Commercial Outdoor Furniture Buying Guide

The warmer months of the year are finally upon us. And with them comes the opportunity for people to eat, relax, drink and generally socialise outdoors. If you run a hospitality business, school or other type of public building, you’ve probably got outdoor furniture that sees plenty of use during the summer. But, is it time for a refresh? If so, read Rosehill’s commercial outdoor furniture buying guide now.

What is commercial outdoor furniture? 

You may be wondering what we mean when we use the term commercial outdoor furniture. 

As you’ve probably guessed, commercial outdoor furniture refers to furniture which is specifically designed for use in commercial, public spaces. 

Commercial outdoor furniture is designed to handle what we in the industry call ‘high traffic’ areas. That is, it’s designed to withstand hundreds of people using it each and every day. 

As such, you’ll find that commercial outdoor furniture uses much more robust and resilient materials than the types of domestic outdoor furniture that you’ll find in supermarkets and garden centres. 

Commercial outdoor furniture also features designs and manufacturing techniques which are far stronger than domestic outdoor furniture. Take a look at your average piece of commercial outdoor furniture and you’ll find that it has bigger bolts, stronger hinges and generally tougher surfaces and materials.

That’s why, if you own a public building or hospitality venue, and you’re looking for new outdoor furniture, you should buy items which are commercial (or ‘contract’ as we sometimes say) grade quality. 

Whilst it may be tempting to pop down to your local supermarket or garden centre to pick up some outdoor furniture, you’ll find that the items you buy quickly degrade and fall apart under intense, repeated use by the public. It’s a false economy!

Will you be using your commercial furniture outside occasionally or all-year-round? 

Before we go any further, we wanted to raise the following point; will you be leaving your furniture outdoors all-year-round, or just occasionally? 

It’s an important point to think about as some furniture is suited to use outdoors all-year-round, whilst other items are more suited for occasional use. 

For example, our outdoor laminate tables and benches are designed to be left outside all of the time. This means they’re perfect for permanent outdoor setups like picnic spaces or for lunch areas outside of offices. 

On the other hand, you have items such as our 2000 series folding chair (which has a low rear cross brace to prevent it from sinking into soft grass) and lightweight 6ft rectangular folding table which are perfectly capable of being used outdoors occasionally such as at sports days or village fetes. But they won’t hold up if you leave them outside all of the time.

You’ll find that furniture which is designed to be left outside all year round has things like special nano coatings which impart significant levels of weather resistance. 

So, before you start selecting items of commercial outdoor furniture for your business or premises, it’s important to decide how often you’ll be leaving it outside.

Hardy Outdoor Dining Table Set Package

Hardy Outdoor Dining Table Set Package

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Where is commercial outdoor furniture used?

Commercial outdoor furniture is used in a broad range of different contexts such as: 

  • Cafes and restaurants.
  • Pub beer gardens.
  • Schools and playgrounds.
  • Universities and other higher education settings.
  • Parks.
  • At hospitality and events venues. 
  • Community centres.
  • Church gardens and cemeteries. 
  • Outside of offices, factories and other workplaces.

That list is by no means comprehensive. Basically, you’ll find commercial outdoor furniture in use in any location that is used by the public.

How to buy the best commercial outdoor furniture

Now that we’ve established what we mean by the term ‘commercial outdoor furniture’, let’s take a look at the key points you need to consider when selecting furniture for your property, business or venue. 

Use

The first thing to consider is what your commercial outdoor furniture is going to be used for. 

This is because many items of commercial outdoor furniture are designed for specific uses; for example, there is a vast range of outdoor furniture designed for use in cafes and restaurants. 

As a hospitality business then, the majority of your outdoor furniture is going to be tables, chairs, parasols and other related items. 

Likewise, a more generic public building like a community centre or library will need furniture like picnic tables and benches. 

These use cases will also influence a variety of other factors such as ergonomics, cleaning, portability and more which we’ll cover later in this article.

Origin Contour Indoor/Outdoor Chair

Origin Contour Indoor/Outdoor Chair

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Location and climate

Where will you be placing your outdoor furniture? If you’re going to be placing it somewhere that receives a great deal of sun (if it’s possible to get a great deal of sun in the UK), you’ll want to make sure that the furniture you select is UV resistant. 

Failure to buy commercial outdoor furniture with UV resistance can lead to discolouration and fading of the furniture’s colour over time. In fact, if you’re intending to leave your furniture in places which receive a lot of direct sunlight, we’d recommend avoiding dark colours altogether as these are more likely to fade.

Another important point to think about is if the location where you’ll be placing your furniture gets rained on. 

For example, if you’re running a cafe and want to leave tables and chairs outside all day, the chances are that they will get caught in showers etc. If so, you’ll want to make sure that you buy chairs which have slots or holes in the seat to allow rainwater to drain away quickly. 

