Ordering Solid Wood Restaurant Table Tops: 11 Things Everyone Should Know

Read Time: 19 minutes

1. Decide on a Budget

Going into any purchase blindly can lead to sticker shock or the inability to cover the overall costs of what you were expecting to purchase. Like any large purchase, budgeting should first be considered before making decisions.

Things to consider when deciding on a budget:

Overall budget

Ask yourself how much you have available to spend. If necessary, investigate financing options. As with any major financial decision, make wise, calculated decisions on what you can afford and how you plan to pay for your restaurant furnishings.

As a small business, you have access to many types of loans and lenders willing to work with you. The U.S. Small Business Administration has a useful site to guide you in the right direction. They offer information on the different loans that suit your needs. On their site, you will also find a checklist of what lenders may want to see. They can also assist you in finding the right lender.

What Do I Need?

Perhaps you have worn-out tables and chairs, or maybe you are redesigning your entire space. Whatever the reason for ordering your solid wooden table tops, take an inventory of what you have and what you need to purchase.

This inventory doesn’t just apply to table tops and chairs. Bear in mind that table tops need a base. Bar counters, bar stools, and any other furnishings and updates you need should be considered. If more than furnishings are needed, categorize each need, and designate an appropriate budget for each category.

Consider the Long-Term Investment

You get what you pay for. This adage fits well when budgeting for restaurant table tops. Solid wood tables may be pricier than other options like laminate table tops or composite materials. There is a reason for that. Solid wood is a high-quality, durable material that can last decades where you might be able to squeeze 5-10 years with laminate table tops if properly cared for and not heavily used.

Even solid wood tables from different manufacturers can vary greatly in price and quality. As will be discussed later, choose a quality manufacturer that knows how to make solid wood table tops that will last and ask about the warranty.

2. Choose the Right Consultant

For new construction or large-scale remodel restaurant projects, we recommend you hire an experienced commercial architect or designer. These experienced consultants can help you with the many important factors such as ADA compliance, fire code, and spatial planning for functional workflow. Should you need to only replace the table tops of the same size in your existing restaurant, we are confident we can help you with those selections. For anything that requires more complex decision-making, we highly recommend working with a designer or architect with experience in the restaurant business. If you’d like we can recommend a few fantastic designers that we’ve worked with for years. Or you can find a professional interior designer at: www.asid.org/find-a-pro

Too often we receive phone calls from designers who have designed residential projects their entire career but have been asked as a favor to design a client’s restaurant. While this is done with only the best intention it can lead to disastrous results. Here’s a crash course in laying out a restaurant design that still only just scratches the surface of this complex undertaking: Laying out your Restaurant & Restaurant Tables

We at TimeWorn are here to help you make product selections that will fit your restaurant style and can give suggestions on tabletop capacity.

3. Select the Right Size Tables

TimeWorn Table Top Size

2-top, 4-top, and 6-top- it’s all jargon for table sizes but, more often than not, people don’t know what size tables this shorthand represents or how large of a table is actually needed to fit 4 people comfortably for a full-service meal. The terms are very convoluted. Each of those numbered tops can represent many different sizes depending on the type of establishment and arrangement going on the table. It’s imperative to consider aisle size, chair style, length at which you want to serve your patrons, tableware, and base style when choosing what size tables you need for your restaurant.

Table shape is also a factor in the size of the table and its practicality. Square tables, round tables, rectangular tables, and drop-leaf tables all have size options that seat various numbers of guests.

Take a look at our guide on Restaurant Table Sizing to help you decide on the right tabletop for your specific needs.

4. Consider Wood Type

Wood species, source, texture, color, style – there are so many options to consider for your restaurant space. With so many options, deciding on the look of the tabletop can overwhelm the mind. A little research and style preference can help you choose the wood type, color, and style.

The best place to start deciding on the wood type is in your restaurant. If you are just replacing table tops, matching the ambiance of your restaurant will quickly narrow down your choices. However, if you are starting from scratch, the consultant can be of great help in this regard.

If you are bravely tackling the construction or remodel without the help of a consultant and struggling to narrow down your options, contact us and we will happily provide you with suggestions and samples upon request.

5. Explore Customization Options

Wooden table tops can go beyond providing a surface for serving food. They provide style, they can make a statement, and they can improve the customers’ dining experience. Consider all your tabletop customization options as you decide on your tabletop and manufacturer.

