Banqueting Chairs

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By James K. Johnson

It may still seem like Summer is with us but many hotels, restaurants and catering businesses are already planning for the considerably increased demand over the Christmas and New Year periods. This is a time when many Companies choose to buy new banqueting chairs and banquet furniture making sizeable investments on the back of this very busy trading time.

When considering banquet chairs, there are several types that most people in the hospitality industry usually think of. There are the decorative wooden type with gilt painted finish that have become increasingly popular for weddings and are now available as a stackable chair giving the extra convenience of space saving when not in use.

These banquet chairs are often available with removable seat pads which have the bonus feature of being able to offer the customer different colour seats with only the added cost of buying extra seat pads. These chairs were originally made by the classic Thonet bentwood chair factories in Hungary, Romania or Czechoslovakia and have changed very little in design over many years. The only significant change, over the years has been the introduction of the stacking version of the banqueting chair.

In the last few years as these countries have one by one joined the European Union, the costs of making these very labour intensive chairs has increased considerably for these factories, giving them no alternative but to increase their prices. This has led to some UK banqueting furniture suppliers looking to factories in China and Malaysia to produce copies of these chairs but without the many years of experience of the traditional manufacturers, the quality can be very variable. Often, where the European factories would use steam bending to shape the elegant curved forms of the banquet chair, the Chinese and Malaysian manufacturers use simpler wood joining methods, for example finger jointing or even butt jointing, methods which are not nearly as strong as the steam bending process which produces the part without affecting the strength or integrity of the wood. Therefore purchasing these cheaper chairs can often be a false economy and can end in very early replacement of an expensive investment.

The other styles of Banquet chair are produced in either tubular steel or tubular aluminium and have one great advantage over the wooden styles. That is of course great strength and longevity at a lower unit price. The steel chairs are usually made in 3/4 inch square section 18 gauge tubular steel that can be finished in any colour, with gold being the most popular and silver or black being the next most popular choices. The Aluminium chairs are most popular in extruded aluminium tube 1 inch square section. As it is extruded it gives the manufacturer the opportunity to offer a wide choice of tube section designs, either plain or fluted. The other big advantage of both the steel and aluminium chairs over wooden banquet chairs is that because they are machine bent to great accuracy, they can be manufactured to stack very tightly and have plastic frame protectors to prevent damage from frame to frame contact. Recent advances in painting technology mean that both the steel and aluminium banquet chairs can have a painted finish that imitates the deep red colour of mahogany or walnut, oak or many other timbers and can even be printed with a wood grain effect if the customer likes this. These offer the best space saving option which is a big advantage if this style of chair is only used at the hotel’s peak time and needs to be stored afterwards. The aluminium and steel banquet chairs are produced in a variety of attractive shapes and designs as either side chairs or carvers (armchairs). As many of the chair components are standard, it is possible for the manufacturer to offer different chair designs and even seat widths without the need for expensive re- tooling.

For banqueting chairs sold in the UK combustion modified upholstery foam must be used along with fabric that has been treated with a fire resistant coating to meet the British Standard requirement.

For all these styles of chair the choice of upholstery fabric is virtually limitless if the chair is purchased from a UK supplier that has an in house upholstery shop. Some suppliers import the chairs already upholstered from factories in the far east but this limits the choice of upholstery patterns and colours that they can offer to their customers.

Whichever style or design of banquet chair that the hotelier or restaurateur decide to choose, the effect on a dining room set out with these chairs finished in an attractive gilt colour is always very appealing to the diners.

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