Ensuring your restaurant seating is solid and safe is an often overlooked aspect of owning a business. Learn how to avoid customer injury here!
Why You Should Inspect Your Restaurant’s Seating
The Wisconsin-born American architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the S.C. Johnson administrative building in 1936, and along with it, desks and chairs for its employees. But the wheeled office chairs had a significant quirk: they only had three legs. This was no problem—until an employee bent over to pick up a pen off the floor or did so much as cross their legs, when they’d find themselves in a heap on the floor.
Eventually, the seasoned employees grew used to this risk, and it became a sort of rite of passage for new employees. Despite many requests to Wright, no improvements to the chairs were made.
Unlike a futuristic office in the 1930s, your bar or restaurant can’t afford to ignore chair and seating safety. Inspecting restaurant seating is an important task in the day-to-day food service industry. While it’s often thought to be a low priority, it can be crucial for reducing liability, improving safety, keeping the restaurant clean and sanitary, and improving your guest experience.
Ready to take the next steps in creating a safe and accessible dining experience? Try these tips!
Inspect Seat Quality and Sturdiness
Restaurant seating should always be sturdy and capable of supporting plenty of weight. While unique and decorative chairs may look nice, their lack of sturdiness may expose your restaurant to risk. You will want to regularly monitor your restaurant’s seating, as seating can lose its sturdiness for various reasons:
- The item may not be put together in accordance with the manufacturer instructions.
- It may be damaged when storing or moving around the restaurant.
- Customers could potentially damage the object during use and not report it.
During your inspections, you may find that some of your restaurant’s seating is in fact deteriorating. If a chair or stool is structurally unsound, it should be:
- Removed from the area and labeled “Out of Service” or “Do Not Use.”
- Determine if repairs can be made per manufacturer’s instructions.
- If repairs can’t be completed, the seating should be destroyed to prevent future use.
To mitigate structural risks related to seating, conduct regular audits of your seating and train staff on what to do when they encounter unstable seats, as they’ll interact with your seating the most.
Ensure Seat Cleanliness
In restaurants, food can end up in many places. If it falls into the lap of a customer, it can easily get on seating. Not only does this reduce the restaurant’s cleanliness, it could potentially damage the seating as well. Follow these best-practices to ensure optimal cleanliness:
- Regularly ensure there is no food residue or other debris that can possibly damage chairs when sat on.
- Teach staff to wipe and clean chairs regularly.
- Make sure vinyl seating is in good condition and is being cleaned with non-abrasive materials.
- Use handheld vacuums to clean upholstered seating.
Assess Seating Accessibility
Accessibility is important to pay attention to, as it not only can impact whether your restaurant is maintaining legal compliance, but it can also impact whether or not customers come back a second time. Whenever possible, provide various options for restaurant seating, such as:
- Bar stools, chairs or benches to accommodate individuals of various heights.
- Ensure chairs, stools or benches can accommodate all sizes.
- Ensure newly purchased high chairs for infants/toddlers meet high chair regulations.
- Restaurants should have seating that accommodates individuals using mobility aids such as wheelchairs.
Seating Shouldn’t Impact Restaurant Safety
As you consider making your seating accessible and safe, don’t neglect the other ways it can impact restaurant safety. Bulky and heavy chairs can impact fire safety and limit the space available for navigation. Servers should be able to move easily without needing to move through narrow aisles between chairs or stepping over diners’ legs.
Monitor Flooring Quality
While we’ve mostly focused on seating, it’s critical to remember that flooring quality can have a big impact on seating safety. If floors are carpeted, make sure there aren’t snags or tears that chair legs can get stuck in. This can lead to diners leaning too hard to move and falling as a result.
Encourage your employees to note and report when and where there’s damage to flooring so it can be addressed promptly.
Seating Safety is Important for Restaurant Safety
The tale of Frank Lloyd Wright’s three-legged chairs has a happy resolution: although Wright denied Herbert Johnson’s repeated requests for a redesigned chair, the two maintained correspondence, and Wright eventually stopped by for a visit. Johnson arranged for one of the desk chairs to be brought in for Wright.
During their luncheon, a pen from Johnson’s desk just so happened to roll onto the floor beside Wright, who Johnson politely asked to retrieve it for him. Upon Wright’s attempt to grab the pen, he too found himself on the ground, tossed from his own chair. A new, four-legged chair was designed shortly thereafter.
Stability: it’s important for seating, and it’s important for business. Through our general liability coverage, we help business owners find the fourth leg—the stability they can rely on—to protect their restaurant, their customers, and their livelihoods.
To learn more about how Society Insurance can help your bar or restaurant, contact your local agent for a customized quote today.