Like choosing the materials for your tabletop, customization options are an endless list of choices. Explore all your options but keep your budget and ultimate needs in mind when adding these to your wish list.

Some customizations can make an impressive statement. Engraved logos, for example, create an added touch of sophistication and branding. Other customizations provide a practical purpose to the table tops. Consider sound padding. Placed underneath the tabletop, this sound-dampening tool effectively provides a quiet dining experience without compromising style.

Look at the customization options we provide at TimeWorn.

6. Choose a Quality Manufacturer

We have received so many calls from customers stating, “I have a guy who knows a guy that makes cabinets that made my tables, and, boy, did I make a mistake” or “The General Contractor on my project said he would take care of buying the tables for my restaurant and unfortunately that was a mistake as he made them himself.” Our advice is to find someone who has been specifically devoted to crafting solid wood restaurant tables for 10+ years and can both show you a plethora of completed projects and provide you with a large enough sample to test the product for yourself.

A good restaurant table manufacturer understands the everyday wear and tear that restaurant tables need to endure. Before ordering from a manufacturer, ask about how well their product stands up against scratching, scuffing, and heat. At TimeWorn we have tested our products so that you can use your restaurant tables with the confidence that they will last.

Your customers will judge their dining experience on more than just your food. A fantastic restaurant design & the perfect restaurant tables will improve your customers’ experience, elevate your restaurant, and have a direct, positive impact on your bottom line. Choose a manufacturer that can provide the best products to satisfy and impress your customers.

7. Know the Tops Have a Quality Finish

  • Choose a 2-part finish.
  • Choose a solvent-based finish.
  • Avoid water-based finishes, conversion finishes, wipe-on oil, and single component finishes.
  • Get your finish approved by an inspector.
  • Know the product warranty.

Remember, a wood restaurant table’s finish should be able to hold up to rigorous cleaning numerous times a day with harsh chemicals. Our experience has told us that every manufacturer should be required to apply a 2-part solvent-based Polyurethane. We would also recommend that your manufacturer provide you with professional testing data. The product we use has passed SEFA 8 testing which means it will hold up against the harshest chemicals available including both muriatic and sulfuric acid!


Water-Based Finish – While water-based finish is generally considered a more “green product” than its solvent-based counterparts, the short lifespan of said water-based finish leads to frequent refinishing which ultimately negates the efforts to protect our environment. This type of finish is susceptible to heat, most chemical cleaners, moisture, and blunt force from flatware.

Conversion Varnish – This is the preferred finish of cabinet makers and is still the most widely used finish for restaurant manufacturers today. While this type of finish is great for vertical cabinet surfaces that require minimal cleaning, it is prone to breaking down after being cleaned hundreds of times. The worst part is that as a finish breaks down on a molecular level, it becomes the all-too-common sticky mess of a table that customers assume needs a more thorough cleaning, which, in itself, is a major problem. But it’s not just a problem of aesthetics; it’s a serious health issue as restaurant patrons are eating on a table coated in corroding chemicals. Beware, we’ve had dozens of manufacturers of this finish tell us how their conversion varnish is different and lasts longer or simply won’t break down. It doesn’t matter how you slice this loaf of bread, the chemicals that make up these products are almost always the same and therefore susceptible to the same break-down process from frequent cleanings.

Wipe-On Oil – It is rare to see this product nowadays as health inspectors simply won’t approve a tabletop finish that doesn’t provide a complete barrier coat. Not only is wipe-on oil unsanitary, but it also requires monthly maintenance. Even then, you will probably need to have it sanded down to the wood every couple of years. Examples of this finish include Linseed Oil, Tongue Oil, Watco, and Bona.

Single component finish – We often see this when a DIYer has tried to finish their own wood tables. This is the type of finish typically found at a big box store and it is simply not strong enough to withstand cleaning or even moderate use from your customers. The finish is one component of what should be a two-part product, meaning you mix part A with part B to create the finish needed to apply; this is the ONLY way you will get enough protection for years of use. Examples of this finish include Varathane, Minwax, and Shellac.

When asking about a manufacturer’s tabletop finish, your questions should include the following:

  • Is the finish a 2-part product?
  • Is it solvent-based?
  • Has the finish been tested professionally for a restaurant, and can you provide those test results?
  • What is the warranty?

