How to Buy the Perfect Bar Stools for Your Restaurant

types of bar stools

Did you know that 45% of diners go out to eat multiple times a week—and that 20% of them go out to eat once a week? Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, people are hungry to go out.

So, if you’re thinking of opening a restaurant or redesigning the one you currently have to draw in more customers, then it’s the right time to do so. If you are, then something you’re likely thinking about is the types of bar stools you might buy.

There are so many choices out there, it can seem confusing. Do you want bar stools that swivel? Ones that reflect your restaurant’s style? Ones that are easier to move around? What about COVID-19 considerations? It’s a lot to think about, and it can get overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide. By providing you with information on bar stool styles and trendy bar stools, you’ll find the best type of bar stool for your restaurant. So instead of having to obsess about all these details, you can focus on what matters: making your business successful.

Read on to learn more.

Think About Your Restaurant Design

Before you get started, you’ll need to think about your restaurant design. There are so many different types of bar stools that you need to find a way to narrow down the list a little—and imagining how you want your restaurant to look will simplify your search significantly.

When you look at your restaurant, how do you imagine it functioning? Do you imagine people on bar stools sitting only at the bar, or do you think you might have some high tables by the windows, where people might sit on bar stools looking out at the view?

You’ll also want to think about how your waiters will move around, and the path customers might take to get to the restaurant. In these areas, you’ll want to avoid having any tables, seats, or bar stools.

Then there are space considerations to consider.

If you want to fit more customers in, then is there an area you haven’t used before where you could squeeze a tall table and some bar stools? If you’ve just built a patio outside, might it benefit from having a bar and bar stools in the corner?

Considering that we’re currently in the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it will take a while for everyone to get the vaccine, you’ll also have to decide how to stick to state guidelines and your moral compass when it comes to the layout of your restaurant.

This will have an impact on where you place your bar stools, too.

Think About Your Restaurant Style

Once you’ve thought about your restaurant design, so that you’ll know where different types of bar stools will be and how many you’ll probably need, it’s time to consider your restaurant style.

Do you have a sleek, modern feel? Then you’ll probably want metal bar stools. If the style is more bohemian, then unique bar stools that are wooden and have a cushion might work better.

If you haven’t done this already, put together a color scheme palette, where you identify what colors occur most in the interior of your restaurant: on the drapes, in any posters or paintings you might have hung up, and even on the plates and menus.

Branding is a big part of running any business successfully, and when your customers can recognise the feel and personality of your restaurant, they’re more likely to return.

If you aren’t sure what look your restaurant has, consider consulting with a restaurant designer.

Measure Before You Buy

Now that you know where the bar stools will go and how they might match with the decor of your restaurant, you have to do the right measurements. Otherwise, you could buy a beautiful stool that matches with everything, but that isn’t comfortable to sit in—which means wasted money!

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To do measurements correctly, you first need to measure the height between the bar or high table and the floor. Once you have this measurement, subtract ten to twelve inches from it.

This will give you the ideal height for the bar stool you buy, allowing people to feel comfortable when they lean on the table, eat, or put their glass down. Keep in mind that if you’re buying stools with armrests, you need to make room for these in your measurements, too.

You’ll also want to think about the space between each stool. As a general rule of thumb, six inches between each stool is the way to go. Another way of looking at it is that, from the center of one stool to another, there should be between 26 to 30 inches.

There are also different kinds of measurements that go with different kinds of bars. If you have a lunch counter, which usually is between 35 to 36 inches high, you’ll want the bar stool to be around 24 to 26 inches high.

For an ordinary bar, which is 40 to 42 inches high, stools should be 28 to 30 inches high. Finally, for a spectator bar, which is 45 to 48 inches high, the stool should be 33 to 34 inches.

Types of Bar Stools

Speaking of height, it’s important to know that there’s a distinction between different types of bar stools you should be aware of. Generally speaking, there are three different types you see in restaurants: counter stools, bar stools, and extra tall bar stools.

Counter stools are between 24 to 26 inches high. They’re usually used with islands and kitchen counters, so if you have any tables at this height at your restaurant, or you have an interior design that wants to reflect a homey vibe, this is the way to go.

Classic bar stools usually measure around 30 inches. If you’ve got a classic bar with a height of about 42 inches, then this is the choice you’ll want to make for your restaurant.

