Delegates sit on them (and lean back on them), hotel staff quickly stack/store/unstack them and set them out in countless theatre and banqueting formats, while hotel owners milk them for all their worth to maximise return on investment and protect the balance sheet.
The dedicated conference and banqueting chair can cost anything from A$50 to A$300. Typically the budget expectation is in line with a venue’s quality and aspirations. Hotels in the 3.5 to 5 star Oceania market generally spend over A$120 per chair. The choice of structural material used, be it plastic, mild steel, aluminium or even stainless steel, can often make a dramatic impact on the purchase price. Depending on the design and the quality of manufacture, and even the environment, that material choice can also impact the lifespan of the chair.
A chair’s balance sheet lifespan is determined by the property’s asset replacement plan, which tends to run in seven-year cycles on average. Most banquet seating are replaced between six and 12 years’ service. So if the wrong decisions are made at the purchase stage, the venue either has to live with that decision, or it is often necessary to reinvest prematurely outside of the planned cycle, either at the expense of operational budgets or through unscheduled capital expense and a headache for General Managers.
Customer-orientated properties in strong competitive sets who are focused on winning return business are more likely to upgrade strictly within their asset plan timetables, whereas others marketing to one-off customers may work their chairs for up to 15 years. The same applies to up-front capital expenditure; those brands and properties who are focused on staging market-leading meeting and banqueting events, and chasing profitable high-profile repeat business, will spend that little bit more in order to ensure their patrons are provided with comfort whilst also providing a contemporary, relevant feel to their events.
With interior design more influential than ever before within hotel event space, many lines may have become blurred as to what is suitable as a banquet chair. Indeed, good looks alone are not sufficient for such a chair to be operationally viable or compatible. The need to produce a significant, rewarding and sustained return on investment over many years means that ‘form’ must always be kept in balance by certain features of function. Getting this balance right is critical to the attractiveness of the venue as a service provider as well as an investment for the owner. Weight, stacking density, storage, comfort, strength and longevity are important ‘function’-related features of a banquet chair, which somehow have to be combined with the required look of the dynamic space in which they will be used.
Not only can the right chair provide an ROI in durability and reliability, the right chair and fabric design can also enhance the aesthetics of the event space and subsequently increase the revenue opportunity. Accordingly, it is certainly also true that the wrong chair; battered, out-dated or simply inappropriate, can substantially reduce the revenue that an event space can command, and indeed can even lose the property business, especially from demanding wedding clients and corporate bookers.