Completely Floored: How to Choose Bar & Restaurant Flooring

Nobody should underestimate the power of well-chosen floor coverings, especially as the management’s choices of what lies underneath can profoundly affect foot traffic that steadies the bottom line and the safety factor of servers and staff.

Thanks to everything from social media to old-school glossy food, fashion, and lifestyle magazines, the effort, time, and money bar and restaurant owners and managers put into creating an evocative look draws the spotlight even before the doors open (or re-open). This underscores the current reality that bars and restaurants need to be destinations drawing customers and employees alike.

“To attract customers, the front-of-house of any restaurant has to make an impact and stand out in competitive marketplaces,” says Scott Jones, director of Product Management and Development at Crossville Flooring in Crossville, Tenn. “The flooring in this area must be spot-on and reinforce the [venue’s] overall theme. It’s important to get access to a company product lineup like ours offering so many great looks, including replications of popular materials that would not normally be viable options for restaurant flooring. Additionally, extensive tile offerings enable designers to beautifully and seamlessly coordinate flooring needs that flow seamlessly from the front to back-of-house areas.”

Furthermore, if flooring in an existing bar or restaurant is dark, dirty, or simply out of date, it not only lessens the effect of the other decorative elements but may also compromise the safety of customers and employees alike, according to Rotem Eylor, CEO and Founder of Los Angeles-based Republic Flooring.

“Your establishment's flooring sets the foundation for an inviting and functional space,” says Eylor. “Flooring solutions should not only align with your venue's theme and current trends but also prioritize safety, durability, and long-term value. When we discuss updated flooring options with clients, we make it a point to highlight the transformative impact that new flooring can have on the overall ambiance and aesthetic of a bar or restaurant, from addressing how flooring can modernize the space to improving functionality and enhancing customer experience.”

Photo: Crossville
Photo: Crossville Flooring

Style, Substance, and Safety

Beyond setting the mood, Jones stresses that venue owners and their designers must consider safety, style, durability, and maintenance when picking the right flooring or mix of flooring products. While the front-of-house design should capture the restaurant’s aesthetic, priorities for the kitchen and prep areas should include slip-resistance and sanitary issues. From there, all of these things need to coordinate in a cohesive way throughout the entire space.

“Restaurant flooring must meet requirements related to slip-fall prevention, and we have developed products and solutions with this in mind to make it easier for our hospitality clients to easily identify tile products for the front- and back-of-house needs. It’s also important to us that our clients understand that tile is inhospitable to bacteria, meaning there will be almost no mold or mildew issues, which are critical for restaurant sanitation. As messes are part of restaurant life, tile specification makes life easier for everyone on staff because [the right tile will be] quick to clean and endures high traffic beautifully with no compromise to appearance.”

In terms of choosing the best floors for kitchen and bar areas, Eylor advises clients single out slip-resistant flooring options designed for commercial kitchens and bars, as well as anti-slip tapes and mats that can be strategically placed to prevent accidents in high-risk zones.

“In addition to preventing accidents and improving the look of the workplace, investing in new flooring means improved hygiene, easier maintenance, and increased property value,” he affirms. “With advances in flooring technology, you can also benefit from materials that are more resistant to wear and tear to go longer between floor repairs and updates.”

Living in a Materials World

“I think there's a lot of exciting trends that we're seeing, especially from our side of things as restaurant décor is being pushed to be more and more creative,” says Victor Schmick of Studio 11 Design in Dallas, Texas. “As everyone is searching for something that’s not yet been done, we are getting pushed to find creative solutions to our clients’s need for us to create specific ambiences for their spaces. One trend we're seeing a lot of right now is through body porcelain (an unglazed porcelain tile with a homogenous composition), which is ideal for high-traffic areas as its composition hides scratches, chips, and wear. Wood-look porcelain is big as more restaurants and bars are striving for a more residential feel, and many of these are innovative as they feel like real wood, but have the durability of stone.”

Schmick and his team have also observed an uptick in demand for flooring with the juxtaposition of mixed metals (particularly brass) as well as the use of transition strips between tiles in more aesthetic ways. Although Scandinavian blonde wood styles remain popular, he points out many of his hospitality clients have been shifting to darker woods as well as flooring made with recycled materials or elements. Although many flooring styles are not “out,” he says large format tiles have gained popularity, as it creates a modern “monolithic” look, instead of structured smaller pieces that had been popular in recent years. In terms of bar and kitchen flooring, he has seen an increase in use of quarry tile with a built-in slip coefficient, though spray-applied, anti-slip products are widely available.

Jones, meanwhile, mentions that the increased use of outdoor space at bars and restaurants has influenced clients’ choices in flooring products. Because of this, Crossville offers a few porcelain tile collections that include interior and exterior options that offer the designers the ability to seamlessly transition floor styles. He says that the porcelain tile collections are engineered to offer lasting durability, meaning restaurant owners won't be faced with the need to replace flooring as often.

