By Chris Hodgson
This month marks five years since Religious Product News published an article, written by MityLite, about the considerations that should be made when looking for Multi-Purpose Seating.
We’d like to revisit the suggestions and tips described in that article, specifically about banquet and stacking chairs, and look at what has, or hasn’t, changed in the last five years.
Administrators, managers and suppliers have the challenging task of procuring seating that fulfills a variety of purposes. Finding comfortable sanctuary seating that adds to the reverence and aesthetic of the center, while also being durable and affordable.
And, ideally, these chairs can fit in a variety of spaces; fellowship halls, cafeterias, Sunday school rooms, and many other rooms all need functional seating solutions.
Innovations in design and construction have made stackable chairs a more common type of multi-purpose seating, with durability now being a feature that you don’t have to give up in order to get portability and lightweight convenience.
“Foremost among church furnishing decisions are two parameters and they are not necessarily compatible,” according to Rick Emmelhainz from Church Partner. “The first is durability, which typically involves weight, materials, and design. A standard expectation is for church furniture to last at least a decade or more without issue. The second parameter is price, since most often the revenue source is contributed funds.”
We found that these concerns are as true today as they have ever been, but fortunately, there are more options than ever to find a chair that is long lasting and is something your congregation can be proud of.
We will examine the current trends in stacking chairs and offer suggestions on what to look for as you’re trying to decide what’s best for you.
Stacking chairs have become more and more popular in worship centers as a comfortable alternative to the traditional pew or bench, while also offering the versatility of being able to add or take away as many chairs as needed. Not to mention the variety in powder coat finishes and fabrics that can be used to customize the chair to match your desired look.
Among stacking chairs is the contoured upright stacking chair, ideal for teaching rooms and meeting spaces. There are no moving parts, which makes them a very safe option.
Durable steel framing and contoured polypropylene seats are two features that you should look for as you determine which chair is best for you.
A popular feature is the flexible back, which enhances ergonomic comfort. Most are light, durable and easy to store, stacking anywhere from 6-10 chairs high. These chairs range from $30 to $85.
Banquet chairs are another type of stacking chair that has seen a boost in demand in recent years. These stackable chairs have padded seats, backs, and strong frames, which complement their customizable look and bring a comfortable solution to a multitude of spaces.
These chairs usually weight between 15-18 pounds but, in many cases, can withstand 1,000 pounds. Typically around 18” wide, banquet chairs accommodate larger congregations in the same amount of space versus sanctuary stacking chairs and are easier to handle and store.
Cushion thickness remains an overlooked feature when purchasing worship seating. Actual cushion thickness is much different than seat height.
As mentioned in our previous article about seating, “Most manufacturers utilize a .5-inch thick plywood seat base mounted over a steel frame. This is somewhat deceptive as the seat’s total thickness may seem sufficient at around 2 inches, but this only amounts to a 1.5-inch thick cushion. Look for chairs with a durable molded plastic seat base having a thinner profile to provide more cushion and less seat base. For example, MityLite’s Classic Series banquet chairs utilize a 2.5-inch cushion on a recycled polypropylene seat insert that rises less than .25 inches above the chair frame. This type of seat is lighter in weight and more durable than a plywood base.”
The article continued, “Also with stackable banquet chairs, not all seat foam is created equal. Look for chairs that use high resiliency polyurethane foam without fillers (i.e., ground-up fabric, clay, talc, etc.). Fillers often are a cost-cutting measure that may result in lumpy or permanent irregularities over time. Less commonly used, but offering superior resiliency characteristics, MDI polyurethane foam provides longer-term quality and pressure redistribution.”
This is all still very relevant and important information to consider as you are shopping for multi-purpose seating. Along with these suggestions about thickness and quality of foam, another feature to look out for is stack button and stack bars.
With stackable banquet seating, the seat cushion can get crushed when stacked for long periods of time. To combat this, many chairs feature a stack bar, or stack button, which gives the stacked chairs something to rest on instead of the chair underneath’s cushion. These features can seriously prolong the longevity of your chair.
With so many options available, and access to information increasingly more available through the Internet, it’s important to find the right balance of price and quality/comfort.
As mentioned previously, budget is a major factor for decision makers. Decision makers should look at the long and short term affects of higher price and higher quality.
When asked about what advice he would give administrators when looking at banquet seating vs. other seating options, CORD President, Bobby Hancock said, “First, I ask them if they want to be using the same chairs in 5 or 10 years and if their facility is more interested in price/cost or product/service quality? Then I suggest they obtain pricing from multiple companies to be certain they are comparing ‘apples to apples’ across all key features and if rate of return on investment is important. Lastly, I tell the church to take price out of the equation and make a decision on the product quality, service at the point of sale, service guarantee on the post-sale, and to also consider a company’s history and commitment to their products.”
Stacking banquet chairs will almost undoubtedly not be the cheapest option for seating in the short term. But the durability and longevity of these chairs make them an investment that will add value to any worship center for years.
Chris Hodgson is marketing manager for MityLite, an industry leader in lightweight, durable tables and chairs, www.mitylite.com.