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Restaurant Bar Stools Buyer’s Guide

Shopping for restaurant bar stools is going to be much different than picking out a set for the kitchen. There are certain features to look out for because you’re running a business.

In this article, we’re going to go over the two types of restaurants, which stools go best in that type, which seat height you need, and more features to consider.

Casual Dining vs Fine Dining Restaurants

First, let’s determine which type of restaurant you run. There are typically two types. Which one do you run?

Casual Dining Restaurant

These types of establishments are more focused on ambiance and menu variations, but the food is brought out quickly and the customers typically only stay up to 30 minutes. Examples of these places are Panera Bread, Noodles & Company, Zoe’s Kitchen, etc.

Chairs — Casual restaurants typically have chairs that are easy to clean, as they expect customers to come in and out pretty quickly.

Look for stools — that are easy to clean like all wood, upholstery such as vinyl is easy to wipe down, and all metal or a combination of metal and wood.

Holland's Hampton #3140 Barstool with Back in Dark Cherry Wood
^ 3140 Hampton Bar Stool – Also available with a seat cushion in fabric or vinyl
Holland's Jackie 410 Stainless Swivel Bar Stool with Ladder Back and Graph Tidal (turquoise) Cushion
^ Jackie Swivel Stool – Also available in other finishes and colors
Holland Bar Stool's Catalina #820 Swivel Barstool with Back, in Bronze metal finish and Natural Maple wood seat finish
^ Catalina Swivel Stool – Also available with a seat cushion

Fine Dining Restaurant

Fine Dining creates more of an experience for the customer and includes fancy cutlery, expensive wine, and chef prepared meals. Typically customers stay an hour to 2-hours. Examples of these places are Ruth’s Chris, The Capital Grille, Olive Garden, etc.

Chairs — Fine dining restaurants have chairs that focus on comfort to keep the customer there for longer so they can order more wine and dessert.

Look for stools — that have enough padding to where it doesn’t feel like you’re sinking into the chair, have fully upholstered backs, and include Crypton performance fabric or leather. Both are very durable, but Crypton performance fabric feels warmer to sit on than leather. It depends on the room temperature in your establishment and the look you’re going for. Vinyl is also good. Make sure to find vinyl that has texturing so it has a rich look.

Trica's Aramis Swivel Counter Stool with Cross Back in Cocoa metal
^ Aramis Swivel Stool – Also available in other finishes and fabric, vinyl, leather
Trica's Biscaro Gold Bar Stool with Gray Seat and Back Cushion
^ Biscaro Stool – Also available as a dining chair and customizable
Trica's Coffee Cup Swivel Bar Stool with Back and Metal Frame
^ Coffee Cup Swivel Bar Stool – Also available in other back designs

What to Keep in Mind When Purchasing Commercial Bar Stools

Seat Height

Let’s first look at seat height because this is going to be most important aspect. There are essentially 3 main seat heights, but there can be a lot of in-between numbers.

If you haven’t built your counter for your bar yet, we recommend building it at 36 inches high because this is the easiest height a customer can slide into.

If you’re working with an existing counter, here are the heights to follow along to:

Learn more about seat heights here.

Counter height measurements
If you table or bar is 36″ high, you need a 26″ seat height bar stool.
Bar height measurements
If your table or bar is 41-42″ high, you need a 30″ seat height bar stool.
Spectator height measurements
If your table or bar is 46-48″ high, you need a 34″ seat height bar stool.

Back Height

Now that you have an idea on the seat height, you need to determine if you want a backless stool, one with a low back, or a high back.

Backless Bar Stools

Bar stools without backs are best suited for casual dining restaurants because:

  • Customers can quickly get in and out of them.
  • They don’t have a back which can bang into the counter.
  • It’s easy for the customer to see the sightlines of the entire restaurant.

Shop commercial-grade backless bar stools here.

