Community Tables Go Mainstream!

Community Tables in Retail
Apple and McDonald’s Community Tables

Community tables are popping up everywhere. Sometimes referred to in the industry as benches, they can be found in restaurants including high end and fast food, to retailers including Apple to workplace environments such as American Express. Why are we seeing this now? For different reasons depending on the market sector – Retailers want to create a buzz around their newest technology, businesses want increased collaboration among staff and restaurants want to break out of the two seat table and four seat table paradigm.

Bench Work Station
Skype Office with Bench Work Stations

With workplace environments corporations want to reduce their real estate footprints, and technology hasenabled most employees to work from anywhere on a 24/7 basis with data accessed through the web. When data can be accessed from any location and on any device being shackled to your desk next to a file cabinet of paper no longer makes sense. Businesses would rather have their staff on the road meeting clients or collaborating with colleagues, than stuck in cubicles. Bench seating fits the bill for the new mobile and hotelling workforce. Skype photo and article from Steelcase 360 magazine.

Retailers are using community tables, particularly Apple, to merchandise consumer technology where groups of customers gather to experience the most recent technological marvels. Enthusiasts from all walks of life and of all ages gather around these bench tables to learn/ play/ experience Apples newest products and innovative Apps. This is great for creating buzz particularly when the “Genius Bar” staff illustrates a new device customers gather, sometimes in large groups, to be part of the action. Now this is retail that’s an experience!

Restaurants use community tables them to break up the space, create separate zones and provide more informal seating arrangements favored by Gen Xer’s. Two seat/ four seat and banquette configurations have been used for decades but don’t adequately address this new customer ‘s informality nor do they address tight spaces or restaurants with a quick turn over. Having bench seating helps designers create appropriate solutions that engage the customer including the McDonald’s shown above.

Bottom line: The cubical, long derided by corporate America, may soon be replaced in certain instances with flexible work environments including community tables in applications where team collaboration will help productivity. Used the right way theses products provide an impressive tool to create engaging shared spaces and experiences in many, but not all, applications.

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