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Definition: Commercial Furniture (otherwise known as contract furniture) relates to furnishings that have been specifically designed and tested for use in business interiors where they will be used regularly or constantly be large volumes of people over long periods of time.
Refurbishing an existing business, or starting a new one can be quite a daunting and stressful task. With so many factors to consider such as cash flow and lead times not to mention creating an aesthetically pleasing commercial interior that makes your customers want to return time and time again. But it is human nature to make do with what you have got and hold off that investment for some time in the future.
Understandably it may be tempting, especially for start up companies to use domestic furniture in your business interior. It’s often cheaper, you might have an old sofa or some dining chairs at home that you think may be suitable or you may even contemplate purchasing second hand domestic furniture to use in your cafe or restaurant. But wait! There are a number of reasons why this might not be the best course of action to take, as we explain below.
Reasons Why to Buy Commercial Furniture
First and foremost let’s start with the law (this only applies to upholstered items). It is a legal requirement that all upholstered furniture conforms to CRIB5 Fire & Safety regulations (BS5852 Source 5) and a certificate must be produced when requested by a Fire Officer. Failure to comply with this law will at best result in a hefty fine, worse still the officer could close your business and at very worst (heaven forbid) your building caught fire with disastrous consequences. Commercial Furniture Suppliers like ourselves or legally obliged to provide you with a CRIB5 fire certificate (either upon purchasing your new furniture or at a later date), this is all you will need to present to the Fire Officer when they visit.
Durability is also a major factor to consider when choosing furniture for your business. As noted above, you may be tempted to go down the domestic route because it’s slightly cheaper than commercial furniture in the short term. But think about the long run, customers in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants will not treat your furniture with as much care as they would with their own furniture at home. For this reason domestic furniture is prone to breaking when it it is used in a commercial environment. Commercial furniture is thoroughly tested by companies such as FIRA (Furniture Industry Research Association) to ensure suitability for use in commercial environments where it will be subjected to regular use. Therefore in the long term commercial furniture offers better value for money because it will last significantly longer than furniture indented for domestic use.
Commercial furniture is designed to be much more stable than domestic furnishings. Stability is one of the test criteria carried out by FIRA and other testing companies to ensure suitability for the commercial market. The test involves the front legs being secured and then force is applied at a 45 degree angle, if the force required is more than 40% of the chairs overall weight without the front legs showing any movement then the chair passes.
To summarise the points above, health and safety is a big factor. A broken piece of furniture being rendered unusable is one thing, and it might cost you a few covers per day. But imagine the expense of an injury caused to one of your customers as a consequence of a broken or unstable piece of furniture. An incident like that could send a young, or small business under due to expensive legal costs and compensation pay outs.
Longevity is another factor to consider. In the structural sense that we have covered above, you do not want the furniture to fall apart as domestic furniture is prone to doing. But in an aesthetic sense you want the furniture to look as new as possible for as long as possible. This is why the majority of commercial furniture is finished with hard wearing materials. For example contract fabrics have rub tests (a way of measuring how durable a fabric or leathers) these are carried out by third party companies and are known as either the Martindale (most popular) or the Wyzenbeek test. The higher the value, the longer the fabric, leather or faux leather will last. Contract fabrics have a much higher rub test value than domestic, they are usually between 2 – 5 times more hard wearing than domestic upholstery options. For non upholstered furniture such as table tops and wooden bases contract furniture suppliers use super hard wearing lacquers known as acid catalyst lacquer (AC). This not only minimises the chances of scratching, but it also helps to resist heat and spillages and therefore extends the life of your tables.
Finally commercial furniture not only allows you to save money in the long run, it also helps you to make more money. The reason being that domestic furniture is designed more for comfort than anything else and as such items such as dining chairs are usually bigger than those you would buy in the contract market. Bigger chairs result in less covers which in turn of course result in less revenue. Commercial chairs are a happy medium between size and comfort but with the added benefits of being designed with all of the other factors listed on this page.
How to Identify Commercial Furniture
It is not always easy to identify a piece of commercial furniture, however there are often some clues as to whether it fits the criteria or not. One of the most common features of a commercial chair is a U-Brace, this is usually located half way between the bottom of the leg and the seat. The U-Brace provides additional support and prevents the legs from splaying out. Secondly look for signs of wear in the fabric (only if its second hand) if teh furniture is brand new then try to markthe fabric or leather with your fingernail or a key (in a discrete area of course). Finally try to mark any exposed polished wooden areas, if it’s difficult to do so then the item is probably finished in an AC or PU lacquer and fit for contract use. You may also wish to perform structural strength and durability tests also before you use the furniture in your business.
