What You Need to Consider When Choosing Restaurant Bar Stools

Traditional bar and restaurant

Bar stools are a practical seating addition to any bar or restaurant décor. People sometimes prefer bar stools to chairs and booths when it comes to seating, especially when they want to grab the bartender’s attention. They are perfect for sitting around a bar counter, outfitting a lounge, or pairing with a very tall (bar height) table. But choosing the right bar stool height for your table or counter space is not always as easy as it seems. If the dimensions of the bar stools are not proportioned with the tables, you will create a very uncomfortable seating experience for your customers. Slouching over or struggling to reach for their food/drinks is the last thing they would expect to do at your venue and you can avoid this predicament if you know what bar stool to look for.

Type of Bar Stools

Modern bar design

Selecting the ideal bar stool for your venue can be very overwhelming. At times, you might find yourself lost in a black hole with a dizzying variety of styles, materials, sizes, and designs. Deciding between wood or metal stools, backless or full back, swivel, or stationary stools, and stools with wooden or padded seats can be stressful. However, the nomenclature of bar stools has four designations:

  • Bar height chairs
  • Counter height bar stools
  • Standard bar stools
  • Spectator bar stools

The bar stool height can range between 30” bar height seat that are normally used at 42" high bar tables and up to 36” restaurant style spectator extra tall bar stools. Although the dimensions tend to be standard, there are custom bar stools such as adjustable height bar stools that can be designed for specific seating needs. The basics of the right bar stool will unexceptionally pertain to comfort levels. But most importantly, being able to determine how and who will use your space will help you make your decisions on finding the right bar stool easier.

Measuring Bar Stools to Fit Your Layout

Bar stools placement diagram

An illustrative table capacity guide can show you which bar stools you need. Nevertheless, choosing the right bar stool entails knowing three fundamental components:

  • Stool size
  • Counter/Table height
  • Thigh clearance

Combining these measurements together should give you an ideal range for your seating needs. There needs to be a right balance between a comfortable seating position and the proper distance from the chair and surface. Deciding on the most accurate dimensions only requires you to measure from the floor to the top of your table or counter space to ensure accuracy. As a general rule, the bar height needs to be about 10” to 12” shorter than the table top or counter height. Learning the correct measurements can potentially increase the seating capacity at least and prevent overcrowding spaces at most. Additionally, you need to regulate the number of bar stools you need and will fit comfortably at your table or counter. You should therefore ascertain that there is at least 26” to 30” between each stool. Furthermore, you should allow 14” from the center of the last bar stool to the wall. Doing so will create enough space for your customers to dine comfortably as well easily moving in and out of their seats.

Counter Height Bar Stools vs Table Height Stools

Metal bar stools

When shopping for bar stools, it’s important to distinct between a counter height bar stool and a table height bar stool. A counter stool is typically used at a bar/restaurant/kitchen counter and stands around 24” tall. A table height bar stool, on the other hand, stands about 30” tall and is exclusively designed for sitting at a bar. The industry standard for counter height bar stool seats measures between 24”-29” from the floor and are recommended for counters or restaurant tables measuring about 34”-39” high. Seats of tall bar stools approximately measure between 30”-36” high from the floor and are perfect for counters or bar tables that stand 40”-46” from the ground. All you really need to do is subtract 10” from the height measurement to know which bar stool to purchase. That way, you can match the appropriate bar stool height with the surface height and know how many bar stools you can fit.

Which Bar Stools to Choose

Swivel metal bar stool

Adjustable height bar stools virtually and literally meet every seating layout need. While there is not much in a way with a wide selection of styles as there is with other type of stools, bar stools with height adjustment capabilities mean that they work perfectly well with different types of countertops, table tops, bar tops, and even with spectator type bar stools. They may be more expensive but the versatility and the convenience of having adjustable height bar stools mean that the stool height is right for any occasion.

Bar stools with arms may be a preferred choice for seating at a dining table setting. The arm rest itself should be considered when the stool is used at a counter or bar location. In order for these stools to be usable, the arm rests must remain unimpeded. Simply put, a standard size table bar stool can work if there isn’t an overhang. If there is an overhang, the stool must be shorter to fit underneath the table or counter. If and when using a regular bar stool, it must be pulled out and away from the overhang thus making the arm rests usable.

Choosing the Bar Stool Design

Bar stools come in a variety of sizes, shapes, designs, and styles. Once you have found the right height, you are left to find the style that fits with your bar design and overall décor. You can start by carefully reviewing the layout, where everything is positioned and your current motif to select a style that compliments your décor the most. An upholstered bar stool with arm rests in a metal or carved wood finish tends to add a touch of elegance to any bar design. Functionality is another integral factor. If you or your guests are going to be sitting in the stools for extended periods of time, a stool with a cushioned seat and back are more comfortable than a backless bar stool.

If you have a limited amount of space, bar stools with arms may not be a practical choice for seating in this scenario as you should be able to slide them underneath the table or counter, especially when they are not in use at the moment. If you decide on a swivel bar stool, especially if it has a back, it can be used as conventional seating anywhere. If you operate a more family-friendly dining establishment, a stool without a cushioned seat or with a stain/spill resistant fabric is ideal for easy maintenance and clean-up. Bistro style bar stools come to mind. An adjustable bar stool can also be helpful as children can easily sit on the chair and adjust the height to their comfort level.

Live Locations