people sitting on barstools in an outdoor bar area

8 Types of Restaurant Bar Stools

Surprisingly, for most people, the bar stool is an underrated piece of furniture. While friends often mention how much they enjoy cuddling on the couch and how eagerly they anticipate falling into bed at night, none ever think to thank their bar stool. And they really should. After all, think of how many hours you’ve spent cozied up to the bar in your favorite dining or drinking establishment. Those hours would have been a lot less comfortable and a lot harder on your feet and back without your loyal friend — the bar stool.

Without bar stools, you wouldn’t have enjoyed that bachelorette party nearly as much, and you most certainly would never have met your ex. (Admit it, it was fun in the beginning.) Without bar stools, busy executives would have no comfortable spot to unwind at the end of a frustrating day, and relationships everywhere would have to begin on the dance floor. 

Oh, the horror. 

So, enter the bar stool. These compact pieces of commercial restaurant furniture first began gaining popularity in America around the 1920s, though they’d long been ensconced in European establishments. The first bar stools were utilitarian in nature — made of wood and designed without backs or arm rests, so they could fit into small spaces. They served a single purpose, to allow patrons to linger at the bar in comfort where they could part with more of their hard-earned cash without becoming unduly stressed.

Fortunately, bar stools, like saloons, have improved over the years. Today, they’re beautifully designed to fit into even the most upscale establishments. And while some are still minimalist in their design and construction, others are cushy and ornate, made to cradle patrons in lavish comfort as they recline at the bar.

As a restaurant owner, whichever type of bar stool you favor, you’ll find a limitless supply available. The key is to match your style of bar stool to the preferences of your most loyal patrons. Give the people what they want, and they’ll keep coming back. And it all begins and ends with the bar stools you provide. 

Though you could likely find a bar stool out there to fit any specification or purpose, there are several diehard styles that will never go out of fashion. Each has its own unique features and design, and some overlap. But ultimately, if you’re in the market for bar stools, eight categories will stand out. 

1. Bistro Style Bar Stools

Bistro bar stools make nice restaurant bar stools because they feature a back. This provides more comfortable seating for longer periods of time. The bistro-style bar stool does not feature arm rests, which makes it sleek and highly functional. It fits well into small dining areas, cafes, and anywhere space in front of the bar is limited. Bistro bar stools are traditionally made of wood. But today, everything goes. You can find simple bistro styles made of traditional wood, bamboo, or metal, and featuring both plain and padded seats. 

2. Stationary Bar Stools


A stationary bar stool is one which doesn’t swivel. These are crafted of various materials, may or may not have a back or arm rest, and come in every size, shape, style, and color imaginable. Picture a regular chair, only taller. Most bar stools measure between 28 and 30 inches tall, which is taller than a kitchen, dining, or counter-height chair. 

Stationary bar stools are usually more suitable for dining or drinking around a table, because the patrons sitting on them have no need to swivel to hold conversations to the left or right. 

3. Swivel Bar Stools

Trica Aramis Barstool

Restaurant swivel chair bar stools, as you may have anticipated, swivel all the way around. They’re perfect for prolonging conversations at the bar. However, they work well in dining and conversation areas, too, because patrons can swivel to talk to someone across the room without leaving their chair. 

4. Metal Bar Stools

Euro Style Cafe Barstool

Metal bar stools, as you can imagine, feature metal as their main material. Although many feature mixed materials to add comfort and flair. Metal bar stools may be made of steel, aluminum, or even wrought iron. They’re among the sturdiest of their kind, so if you’re in search of modern restaurant bar stools that will stand up to rowdy revelers, metal may be your best choice. Metal bar stools come in every imaginable design and color — some with arm rests, some with backs, some with both. Keep in mind how long you would like your patrons to stay before deciding how comfortable your bar stools should be. 

5. Backless Bar Stools

Backless bar stools simply feature a flat surface for your customers to seat themselves as they drink, dine, or converse. Simple and practical, they take up less space than more ornate styles of seating and tend to become less comfortable the longer one sits in them. Backless bar stools work well in front of the bar or situated around a tall, pub-style table. But they’re also good choices for seating along a bare wall where guests can lean back if needed. 

6. Pub Style Bar Stools

Amisco Kyle Barstool

Pub-style bar stools typically feature a back with no arm rests. They’re nicely sized to fit the bar and pub-height dining tables. More often than not, pub-style bar stools feature padded seats for added comfort and an upscale atmosphere.

7. Upholstered Bar Stools

Trica Olivia Barstool

Any of the stools previously mentioned may come upholstered. Upholstered bar stools generally cost more than scaled-down versions, and they make customers feel a bit more pampered. Many upscale dining and drinking establishments feature upholstered barstools because they want their patrons to feel more like guests. 

8. Wooden Bar Stools

wooden barstool seats

Wooden bar stools, of course, are made of wood. Sturdy, elegant, and often pricier than metal, wooden bar stools most closely resemble those vintage stools of old. You’ll find them in every beautiful finish and every style, from backless to ornate. 

How to Choose Bar Stools for Your Restaurant

But with all these restaurant quality bar stools from which to choose, which ones are best for your business? Most modern stools run between 15 and 21 inches wide. You’ll want to keep these measurements in mind as you shop, especially if space is limited. The wider the stool, the more space there should be between it and its brother. A good rule of thumb is to allow a minimum of 36 inches from the center of one stool to the next. You’ll also want to allow a good foot or a foot-and-a-half between your patrons knees and the front of the bar. Some bar stools are stackable, too, which can come in handy for floor cleaning and events that require the whole dance floor.

Shop California Dining & Barstools

When you’re ready to outfit your bar or dining room with the perfect stools, California Dining & Barstools is ready to help. Since 1977, we’ve provided the Bay Area with top-quality restaurant furniture at affordable prices. And when you buy from us, you get the added benefit of our years of experience. Let us help you choose the best barstools for your restaurant today. Stop by our showrooms in Sunnyvale or Pleasant Hill to learn more.