Broadly speaking, to the layman, furniture is just furniture. There to be sat on, to eat things from or somewhere to rest a cup or glass. However, for businesses there is a world of difference between items which are manufactured for domestic use and those put to work in a commercial environment.
For cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and businesses of all sizes in the hospitality industry choosing the right contract furniture is a critical decision. Therefore, in order to help you make the right choice, we have put together a list of the primary differences between domestic and commercial furniture – what you need know and what factors to beware of.
High Usage Furniture Needs High Performance
Even the very best domestic furniture is not designed for the kind of constant use that chairs, sofas and tables, etc. are exposed to in a high traffic, commercial environment. In many instances domestic furniture is designed for occasional rather than the kind of continuous employment that can be expected in a business.
Commercial furniture on the other hand, is manufactured with durability in the face of regular use (& sometimes abuse) very much in mind. Utilising high quality materials and construction, contract furniture is designed to endure the demands of daily service, whilst still looking good and fulfilling its function.
As a consequence of this sturdy construction, commercial furnishings also last much longer than their domestic counterparts – retaining their attractive appearance and comfort long after an ordinary chair or sofa has gone to the great recycling centre in the sky. Needless to say, in terms of value for money this longevity also represents a great return on your initial investment.
However, this kind of robust performance doesn’t mean you have to settle for a drab, utilitarian look. Modern commercial furniture, with its almost limitless design possibilities and wide range of attractive materials, can give your business exactly the kind of exciting chic look you desire without having to compromise on resilience and stability.
Safety Testing for Commercial Furniture
Due to the fact that retail furniture for home use is expected to be only used occasionally the legal fire safety tests items must pass are of a lower standard than commercial furniture. Domestic fabrics and upholstery are bound by only BS EN 597-1: 2015 and BS EN 597-2: 2015, relating to their resistance to a smouldering cigarette and burning match respectively.
As commercial furniture is used in public areas the fabrics and upholstery used are tested to a higher fire retardant standard, namely CRIB5 – a much more stringent trial which tests the material’s resistance to a burning wooden crib.
Needless to say, the higher standards of fire safety demanded of commercial fabrics and upholstery provide a much greater level of reassurance to businesses – especially those such as restaurants and cafes where naked flames, in the form of candles, may be employed.
In addition, to the extra fire safety testing many items of commercial furniture are also extensively tested and certified under SATRA, the independent research and testing organisation and FIRA (Furniture Industry Research Association) schemes.
Domestic vs. Commercial Furniture: Continuity of Availability
A no less concerning factor for businesses is the continued availability of furniture stock lines. For example, what happens if you want you want to add matching furnishings to your restaurant, cafe or hotel some time after your initial purchase?
For domestic furniture this could prove an insurmountable obstacle. Retail outlets frequently change their stock, with new lines, products and variants quickly replacing existing items. Such is the nature of the domestic furniture retail business – Sales seem to be the norm with a constant turnover of new styles and options being demanded by the general public. However, for the business customer this presents a real problem. Very often, a particular range of domestic furniture is only available for a very limited time (and sometimes in limited amounts) – leading to a frustrating inability to obtain the same type of furniture as originally purchased at a later date.
However, commercial furniture suppliers tend to hold stock for much longer periods of time, ensuring that business customers will feel reasonably confident that they can get hold of additional matching items, such as chairs, tables and stools, as and when they may be required.
Short Delivery Times
In a related vein, commercial furniture is often available in bulk at much shorter notice than is normally the case with domestic retailers, who can take weeks to fulfil a single order – especially if they construct the furniture to order, as is common practice to avoid the additional warehousing costs required to store large amounts of stock – A critical factor that could spell disaster if your new establishment is opening in a few days.
Contract furniture suppliers on the other hand are often able to fulfil your business needs much quicker. Since the majority of Warner Contract Furniture’s range is UK stocked we are able to furnish entire businesses within just 3 or 4 days, as standard. In some cases this has been accomplished in as little as 18 hours!
Such impressive turnaround times can be a real asset in nearly all businesses, where lost time very much equates to lost revenue.
How Much Does Commercial Furniture Cost?
So having established that commercial furniture is not only more durable, better constructed and more rigorously tested for safety you’re likely to be expecting to pay lot more per unit than for ordinary, household furniture? Well, the good news is that you’ll find contract furniture prices are actually quite affordable for businesses- especially with Warner Contracts Ltd.
With a diverse product range which has been carefully selected by our expert commercial furniture specialists, an efficient order process, fast delivery and great customer service, you’ll find that we offer amazing value for money and some of the best price deals available in the UK.