If you don’t have seats with holes or slats in the seat they’ll take ages to dry out and your staff will have to spend time going outside to dry them off after every rain shower.

Another thing to consider when it comes to location, is the size of your outdoor space. Whilst this may seem like a simple point, it’ll have a big impact on which items of furniture you can buy. 

This is especially important for outdoor dining areas.

As we mentioned in our restaurant furniture buying guide, we’d recommend measuring your outdoor space and also taking into account the recommendations of the Metric Handbook which states that diners require an area of between one and two metres (with a minimum width of 580mm). 

In other words, you don’t want to try and cram too many people into your outdoor area otherwise you’ll create a cramped, uncomfortable and potentially unsafe dining area. 

Surface 

This may only seem like a minor point, but think about the surface you’ll be placing your outdoor furniture on. 

No one likes to try and eat and drink from a wobbly table!

Whilst it is occasionally possible to buy tables with adjustable legs, it’s far simpler to place your furniture on a flat, level surface instead.

Fixed or not?

Do you want your furniture to be fixed in place? For many public locations, fixing outdoor furniture in place makes a great deal of sense.

Not only does fixing furniture in place prevent theft, but it can also help you to create a layout which then can’t be rearranged. This is great for situations such as playgrounds or parks, where you want to ensure there is sufficient space between different items of furniture, and that paths and walkways aren’t infringed upon.

If you do want to be able to fix an item of furniture in place, be sure to look out for items which have dedicated fixing points. You’ll usually find these as ‘tabs’ with pre-drilled holes at the base of the legs. You can then simply use a traditional bolt which passes through the hole in the tab and into the floor.

Round Cafe Table & Chairs Package

Round Cafe Table & Chairs Package

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Ergonomics

This is an especially important point if you’re running a hospitality venue such as a cafe.

You want your diners to be able to eat outside in comfort, so pay attention to the ergonomics of your chosen furniture. 

And when we say ergonomics, we don’t necessarily mean padded or upholstered furniture. There’s a misconception amongst many people that comfort equals padding or upholstery. This isn’t necessarily the case!

You’ll often find that an ergonomically designed poly, metal or wooden outdoor chair is far more comfortable than a chair which features plenty of padding. This is because an ergonomically designed piece of furniture is designed to conform to the shapes of your body, thus eliminating pressure points and sources of discomfort. 

Portability

For premises such as restaurants and cafes, the portability of your outdoor furniture is an important consideration. 

Unlike public buildings like community centres, schools and libraries where benches and picnic tables can be left outside all year round, many cafes need to be able to take their seats and tables inside at the end of each day.

So, think about how portable your chosen outdoor furniture is. 

Not only do you want your furniture to be light enough to carry, but you may also want it to be foldable or stackable. This is particularly important if you have a limited amount of storage space. After all, it’s likely that the inside of your cafe or restaurant is already filled with your indoor furniture. 

Cleaning

When it comes to outdoor furniture for cafes and restaurants, then you’ll want to make sure that the pieces of furniture you buy can withstand repeated cleaning. 

This point isn’t restricted to the materials that the furniture is made from. Sure, you want to choose tabletops which can be quickly and easily wiped clean. But, you should also give some thought to the shape and design of the furniture. 

More intricate designs will take longer to clean and can also trap stray bits of food and other detritus. Conversely, whilst a poly chair with a simple design may not look as elegant, it’ll be far easier to clean. 

The number of daily users will also affect your furniture and cleaning schedule. So, if you’re going to have a very high turnover of customers throughout the day, go for poly or metal chairs and tables. There’s a good reason that fast food restaurants typically use poly furniture!

Arch Square & Rectangular Table Dining Set Package

Arch Square & Rectangular Table Dining Set Package

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Budget

How much do you want to spend on your commercial outdoor furniture? 

This is a crucial question to answer as it’ll determine many of the other buying factors that we’ve detailed in this article. 

Connected to your budget is how often you’ll be using your outdoor furniture.

Think of it like this; if you’re buying a piece of furniture such as a picnic table and bench that’s going to sit outside all year round, then you’re going to want to spend as much as you can in order to get a piece of furniture that’s going to last for years (or even decades). 

On the other hand, if you’re buying tables and chairs for occasional outdoor use (e.g. for a small cafe in summer), then you may only want to spend a smaller amount on poly chairs and tilt-top pedestal tables.

Colour, pattern and finish

Just because an item is ‘commercial’ doesn’t mean it has to be drab and boring. In fact, quite the opposite is true!

Today’s commercial outdoor furniture is available in a vast range of different colours, patterns and finishes.

It’s easier than ever to find commercial furniture in a colour and finish that’ll perfectly complement the decor of your establishment. 

