If you’ve been researching design trends or re-designed your space in the past few years, you’ve probably heard of a community table. These long rectangular tables can serve a number of functions, from an informal meeting space to a dining hotspot. Though the trend has taken longer to catch on in certain sectors of design, I believe it’s a trend that will stay awhile. Why? Due to social and technological shifts in our culture, one can sit at one of these tables and interact in a number of ways, from non-verbal interaction (think headphones on, typing away on your iPad) to celebrating a momentous occasion over food, wine, long toasts, and good stories.
In corporate environments, these tables serve a variety of purposes: casual office meetings, office parties, refreshment stations for large meetings, touch-down areas for mobile employees or customers while they wait, and presentation space for outside consultants and salespeople.
No longer confined to Japanese steakhouses, restaurants are using community tables to provide another type of dining experience, & maximize the number of seats without taking up valuable real estate. More seats = more plates served a night = more money, plus a shorter wait time for seating (increasing client satisfaction). Maximization of space is of particular concern in large cities, where space is limited and real estate prices are astronomical. Of course, concern about awkward encounters with someone you’re seated next to is a reality, but a myriad of non-verbal cues can often solve this dilemma, or at least lower the intensity. On the flip side, community tables allow someone dining alone to not be truly alone – whether they choose to converse with their fellow diners or not. These tables are popping up in all sorts of venues, from fine dining to bistros to fast food giants McDonalds & Taco Bell. Restaurant owners are finding that this more casual approach is following the shift from primarily focusing on the space to focusing on food quality and flavor.
Community Tables also have a heavy presence in the hotel industry, particularly in lobbies – from boutique hotel corporations like Kimpton to major hotel chains like Hampton Inn & Holiday Inn/Holiday Inn Express. These tables serve a number of purposes – dining space for continental breakfast or coffee in the morning, an area to work at your laptop while waiting for your ride to your next destination to arrive, or a space to plan out the day’s agenda.
In the past few years, IDC has been getting requests for community tables in our senior living customers’ dining rooms, coffee shops, and bars. Though initially hesitant of this new concept, many administrators are finding that these tables fill up quickly on their properties. Whether accommodating a large group of friends or providing a way for a new, single resident to meet others in a more natural way, these tables encourage community and foster conversation. These tables also have functional purposes: they can be used as buffets on Sundays or special occasions, eliminating the need for storing and setting up folding tables and table linens. Like traditional restaurants, these tables also maximize seating while taking up minimal extra space. In the senior living market in particular, we have to maintain large circulation paths to allow for mobility devices, so space is always at a premium. By ganging multiple tables together, the clearance path between each table is eliminated, allowing us to fit more diners into a space. Beyond the dining room, our customers are using community tables in their multi-use activity rooms, and outside of their post offices (at bar height) as place for sorting and addressing mail.
At ID Collaborative, we believe in creating “Life Enhancing Interior Design.” We draw upon your unique needs and our industry knowledge to create spaces that serve your mission, enhance your life, and foster community. And yes, we might even do this with a community table or two.