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products & trends: task & banquet seating: Sitting Pretty: Comfort, design and durability are the keys to choosing the correct chair

 

Task and banquet chairs come in a plethora of designs and colors, but all have a primary function—whether used at the work desk in a guestroom, for a meeting or for a special event in a ballroom: They all are places to sit. One would think that comfort would be the number-one priority for designers and hotel managers when deciding on which chairs to use, but sometimes it’s the look that takes precedence.

“It depends on who’s making the decision on the chairs. If we are dealing with designers, a lot of the time the design is the key factor,” said Jeff Sladick, director of sales at Chino, CA-based Bertolini Hospitality & Design. “When we are working at the property level, that’s where the comfort of the chair becomes a lot more of a concern. We see people doing a sit test, where they are actually sitting on chairs—comparing them and seeing which ones feel more comfortable. I’ve seen people who will replace their desk chair for a few days to test a banquet chair they are thinking of.”

Troy Rabbett, commercial marketing specialist for Dubuque, IA-based Flexsteel Commercial Furniture, and Spencer Posey, director of marketing at Orem, UT-based MityLite, have found that their clients usually look at comfort and design equally. 

“For us, [design and comfort] have always gone hand in hand,” Rabbett said. “We remain committed both style and comfort in our entire line of dining chairs. We want to build something that will hold up the traffic of consistent usage and offer comfort to all guests.”

“Hospitality companies want seating that matches their brand, as well as the look and feel of their facility. At the same time, they want their guests to be comfortable and enjoy their time there. Both comfort and design play a large part in the guest experience, which is key to repeat business,” said Posey.

Charles Monaco, CEO and design director for Plainview, NY-based Furniture Design Studio, feels the same about task chairs. “Any good hotel designer is definitely going to run the comfort hand in hand with the look. You want a guest to come and sit down on a comfortable chair and open up a laptop,” he said.

Both Posey and Sladick said that hotels should look to performance treatments like Cyrpton and Nanotex in order to keep their chairs in the best shape possible. 

“Crypton, as well as new technology and chemistries that are more cost effective like Nanotex are helping properties get a better ROI on their seating investment,” said Posey, while Sladick noted that, “Before, someone wouldn’t pay $5 or $10 more for performance fabric. Now, we are seeing that the budgets are there, and they are saying, ‘If we are going to buy these, we might as well get a fabric that’s going to perform.’”

Performance is also an issue for task chairs, which take a lot of abuse from guests, according to Monaco.

“Guests that are checking into a hotel or timeshare feel that ‘I just paid $250, so I can treat this any way I want.’ If that chair is not set up correctly and you don’t have a lot of room, a guest will shove the chair to go underneath the desk, and it won’t go under and the arms smash into the desk. This is how you start to deplete the quality of the product,” he said, also noting, “People believe that a task chair is a safe place to drop a suitcase. It becomes a luggage rack. In the projects we do, we have a luggage-rack option because it’s the only way to give a shot at people not destroying the furniture.”

Traditional colors, such as browns and grays, and neutral patterns remain the most popular options for task and banquet seating, but some projects are starting to think outside the box when it comes to the colors of cushions and even frames.

“In banquet seating, we always hope for flashy and exciting—big prints and stuff like that—but most of our clients typically want the chairs to blend into the background,” said Sladick. “We’ve recently seen a few fabrics incorporate some silver and pale yellow. And, properties that we’ve done in Hawaii and the Caribbean have used some brighter colors.”

Rabbett has noticed that a “less is more” mindset is prevalent, and “we’re seeing an interest in a clean, modern cut on the legs of our dining chairs. Structured and very tapered designs have been popular as of late. Metallic fabrics and vibrant, solid tone-on-tone textures have been huge, and lots of metal hues are gaining traction.”

“There are a lot of options out there, but we still see a lot of the more conservative colors being specified when it comes to banquet seating,” said Posey, whose company worked with Avenue Interior Design to create the banquet chairs for the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. “Roughly 65% of both fabric and frame colors are darker tones. Some of the most popular finishes include black, bronze, gunmetal and cocoa, with the traditional metallics—­silver and gold tones­—holding serve.”

For task chairs, Monaco said, “For the most part, your average hotels, and even some of the higher-end and boutique hotels, are staying in solid colors. They are using a lot of vinyls—you can get some really good wear and comfort out of a 50,000-rub vinyl—and the upper-end properties are using leathers. But, what’s happening in a lot of the funky [boutique] hotels, the colors can go anywhere. I just did task chairs in a lavender color for a special project in South Beach.”

When it comes to the life of banquet and task chairs, the consensus was that they will easily last at least five to eight years, and longer if they are of high quality. In most cases, a hotel will decide to get rid of the chairs not because of disrepair, but rather due to the property being renovated and looking for a fresh, new design for their seating. 

“We like to refer to a quote that’s been attributed to Benjamin Franklin: ‘The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of the low price is forgotten,’” said Sladick. “A property is going to keep the chairs for seven, eight or even 10 years. They are going to be used often, and it really makes sense to pay a few more dollars for a high-quality chair up front and get that return-on-investment of a longer use. The design and the look will expire before the actual functionality and the durability of the chairs.”