LIVE TO EAT: “Dear Restaurants: This Chair Sucks.”


“The banquettes are designed for one-hour meals, my boss explained. To keep the tables turning, they had to make sure people wouldn’t be comfortable for too long—a time period (and bench angle) that varied from restaurant to restaurant. Certain chairs and benches indicated how long the restaurateur expected the meal to take.”

As a man of ample weight and height, I can concur that these trendy metal chairs are the worst ever, but this this principled rant at Vice about their intrinsic offensiveness is one of the finest in recent memory. I’m not pointing fingers, but for this reason (these chairs) alone, there are/were places I won’t go unless I’m planning on standing for a beer at the bar.

Dear Restaurants: This Chair Sucks, by Naomi Tomky (Vice)

This uncomfortable and not particularly attractive chair has become a disease.

The Chair has been around for decades, but it was in the post-recession period, around 2010, that it became ubiquitous: its arching metal back wrapping just barely forward enough to intrude on your hips, the nearly flat seat inviting you to join it, coldly and bracingly, like Ursula inviting you into her underwater lair. The naked metal paired well with the Edison bulbs and exposed rafters of the era. As raw wood and vintage-style painting on brick took over décor, everything had to look perfectly minimalist. And the chair, usually in unpainted metal, completed that look.

Unfortunately, it didn’t complete the experience. Because I don’t have to touch the bare lightbulbs and there’s no danger of a splinter from a ceiling beam, those were of little consequence. But those chairs, they caused me plenty of pain. As a woman of ample size, I thought, as they first started spreading like the wildfire of mild annoyance into restaurants around the country, that I must just be too fat for these chairs. But as I silently suffered through another dinner in one of these low-level torture devices, my rail-thin friend Bill could no longer keep quiet on the horrors of The Chair. From his rant, I realized that everyone found these chairs to be fundamentally terrible: they’re cold, they’re hard, and they just don’t seem to be designed to fit a human body (and certainly not a large one).

To be fair, choosing restaurant seating is a tougher decision to make than you might imagine: chairs are expensive, they tend to fall apart, restaurants need tons of them, and they need to match the look and feel of the restaurant. The Chair managed to find a niche: cheap versions of the original French model were plentiful, they stacked, they had no fabric to stain or rip, and no wood to warp or twist. They seemed to slide into various restaurant looks fairly easily …