Flooring should be durable, comfortable for guests and employees
There’s no question that restaurant flooring takes a beating. Most operators do not require their patrons to remove their shoes before they enter, so dirt, water, snow and muck get tracked in and tracked throughout the restaurant each and every day. Add the mess that guests make with spilled drinks and food, and it’s no wonder restaurant floors need constant attention to keep them clean, dry and safe.
With so much that is required of flooring, what option can operators choose that will stand the test of time and look good while doing it?
“Flooring and restaurants can be a tricky combo,” says Stacy Elliston, Principal at Studio 11 Design in Dallas. “While we must be sensitive to details such as cleanability and noise transmission or acoustics, there is also an aesthetic concern with using something other than a hard surface on the floor of a restaurant dining room.”
Although it is challenging to pick the right floor, it is possible to blend durability, beauty and function into one floor, thanks to improved products and new ideas.
“Porcelain tile offers the widest range of design options and styles,” says Kevin Horn, vice president and designer at CallisonRTKL in Los Angeles. “Over the past five years, the quality of porcelain tile has increased significantly and become the go-to solution for a wide range of applications. Porcelain tile simulations of wood planks or natural stone are more realistic and sophisticated than ever before.”
Miyuki Tsujimura, an architect with Hoy + Stark Architects in Florida, says an unconventional material is gaining new ground in restaurants.
“Concrete floors have become increasingly popular in dining spaces because they are great for high traffic areas that take a lot of abuse. Interior application concrete can’t be left bare or untreated. We have used polished concrete in several new restaurant designs with great success. Polishing is a more costly process, but by far the longest lasting. Polishing can achieve different levels of sheen that require no waxes or additional sealers. A less costly option is stained and sealed concrete,” says Tsujimura.
Due to technology upgrades, vinyl and laminate are also experiencing a design renaissance.
“Both laminate and luxury vinyl flooring are both durable and are easy to maintain to keep the flooring looking its best for a long time,” says Liam Walker, head of online at BestatFlooring.co.uk. “We find the luxury vinyl flooring tends to be the most popular choice with restaurateurs as this opens up a world of choice in design and enables them to create more of a wow factor.”
Horn agrees that luxury vinyl tile (LVT) has a lot to offer.
“Much like the improvements that porcelain tile has made over the years, LVT is a significant upgrade over traditional vinyl tile. LVT offers a wide range of simulated wood plank or natural-looking stone,” Horn says. “It is typically cost effective as well as durable and easy to maintain. LVT also has the added benefit over porcelain in that it will not crack and is typically easier to repair or replace if necessary.”
LVT can also offer owners a signature look.
“High resolution graphics are being used to create quality images for LVT that better mimics natural materials,” says Tsujimura. “Custom graphics and logos can also be incorporated into flooring layout, making it a unique branding tool.”
Tsujimura adds that many LVTs now include anti-microbial, stain and scratch-resistant coatings, while textures and materials are included into the top of product to reduce slipping dangers.
Michael A. Young, the executive chef at Sheraton Kauai Resort, invested in laminate for a previous restaurant’s flooring and was happy with the result.
“No one expected me to go with laminate, but the cost was minor,” Young says. “I put good money into the underlayment to help make it quiet and sturdy and that was it. I had a beautiful floor at a fraction of the cost I was looking at with any other options. For the remaining five years I owned the place we never had trouble with the floor. When we changed concepts we rolled a two ton brick pizza oven over the floor, protected with cardboard, and you couldn’t tell.”
Joshua Zinder, founder and principal of Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design (JZA+D) in New Jersey, advises operators who want real wood floors to use “engineered wood solutions, which are more stable than regular wood and resist expansion.”
“For back-of-house and kitchen spaces, we typically use a quarry tile with aggregate. The aggregate ensures a non-slip surface, which is critical for staff safety,” says Zinder.
Although not necessarily the first option operators think of but definitely the softest, carpet is worth considering.
“In recent years, commercial carpets have become more durable and have many benefits for dining areas,” Tsujimura says. “Carpet can add an intimate feel to larger spaces and help dampen noise that can interfere with table conversations. The forgiving nature of the material will not only lessen the likelihood of shattered plates, but your staff’s feet will thank you at the end of their shift.”
She also noted that carpet fibers are imbedded with stain resistant properties to make them easier to clean, although periodic professional cleaning, daily vacuuming and spot cleaning will be necessary to keep the carpet looking its best.
“With a system similar to LVT, carpet now comes in tile or planks that can be removed and replaced if damaged. Commercial carpeting comes in an array of colors and patterns at a more affordable cost,” says Tsujimura. “With the option of carpet tile and planks available, it is easy to add accents, borders, and pattern variations that can highlight areas and add a unique touch to your dining space.”
With so many options, operators might have difficulty choosing just one.
“Sometimes a mix of materials — tile or concrete with carpet insets in strategically placed areas — can also be used to visually break up dining spaces,” says Elliston.
DeAnn Owens is a freelance writer who covers small business, finance and lifestyle topics.