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A Study In Buying Cheap Vs. Quality

By January 16, 2019About Us, Blog, commercial furniture

Back in 2012, we were approached by a design firm to outfit MGM’s new Vegas restaurant concept called Tap. It was going to be a sports bar with cool memorabilia and of course beer and TVs. They saw our website and actually wanted to design the place to look like our site. So we provided them with a lot of customized I Beam table bases & Wright bar chairs, along with a Hostess Stand, Bench, Lattice work for the memorabilia casework, and an Ellis Console for their point of sale station.

It’s pretty crazy to think that was 7 years ago, wow! A few days ago MGM returned to us to outfit their 6th TAP restaurant. Our pricing was always an issue for them as it is higher than most. However, I spoke with the Principle for Washington Office about 5 months ago. They were named the designer for a few of the restaurants. She told me that all of the furniture they purchased for TAP has since been replaced because it became unusable, except for our pieces. All of our pieces are still in use.

That was a surprise to me. We must of made over 100 pieces for that one restaurant, and all were still functioning? A few years back several of us went to a trade show in Vegas and visited the Monte Carlo restaurant (the Double Barrel) we did work for. All of our stuff was still in really good shape. And that place is right on the strip, and gets really rowdy at night! Some of our bar chairs appeared to have been thrown in bar fights. They had gouges on the seats which could only happen one way. I wouldn’t want to be hit with a 40 pound chair lol! Looking back, I am glad we chose American made swivels for the chairs that were rated to 100,000+ cycles, instead of the Chinese ones that were half price.

Both of those restaurants call us up occasionally needing leveling glides that fell off the chairs, but that’s about it. And I’ve learned over the years, that a restaurant cannot lose a table or chair as it costs them money everyday. They usually buy a few extra chairs just in case. So anything that gets broken needs to be replaced immediately. The problem though is that most of their furniture was custom. So getting a new custom table, base, or chair could take a month or more eating into their bottom line. Their goal is to fill the place up as much as possible, otherwise they’d go out of business. Restaurant competition is about as stiff as it gets.

Our Wright bar chair was originally developed to meet a restaurant clients needs. The Smith Commons restaurant in DC had purchased a bunch of Restoration Hardware chairs, all of which were failing within a few months. That can be very embarrassing for a designer, and will often ruin the relationship with their client. But so many clients only see the short term, and convincing them to buy quality is not an easy task. It is amazing how much abuse hospitality furniture is subjected to. If you buy commercial quality tools at Home Depot, and work with them all day, you’ll destroy them quickly. Commercial quality isn’t really that anymore. I think companies use it to sell, and work their warranty to protect themselves. You really need industrial quality, which is the next step. Ya it’s expensive, but it works better, and it’s meant to last and be used 24/7. In the long run, you save money.

They say though that restaurants remodel every 5 years. That must suck by the way. But I’ve found our used furniture to sell typically for half it’s original price at the minimum. One of our clients sold his pieces for more than he paid, as the prices had gone up, so that was great! That’s been one of my hopes, that our furniture will appreciate over the years and become investment pieces. I spoke with an appraiser at the Antiques Roadshow about it recently. He thought it was a possibility and might be willing to do future appraisals on it. If you watch that show, the pieces that truly get the big bucks are from the best of the best companies. Low volume helps too, and we are certainly that. You’re probably not going to see a West Elm chair on there in 100 years, but maybe a Hure table. That would make my day…

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