So, whether you’re a cafe that’s got a consistent colour scheme and distinctive brand, or you want a picnic bench in your school’s colours, you’ll almost certainly be able to find outdoor furniture that’ll meet your requirements.  

Dual-use

If you’re running a cafe and are thinking of refreshing all of your furniture, then why not consider purchasing furniture which can be used indoors and outdoors? 

That way, you’ll be able to get the maximum value out of your budget, purchasing furniture which can be used outdoors when the weather allows. 

There are plenty of examples of this type of ‘dual-use’ furniture, from all-poly seats to aluminium tables, it’s easier than you might think to find commercial furniture that is equally home indoors or outdoors. 

Marble Tilt-Top Tables

Marble Tilt-Top Tables

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What are the best materials for commercial outdoor furniture? 

The material that your commercial outdoor furniture is made from matters. From the durability to the cost of an item of furniture, the material it’s made from plays a significant role. 

Below we’ve detailed the most common materials that you’ll find used in the manufacture of commercial outdoor furniture. 

Aluminium

Aluminium is a lightweight, durable and affordable material which you’ll find used on many seats and tables. 

As a material, aluminium lends itself well to environments such as cafes and restaurants as it creates furniture which is easy to move and can be cleaned with ease (simply use soap and water or a generic cleaning spray). 

It’s also highly-resistant to rust and corrosion and is liked by many people for its shiny, clean aesthetic. 

For items like outdoor seats, you’ll often see aluminium used in conjunction with plastic, where the aluminium is used to create the legs and frame of the chair, whilst the plastic is formed to create the seat and back of the chair. 

Stainless steel

On more robust items of commercial outdoor furniture that are designed to be left outside all-year-round, you’ll often find stainless steel. 

Stainless steel is extremely strong and will resist dents and other types of incidental (or deliberate) damage. It’s also highly-resistant to corrosion and rust and can be easily cleaned. 

For added durability, stainless steel used in commercial furniture is sometimes also powder coated.

Typically, stainless steel is used to create the frame and legs of an item of commercial furniture, whilst another material will be used for the seat or table top. As you can see from this example, stainless steel helps to create very robust and sturdy items of furniture which have very long lifespans.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene (or more commonly, just called ‘poly’), is a highly-versatile and high-quality type of plastic. 

If someone in the commercial furniture industry refers to a plastic piece of furniture, then they’re highly likely to be talking about polypropylene.

In the context of commercial outdoor furniture, polypropylene tends to be used because it is lightweight, affordable, easily formed into a variety of shapes, is available in a massive range of colours, is easily cleaned, is resistant to staining, is weather resistant and more. 

As a material, polypropylene tends to be used to create an item of furniture in its entirety, or in combination with another material such as aluminium or steel to create a specific part of a piece of furniture, such as the seat and back of a chair

Because polypropylene is an important by-product of the global oil and gas industry, it’s widely available and thus one of the most affordable materials for outdoor furniture. 

Wood 

Wood has been used for commercial outdoor furniture for centuries and it continues to be a popular choice today. 

Favoured by many for its natural, organic look, wood can create great-looking, long-lasting furniture. 

Be beware, not all wood is created equal!

When it comes to commercial-standard outdoor furniture, you’ll want to look for items that use hardwood. 

Hardwoods such as acacia, teak, oak and others are hard-wearing, weather resistant and are relatively easy to maintain. 

Whilst commercial outdoor furniture that incorporates wood does tend to be slightly more expensive, this is more than made up for by the quality appearance that wood imparts upon the furniture. 

Like some of the other materials listed here, wood tends to be used to make an item of furniture in its entirety, like this example, or it will be used in conjunction with another material, e.g. as a tabletop connected to an aluminium or steel frame and legs. 

Synthetic wood

If you want tables and chairs that evoke the appearance of wood, but have the affordability and ease of cleaning associated with plastic, then synthetic wood is a great choice. 

Synthetic wood is typically made from a composite of materials, such as wood fibre combined with polypropylene. This creates a material which has the look and feel of wood, but with many of the properties of plastic. 

In some instances, synthetic wood features an additional laminate layer to add additional protection and UV-resistance. 

As you’d expect, synthetic wood is normally used as a ‘finishing material’ to create table tops, rather than being used as a structural material (e.g. for frames and legs).

To give you an example of laminate wood in action, take a look at our outdoor school tables and benches. These marry a solid aluminium frame to a hard-wearing synthetic wood slat top to create a long-lasting, but attractive looking table and set of benches. 

The best commercial outdoor furniture UK

Now that you’ve seen what makes a great item of commercial outdoor furniture, let’s take a look at some practical examples including chairs, tables, benches and other items which are perfect for use in public outdoor locations. 