Finally, there are extra tall bar stools, which are between 34 to 36 inches.

Though these look cool, don’t buy them unless the bar they’ll be placed at is close to 48 inches or higher. If you run a sports bar and want customers to have a good view of the TV, this is a good choice.

Because you’ve measured the height of your tables so you get the right types of bar stools, you can now know exactly which type of bar stool you need to look for—which will make shopping around much easier.

Styles of Bar Stools

Now that you know what type of bar stool you want to buy, it’s time to think about style. Pull out the notes you made while thinking about your restaurant’s design and color palette, and ask yourself: “How do I want my customers to feel when they sit on a bar stool? Comfortable, classy, or cool?”

You’ll also want to think about how the stools will be used. If you’re running a sit-down restaurant that serves fancy dinners over several hours, and the bar stools are a way to make room for more customers, a more comfortable stool is key, since they’ll be there for hours.

Or is your restaurant a place where people are more on the go? Maybe your restaurant is in a popular shopping area; in this case, you might want to go with small, backless stools that don’t take up too much room and encourage the influx of new customers.

Once you’ve thought about the style and use of your bar stools, you can decide which style might work best for you.

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The Backless Stool

The first style we’ll cover is the backless style of bar stool. This is the bar stool you see in most bars, which is usually round at the top. It doesn’t take up much space, and it’s easy to store—even beneath the bar itself.

If you want your customers to spend a lot of time in your restaurant, however, this might not be the best choice.

This is probably better for a drinks-only bar, instead of a restaurant like yours, since customers are unlikely to stay long and order food if you don’t make them comfortable.

If you have a bar area where you’ll seat customers while they wait for their table, however, this choice is fine. Otherwise, you might want to consider adding some upholstery or installing hooks at the bar, so they have somewhere to put their coats.

Bar Stool with Arms

A good alternative to the backless stool is the bar stool with arms. If you want your customers to be comfortable while they eat and drink, this is perfect. Even if they’re sitting at the bar just for a few beers while they watch the game, they’re more likely to stay and order more drinks if you provide them with a little more comfort.

The downside, however, is that a bar stool with arms will take up more room. So, if you were hoping to fit more customers into your bar with bar stools, this might not be the best choice.

The Swivel Stool

The swivel stool is a good choice if you’re not sure about choosing between a backless stool or a bar stool with arms, because it’s usually cushioned and gives those seated at them a little extra mobility. There’s also the fact that it’s a fun addition to any bar.

Many customers might say, “Hey, let’s go to that place with the swivel stools.” However, if many of your customers have children, it might not be the best choice, since it could be a safety hazard.

The Upholstered Stool

Finally, there’s the upholstered stool option. This is probably the most popular among restaurants, since it’s comfortable and allows for hours spent sitting—which is what your customers, diners, are likely to do.

Additionally, they tend to have a more formal feel. So, if your restaurant is offering a formal dining experience, we definitely recommend the upholstered stool.

Materials and Construction of Bar Stools

When choosing the right bar stool for your restaurant, you’ll also want to think about materials and construction. In addition to having an effect on the dining experience (because of how it will feel to sit in them), they will also have an impact on the decor.

Generally speaking, bar stools are made from wicker, plastic, aluminum, metal, and wood—and, sometimes, a combination of these.

Think about what type your diners would be more comfortable sitting on, and which material goes best with your interior design.

Additional Features and Styles

There are also additional features and styles you’ll want to think about. If you’re thinking about getting arm rests, then this will give your restaurant a more formal, old-fashioned look. It’s also more comfortable. Wood or metal usually works best for bar stools with arm rests.

Another feature to think about is if you want to bolt down your bar stools. Generally speaking, we don’t recommend this option, since with a restaurant you usually want to be able to move seats around to accommodate parties of different sizes.

Additionally, given COVID-19 restrictions, being able to move seats as needed is important.

There’s also the industrial/rustic style to think about. These bar stools usually have a combination of wood and metal that makes them modern and warm at the same time. If you’re running a more modern-feeling restaurant, this might be the right fit for you.

There are many options out there, including especially designed Restaurant Bar Stools.

Need More Tips?

Need more tips on finding the right types of bar stools or how to run your restaurant business? Need help creating the right aesthetic for your restaurant, or budgeting for buying new furniture or making changes?

We can help with all your needs. Check out the business section of our blog to learn more.