Short / Low Back Bar Stools

A good compromise is a short / low back bar stool. This bar stool type is suited for both casual and fine dining restaurants, depending on the style and colors of the stool.

Low backs are ideal because:

  • Customers can quickly get in and out of them.
  • They don’t obstruct the view to the bar.
  • Bussers can more easily clean around the table than with a stool with a full back.

Shop commercial-grade low back bar stools here.

Mid-to-High Back Bar Stools

Bar stools with full backs like this one offer the customer the ultimate in comfort. This type of design is best suited for fine dining restaurants or for casual restaurants wanting comfort.

High backs are ideal because:

  • They’re overall going to be more comfortable and allows the customer sit back and relax.
  • Are more safe to the general public because of the full back.

Shop commercial-grade mid-to-high back bar stools here.

Weight Capacity

You don’t want to overlook a bar stools weight capacity. If you do, your investment may collapse right in front of you and you may even have a lawsuit on your hands.

Weight capacity means the weight that the bar stool can hold.

Our Trica bar stools, which are ideal for fine dining restaurants, are all commercial grade and have a weight capacity of 250 lbs.

Most of our metal Holland bar stools here have a weight capacity of 550 lbs which is incredible! These are made of solid steel.

If you need a higher weight capacity, look for our Big and Tall Stools that carry 750 lbs of weight.

Seat Width

The width of the seat is a determining factor when thinking about comfort vs space.

If you have the space or your goal is to keep the customer there longer, we recommend a wider seat. Our big and tall collection has bigger seats.

Trica's Allan Swivel Counter Stool in Mahogany Wood Finish on Back, Thick Seat Cushion and Metal Frame
^ Allan – Seat Width: 19.5″
Trica's Biscaro Modern Bar Stool in Brushed Steel and Charcoal Seat and Back Cushion
^ Biscaro – Seat Width: 19.5″
Trica's Creation Collection Swivel Bar Stool in Golden Brown Metal Finish, Plaid Seat Cushion and Elk Cut-Out on Back
^ Creation Collection – Seat Width: 19.5″

Typically if a bar stool’s seat width is 19″ or greater, that is considered a wide seat.

If you don’t have space or your goal is to get customers in and out quickly, we recommend a narrower seat.

Narrow seats can still be comfy, but we recommend to NOT go less than 10″ on a seat width. That is just too narrow and uncomfortable. Not all of your customers will be size 0’s. Keep that in mind.

Overall Width – Arms or No Arms

For casual dining restaurants, arms are typically omitted and this is because:

  • These stools are harder to get in and out of.
  • When you have a large overturn of customers in one day, more things can go wrong.
  • Arms are more likely to bang into the counter.
  • Customers can overlook the arms and spill everything.
  • It’s a headache you don’t want.

For fine dining restaurants, arms can be a pleasure when the stools are properly spaced. The customer will be able to sit back, watch the TV, or converse with their friends. Bar stools with arms also convey that the restaurant is going to be higher quality as they put in the thought to include arms.

Shop commercial-grade bar stools with arms here.

Swivel

Trica's Wish Upholstered Swivel Bar Stool with Back Upholstered Seat and Back and Metal Finish
^ Wish bar stool by Trica
  • Easier to get in and out of than a stationary / non-swivel stool.
  • Easy for the customers to interact and talk with friends as they can swivel to the left and the right quickly and easily.
  • Easier for the bussers to position the stool towards the front of the bar at the end of the day.
  • Shop commercial-grade swivel bar stools here.

Non-Swivel

Holland's Jackie #400 Stationary Barstool with Back in Black Metal Finish and Medium Oak Seat Wood Finish
^ Jackie bar stool by Holland

Summary

Now that you narrowed down which features you need, start shopping!

Posted by Stephanie

on in Restaurant Guides

Stephanie

A lover of all types of design, Stephanie brings over 9 years of experience with interior design and seating. From modern to transitional, she loves any design that exudes comfort and elegance.