country deal with. Here we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 problems that we’ve seen in the café furniture industry. In compiling this list of problems and possibly solutions, we hope to ease some of your worries and help your design and fit out experience as easy as possible.

1: Quality to withstand the environment

As suppliers of commercial furniture, we often hear the horror stories of chairs breaking, tables warping or booth seating cracking up. Furniture that is of commercial quality should not do this. Furniture of domestic grade won’t ever last long in the hospitality industry, purely because it isn’t built to withstand the rigours of the environment. Café owners deserve to know that their furniture is going to last and will continue to look the best it can.

Our solution: Commercial Grade Furniture.

Watch out for a few things when you are buying your furniture. Firstly, check that it is commercial grade furniture. If you’re unsure, ask the supplier about the grade of the furniture. Often commercial grade furniture will come with a good warranty. The higher the warranty is on the furniture, the better the guarantee that your furniture will last. “Adage Furniture offers a 5 year commercial warranty on all furniture. You can be sure any furniture that isn’t backed up by a warranty isn’t great quality. The initial investment might seem higher, but having the 5 year commercial warranty always turns out to be the best value for money”. – Jessica Weng, Business Development Manager at Adage Furniture.

Another thing to look out for is manufacture origins. Whilst it doesn’t apply to all scenarios, we have found that oftentimes furniture that is manufactured in an Asian warehouse doesn’t usually withstand the harsh Australian weather and the banging it is sure to receive. This can be due to the materials used or craftsmanship in creating the products. For this, we suggest you employ your own quality control checks and assess whether you think the furniture will withstand your venue usage.

2: Space Control

Whilst many venues are laid out in fantastic designs, you may find that your own café layout doesn’t give you the flexibility you want. This is a common problem across the hospitality industry – in cafes, restaurants, and bars alike. Getting the correct layout for your café can be a difficult task, as you want to ensure that you can serve as many people as possible, without overcrowding your venue.

A great way to ensure you are maximising your space is to create a floorplan of your café. Take down measurements of your area and create an accurate floorplan. Map out the designated service area, amenities, and the different seating options you want to have throughout your café.

You might want to include tables of different sizes, for example, or lounges and booth seating. Add all these areas into your floorplan. Ensure that you create a flow through the seating from the front door through to the back that will not halt the movement of patrons of staff through the venue.

If you haven’t created a floorplan before or you would like some help in pulling this together, get in touch with one of our consultants – it’s a service we offer for free!

Another way to maximise your space within your venue and outside of your venue is to use stackable chairs and folding tables. If you use chairs that can be stacked away, these are easy to pack up at the end of each day and are easy moved and stored away to accommodate groups or events of varied sizing. Similarly, tables that can be folded up, are also a brilliant way of creating more space and can be a practical way to pack up outdoor furniture every day.

3: Damaged or Discoloured Table Tops

Many café owners face the problem of damaged table tops. This can include table tops that are discoloured, warped, or cracked. This can be a quality issue as mentioned earlier, but it can also be misuse, maintenance, or a natural aging process. Some materials, such as timber, are more likely to crack or scratch easily, simply due to being a natural product.

Timber is always alive and constantly moving, expanding and contracting, and it will crack as a natural process. You can and should expect your timber table tops to crack – this is a part of the natural beauty of timber. An easy solution to fix small to medium cracks is to fill it with a putty of a similar colour. Scratches can be fixed by sanding down the tops and resurfacing. A top tip would be to avoid putting your timber furniture outdoors and keep up a regular maintenance and cleaning program.

Other issues some café owners face is table tops that warp or discolour. We find this mostly happens when a dark coloured top is placed in direct sunlight. The darker coloured table tops get hotter as the dark colour soaks up more of the sun’s heat. In Australia, where we experience high temperatures, this is not a good thing! This does lead to resin tops fading and/or warping. We would recommend that only light colours are used in areas outdoors or in direct sunlight.

4: Rocking & Wobbly Tables

Another major problem many café owners, such as yourself, face is rocking or wobbly tables. Tables that aren’t completely stable often result in spillages of food or drink and present an unequal surface for them to eat off. This isn’t a great look for your café and could cause some patrons to choose another venue over against yours.

To combat wobbly tables, we suggest you go for table bases that have adjustable or self-levelling feet. Many table bases come with adjustable feet (all of Adage’s table bases have adjustable feet). The feet can be manually adjusted to bring the table top the right height and keep the table surface even. Alternatively, self-levelling table bases are engineered to stabilise the table regardless of the surface they are used on.

5: Finding the perfect chairs for your target audience

A café is a great place for friends and family alike to come together and catch up on the latest gossip over a coffee and cake. This can mean you might have patrons in your venue for half an hour or you might have them still sitting there 2 hours later. Depending on the patron turnover you want for your venue, this may suit you perfectly, or it may mean you have to turn potential guests away because you don’t have the seating for them.

Firstly, you need to decide what your customer goals are. Do you want to keep your patrons in your venue for a long time, or would you rather they didn’t stay for too long and you were able to have a higher customer turnover?

A great way to stick to these goals is through the chairs that you use in your venue.

If you are wanting to keep your customers in your venue for longer periods of time, you might look at getting some super comfortable upholstered or timber chairs. Or you might include more booth seating or sofas around your café. These will encourage your guests to sit and mingle longer and may lead to them ordering more food and drinks. Alternatively, it could mean other customers can’t enjoy your hospitality if all seats are taken.

If you’re looking for a higher customer turnover, you may want to look at chairs that are comfortable but don’t necessarily invite the customer to sit for long periods of time. You may not put such an emphasis on the comfort of your chairs, but maybe the looks and quality that will attract the patrons in the first place.

About the Author

Jessica Weng

With a remarkable 18 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Jessica Weng is a seasoned professional. Her tenacity, work ethic, and keen understanding of venue layouts and design have made her an invaluable asset in every project.

Read more from Jessica