8. Confirm the Warranty Covers Warping or Cupping

Simply put, to prevent wood from warping in your restaurant table tops you should:

  1. Avoid buying restaurant table tops that are braced from the underside.
  2. Ensure that the underside is finished exactly the same way as the top.
  3. Know that they’ve used the right finish.

Keeping a table flat shouldn’t be something a restaurant owner should ever have to worry about, but here’s a more detailed look at what to avoid and what to look for to keep your restaurant table tops from warping:

Bracing on the underside – This is a sure sign that the manufacturer has issues or had issues with tables warping. Regardless of the bracing materials and methods used, we can unequivocally tell you that nothing will prevent wood from moving if it wants to. Even if wood was cut down 1,000 years ago, there are still fibers and cells that are alive and active. Understanding this is paramount to knowing what makes a restaurant table last.

Unfinished on the bottom side of the table –If you don’t sand and seal the bottom in the same manner as you sanded and sealed the top, you will have moisture moving between the two surfaces at a problematically different rate, and your tables will certainly warp within a few years, if not sooner.

Using the wrong finish – Yes, believe it or not, just by using the right finish you can prevent 99.9% of the risk in a tabletop moving. If your manufacturer isn’t using one of the finishes we’ve suggested, there will be a constant flow of moisture going into and out of your wood restaurant tables.

9. Get Inspector Approval

Ask your manufacturer to provide you with the datasheet for the finish as well as a sample to pass on to the inspector long before you order your tables. Not getting restaurant tables approved by an inspector could lead to disaster when the time comes to get your occupancy permit.

Several of the finishes listed as ones to avoid in step 4 will NOT be approved by some inspectors. This step is a fail-safe way to make sure your selections won’t be rejected.

10. Know When to Order Restaurant Tables

In general, try to order your tables 4-6 weeks before you want the restaurant to open for your employee training and soft openings. Also, keep in mind that most manufacturers won’t start your order without both a signed contract and a deposit.

One would think tabletop selection and ordering would be on the top of a restaurant owner’s list. If we only had a dollar for every call we’ve gotten that went something like this, “you’ll never believe this, but I’m opening my restaurant in a week and I forgot to order my tables!” Ordering well ahead of time ensures that you’ll have everything you need to complete your restaurant design in plenty of time before your grand opening. But with that said, we do understand these situations come up and we have our Quick Ship products available for such instances.

11. Prepare to receive your restaurant tables

Unless your manufacturer is local and you can pick up the products, your wood table tops will most likely be delivered by an LTL (Less than a truckload) freight carrier. This means the shipment will be picked up from your manufacturer in crates, loaded onto an enclosed semi-trailer by a forklift, and delivered to your location. When the shipment is delivered, you will need to be available to receive. If the crate is less than 90 inches long, the driver will use the Lift Gate to lower the crate to the ground and help move the crate to your sidewalk or doorway. Should the crate exceed 90 inches in length, it will need to be unloaded via loading dock, forklift, or by hand. If unloading by hand, you will need to have ample people-power available to open the crate inside the trailer and hand offload. In both instances, you are responsible for unpacking the crates and moving the items into your business.

Note that LTL truckers are not employed by the tabletop manufacturer. They will not be able to answer your questions regarding your tabletop needs nor can they assist in the assembly or further placement of your tables.

Here is a video demonstrating both scenarios: Receiving your restaurant tables 


In conclusion, ordering solid wood restaurant table tops involves more than just picking out a style or color. From setting a realistic budget and choosing the right consultant/designer to selecting the ideal size, wood type, and customization options, each step is crucial for creating a dining space that reflects the quality and ambiance of your restaurant. Quality matters not only in the food you serve but also in the furniture that adorns your space. By choosing a reputable manufacturer and ensuring your table tops have a durable finish, you’re investing in the longevity of your restaurant’s aesthetic appeal and operational efficiency. Remember to time your orders wisely and prepare adequately for delivery to avoid last-minute hassles. With these eleven essential tips in mind, you can make informed decisions that enhance your restaurant’s dining experience, uphold its reputation, and contribute positively to your bottom line. 

Please use our contact page to get in touch with us if you would like to discuss your options further or if you need help selecting the best option for your bar or restaurant. Allow TimeWorn to assist you in designing a dining area that fulfills your requirements and goes above and beyond your expectations.


