Dining hall tables or employee dining room furniture can take quite the abuse. There are the spills, the constant use and the user who may not care for the product as much as they would if it were their own. That’s why it’s important to research and pick the right product for universities, factories, healthcare environments and any other facility that supplies a space to eat in.

While freestanding chairs and tables have their merits and are appropriate for some spaces, dining tables with fixed swivel seating – often called cluster seating – can offer extreme durability, comfort and security. And since the chairs and tables are connected, these products are the perfect solution for those facilities that need their furniture to stay in one place.

But not all of these products are made equal. To ensure that you are purchasing the right product, look for tables with the following characteristics.

Durable, cleanable seats

Upholstery is nice. Upholstery can make facilities feel residential. But for dining areas where food and liquid will inevitably be spilled day after day and year after year, we recommend choosing cluster seating that features seats that are made with high-impact polyethylene, which we use on the Norix Furniture Oasis Table.

If properly manufactured, polyethylene can be chemically resistant to bodily fluids, dirt and grime, making it easy to clean and sanitize on a daily basis. Additionally, polyethylene can be fire-retardant and manufactured with ultraviolet light stabilizers that make the material fade resistant, adding years to the life of your product.

Heavy steel frame

The legs and the frame that connect the seats and tables together are the bedrock of any cluster seating product. Therefore, we suggest purchasing products with legs, frames and supports made of high gauge steel that can support the pressure put upon them without fail.

For example, Norix Furniture’s Oasis Table is manufactured with a sturdy 14-gauge steel frame that gives the product its rock-solid foundation. But we didn’t stop there. To add extra support, the frame is attached to two 7 x 17 inch steel plates with reinforced gussets that are mounted underneath the tabletop. This ensures that tabletop and frame will have a long-lasting relationship and will be tied at the hip for years to come.

The frame also is attached to a 13.4 x 15.8 inch support plate under each seat that is securely connected to a reinforced heavy-duty swivel mechanism. In turn, this swivel mechanism is attached securely to a 9-inch diameter steel mounting plate.

That’s a lot of numbers and may be a little hard to envision. But the takeaway here is that the more steel at a higher gauge makes for a better table.

Durable tabletop

It could be argued that the tabletop of cluster seating takes more abuse than any other part of the product. That’s where the plates, trays, cups and glasses are placed – or slammed – down. It’s also where most of the spills occur.

To combat this abuse, look for high-quality tops that are manufactured to handle this kind of stress. Our Oasis table is made exactly with this in mind. This product is made with high-quality laminate surfaces featuring a rounded edge that is pressure-fused to the core with a specially formulated, highly durable molded urethane material.

These edges are permanently affixed to the top, making it highly sanitary since food won’t find its way between the edge and top. That makes it ideal for foodservice applications. You also can choose a stainless steel inlay with the same durable edge. Both are available with a game top pattern so the user can play checkers or another game after they finish their meal.

And the rest …

The three considerations mentioned above are the most important components of any cluster seat table. But they aren’t the only ones. When shopping around, also look for products that have:

  • Molded-in threaded steel inserts for screws that create tamper-resistant, steel-to-steel connections.
  • GREENGUARD certifications, which means the product has been certified for low chemical emissions by UL Environment. These certifications can help those facilities looking to gain LEED Certifications.
  • Seating that has been tested and can withhold a static load of at least 1,000 pounds.
  • Color options that allow you to choose one hue, or the opportunity to mix and match as you please.
  • An ADA version, which allows for wheelchair access.
  • The ability to be anchored to the floor in case security is a risk with freestanding cluster seating.
  • The option of converting your swivel seats to non-moveable seating if that is your wish.

In conclusion

The important consideration when seeking out cluster seating – like all furniture – is the quality of the materials that make up the product. What are the tops and chairs made of? And how can these materials help solve problems in your facilities? Is the frame heavy-duty steel? And can it support the chairs and tabletops over the long haul? Does the product line give you options? Or are you stuck with one color and one size that may not fit into your facility? And what standards, testing and certifications have the furniture met?

Think of all of these considerations, because in the end, your product will only perform as well as it was made. And no one – especially those facilities with smaller budgets – wants to go through the hassle and financial hardship of replacing furniture just a short period after installing it.