“The outdoors and fresh air have always contributed to a healthier environment, and natural materials and biophilia (a current décor trend covered in top design magazines based on the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life) continue to be leading factors in interior and exterior design,” he says. “In situations where we couldn't connect [indoor flooring] with [outdoor flooring], we connected with the land. People began to realize the importance of their outdoor spaces not just as an extension of their home or business, but as affecting their wellness.”

Jones adds that more tile designs and styles that were traditionally either difficult to maintain or not available for specific installation areas are or will soon be available. Crossville’s “Stone Fiction” collection, for example, offers the appealing look of travertine, a high-maintenance natural stone. The Stone Fiction collection includes a porcelain tile with the popular crosscut travertine appearance that works in both interior and exterior application.

bar flooring restaurant flooring
Photo: Crossville Flooring

“Many of the things that are trending now, such as biophilia and the act of bringing the essence of nature inside/out, align perfectly with tiles' ability to beautifully represent natural visuals such as stone and wood,” says Jones. “In picking elegant, subtle versions of those looks that align well with the overall decorative theme, what is trending today also becomes timeless visually with the durability to stand the test of time.”

Eylor points to luxury vinyl flooring, which mimics the look of wood or tile, as a trending material and smart investment, effectively uniting fashion and function with its durability, easy maintenance, and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, he observes stained concrete and polished concrete floors that have a “trendy edge” are gaining popularity for their modern, industrial appeal and potential to go the distance compared to other flooring trends, even as he too acknowledges that porcelain tile are smart choices for certain bars and restaurants. Although carpeting is still in use as accent pieces in specific areas (such as private dining spaces, vinyl flooring has gained traction thanks to technological advancements in its production that results in flooring that’s durable, waterproof, and can duplicate some wood-like aesthetics.

“When combining carpet and hard flooring, a rule of thumb is to consider transitions and visual cohesion,” Eylor advises. “Use materials that complement each other in terms of color and style. For example, a hardwood floor could transition well to a carpeted seating area.

Schmick also says that accent carpeting has replaced full coverage carpeting within restaurant spaces as it is easier to replace or remove as aesthetic trends shift. “We're being intentional about how we're designing those transitions,” he says. “[Some of our] clients are laying area rugs over other surfaces, so we will recommend they have the carpeting treated to not curl or fold and create trip hazards.”

The Upside of Downtime

According to Eylor, when choosing a contractor, a client should inquire about the company’s experience with restaurant and bar flooring projects, ask for references, and request to see examples of their previous work. Asking about timelines, warranties, and maintenance requirements upfront will also ensure a smooth collaboration. In terms of the “downtime” needed to get the flooring job right, depending on the scope of the project and the type of flooring, a bar or restaurant could expect anywhere from a few days to a few weeks of downtime during a new flooring installation. It's important to plan this with your business schedule in mind.

Jones recommends restaurant and bar owners or managers ask a contractor about how his approach to flooring design and installation aligns with the business’ goals, and what experience and qualifications does he have relative to your specific product choices.

“With regard to your goals for [your bar or restaurant], one example of something you may ask a contractor about is his willingness to do a late-night install to minimize reduction to your revenue during normal business hours,” he says. “In terms of assessing experience and qualifications, an owner can ask the contractor about the use of large-size porcelain panels or the decision to do a tile-over-tile installation to reduce time and save cost. Does he have training or experience with these specific products or installation situations?”

Furthermore, the material or materials chosen for the flooring as well as the theme of the bar or restaurant will ultimately dictate how much downtime there will be. He estimates most flooring installations run between two to four weeks if a tile or stone product is used, and that the life cycle of a floor runs about five years. However, safety and good warranties remain common concerns among his clients.

“There’s a push to focus on slip coefficients and friction so that people don't have accidents,” Schmick says. “We are seeing it in a lot of food-and-beverage venues that are centered around pools or venues that are pool adjacent, including a lot of our projects in Florida, where our clients deal with heavy rains or daily rains and also want flooring materials and styles that transition easily from indoor to outdoor settings. We also have indoor-outdoor projects in Phoenix that operate year-round but face a lot of UV exposure [requiring] materials that are light-fast and won’t fade quickly. One project in Dallas involves transforming a parking garage into an amenity lounge for a local historic building. This is where we are using transition strips in a more artful way than a utilitarian one.”

Flooring decisions are consequential, and owners need to address the aesthetic, functional, and safety concerns of flooring. If you go through the right number of steps to get the exact flooring your business requires, it will ultimately go the distance.

studio 11 design bar flooring restaurant flooring
Photo: Angelo Clinton
Studio 11 Design flooring.


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