Klia Stacking Chair & Armchair

Klia Stacking Chair & Armchair

Klia Stacking Chair & Armchair

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A brilliant all-rounder, the Klia is a stylish polypropylene chair which is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

Whether you choose the standard or the armchair version, the Klia is stackable, making it ideal for cafe and restaurant environments where storage space may be at a premium (the standard chair can be stacked 12 high, whilst the armchair version can be stacked 10 high).

Thanks to its glass fibre reinforcement, the Kila is robust and long-lasting. What’s more, it’s also UV tested to European Standard EN16139 level 1, meaning it’ll maintain its lustrous colour for years. 

Talking of colours, the Klia is available in a range of nine modern colours ranging from soft pastels to vivid primaries. 

KI Hatton Stacking Chair

KI Hatton Stacking Chair

KI Hatton Stacking Chair

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Another polypropylene chair that’s ideal for a variety of outdoor scenarios, the Hatton is strong, comfortable and light. 

Featuring a contemporary design, the Hatton is manufactured from a 100% recyclable, one-piece injection moulded polypropylene and glass fibre blend. Thanks to this, the Hatton is strong yet lightweight at only 4.5kg.

It’ll stack too! The Hatton will stack up to eight high on the floor, or up to 16 high using the dedicated transport trolley.

That’s not all. The Hatton also features glides as standard, meaning that your floor will be protected, even if people are dragging the chairs back and forth etc. 

It’s a chair that’s also UV protected, has a five-year warranty, a weight capacity of up to 146kg (23 stone), and is available in up to eight different colours.

Rio Outdoor Tables & Chairs

Rio Outdoor Tables & Chairs

Rio Outdoor Tables & Chairs

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Manufactured from strong yet lightweight aluminium, the Rio range of outdoor tables and chairs are suitable for multiple uses, but particularly lend themselves to casual dining environments. 

Easy to wipe clean and with a black weather-resistant finish as standard, the Rio range includes a number of different models, including: 

  • Stacking chairs.
  • Armchairs.
  • 4-leg square or rectangular tables.
  • Tilt-top tables.

As well as supplying these items on an individual basis, we can also put together package deals, particular for our most popular combinations e.g. tilt-top tables and stacking chairs. 

Sky Armchair

Sky Armchair

Sky Armchair

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Think plastic chairs are boring? Then the Sky armchair will make you think again…

A veritable modern design masterpiece, the Sky is a beautifully sculpted armchair that is perfect for indoor and outdoor use. If you’re looking for a stylish polypropylene chair that won’t break the bank, then you’ve just found it. 

Stackable up to six high and designed to be hygienic and maintenance free, the Sky is also highly practical in addition to its good looks. 

The Sky is available in a choice of six, fresh colours and can be purchased with quick delivery. 

So, if you’re looking to refresh your cafe’s outdoor furniture, why not reach for the Sky (and team it with the matching Sky outdoor tables)?!

Hereford & King Picnic Benches

Hereford & King Picnic Benches

Hereford & King Picnic Benches

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You can’t beat a classic picnic bench. Whether located in a park or outside an office or public building, or located in the heart of a pub beer garden, a picnic bench is the perfect way to enjoy the sunshine and grab a bite to eat. 

Our Hereford and King picnic benches are made from sturdy spruce timber, are low maintenance and provide years of reliable service. 

Choose from a rectangular 6-seater or 8-seater, or opt for a round 8-seater. Whatever layout you’re trying to achieve in your outdoor space, the Hereford and King picnic benches will fit. 

You can also add an additional ‘Prince’ parasol to help provide some cooling shade on those scorching summer days. The Prince is manufactured from UV and water resistant high-quality polyester, so you don’t have to worry about onerous maintenance (don’t forget to add the Olympia parasol base to keep it in place!).

Outdoor School Tables & Benches

Outdoor School Tables & Benches

Outdoor School Tables & Benches

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If you’re looking for some outdoor furniture for your school, then you can’t do better than our outdoor school tables and benches. 

Consisting of tough aluminium frames and synthetic wooden slat tops, these tables and benches will handle anything that’s thrown at them. They’re 100% UV and weather resistant, and as such, can be left outdoors all year round. 

As per the rest of our school furniture, our outdoor school tables and benches are available in a variety of sizes to accommodate different ages and year groups.

Rosehill: home of the best commercial outdoor furniture

We hope you’ve found our guide to commercial outdoor furniture helpful! What we’ve highlighted here is only a tiny fraction of our total range of products, so please explore our website further. 

Don’t worry if you can’t find what you’re looking for. We are only a phone call or email away. You can reach our friendly and knowledgeable sales team on 0161 485 1717 or at: sales@rosehill.co.uk

Shop commercial outdoor furniture at Rosehill now

For more commercial and contract furniture buying guides, advice and information, read the Rosehill blog

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