What should you consider when deciding on a budget for restaurant tables?

To get a budget for restaurant table tops, we simply need the quantity and size for each table, a product choice, and a shipping address.  From there we can provide a formal and detailed quote that we will stand behind for a full year.

To locate a loan for purchasing restaurant furniture we would recommend the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website offers information and guidance on different loans and what lenders may want to see.

It is important to take an inventory before ordering as it helps understand what you currently have and what you need to purchase, ensuring all needs, including bases and other furnishings, are covered.  It’s also a great opportunity to review your seating plan to find out if you can fit more tables.

When considering your restaurant table purchase and its viability as an investment, Consider the durability and lifespan of solid wood compared to other materials like laminate, factoring in the long-term value and quality.

An architect or designer is always recommended to assist in new construction or large-scale restaurant projects as they can help with ADA compliance, fire code, spatial planning, ensuring a functional workflow and creating a beautiful professional design.

A common mistake in choosing someone to design a restaurant is hiring designers who have primarily worked on residential projects without restaurant-specific experience can and usually do lead to poor results.

Proper size affects comfort, functionality, and the overall dining experience, including factors like aisle size and service length.

Different shaped restaurant tables (square, round, rectangular) provide various seating options and space utilization.

When choosing the wood type for you restaurant table tops, consider the restaurant’s ambiance, the wood’s color, texture, and style, and consult with a designer if necessary.  We also recommend you read through our blog on “how to find the right style table tops for your restaurant”.

Customizations for restaurant tables, like engraved logos or sound padding can enhance the dining experience and reflect the restaurant’s style and brand.

Selecting a manufacturer to craft your restaurant tables with specific experience in restaurant tables can provide products that withstand daily wear and tear.

When selecting the finish for your restaurant table tops, choose a 2-part, solvent-based finish, avoid water-based and single component finishes, and ensure the finish is approved, with your inspector, for restaurant use.

Bracing the underside of a table top can indicate potential warping issues and won’t prevent wood from moving; proper finishing is more effective in preventing warping.

Ensure the underside is finished identical to the top and use the correct finish to minimize moisture absorption.

Getting approval from your inspector for the type of finish on your tables ensures that the finish meet health and safety standards and avoids potential occupancy permit issues.

Ideally, you should order your restaurant tables 4-6 weeks before opening for employee training and soft openings, ensuring all items arrive in time.

It can lead to last-minute stress and potential delays; however, some manufacturers, such as TimeWorn offer Quick Ship products for such situations.

Be available to receive the shipment, understand the delivery method (lift gate, loading dock), and be prepared to move items into your business.

LTL truckers that deliver your restaurant tables cannot answer specific product questions, assist in assembly, or further placement of tables inside your business.  Their only job is to deliver your product to the site.  Anything beyond that will incur charges.

Quality tables crafted by a quality manufacturer will enhance the dining atmosphere, contributing positively to the customer experience and restaurant’s reputation.

It is imperative that your table top finish meets standard testing.  Before ordering, you should Request professional testing data to ensure the finish can withstand harsh cleaning chemicals, heavy usage, and impact resistance from daily use.

There are an endless number of Customization options from drop-leaf tables, data ports, irregular shapes, engravings, sound padding, thickness and even custom edge profiles. 

By evaluating the current design of your restaurant you can select several sample choices from the restaurant table top manufacturer, from those samples, you can make your final selection.

Water-based finishes have a shorter lifespan, require frequent refinishing, and are susceptible to damage from heat and chemicals.  If you’ve ever felt restaurant tables that are “sticky”, it is likely a water-based finish or a conversion varnish finish.

Single component finishes offer insufficient protection against cleaning and use, leading to quicker deterioration and maintenance needs.

Planning for months in advance to receive your restaurant table tops is a requirement as it ensures timely delivery, adequate preparation for opening, and avoids last-minute scrambles or compromises.

Thing to consider when receiving your restaurant tables include, the size of the crates, available unloading equipment, and manpower needed for moving and unpacking.

The wrong finish can lead to sticky, unsanitary surfaces, negatively impact customer satisfaction, and pose serious health risks.

Consult a sizing guide, consider spatial planning and customer comfort, or seek advice from experienced professionals or manufacturers.

Contact Timeworn

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