Sponsored by FLAT® Tech
“This is one of those problems that has plagued the restaurant industry forever.”
The issue David Dubois is referring to is wobbly table syndrome. Ever since the first restaurant opened its doors, operators have had to contend with tables on uneven surfaces. Waitstaff armed with folded napkins, matchbooks, bar coasters, menus or wedges find themselves having to spend valuable time trying to make the table stable so diners don’t get their drinks or food in their laps.
Dubois is chief executive of the Tasty Burger chain and the Franklin Restaurant Group, both based in Boston. He describes the problem: “You almost have to have someone walking around leveling tables all day. Even if you check it when diners are seated, that doesn’t get you through the whole meal. Someone gets in; they kick it to the left, and then it’s unstable again.”
Dubois knows how serious the uneven table situation can be. There are six Tasty Burger units and four restaurants in the Franklin Group — including the iconic Oyster Bar in Boston — all high-volume operations.
Vicki Nussbaum experienced the problem in her 35-year career in foodservice establishments. “We were always jamming everything under the nonstationary tables to keep them straight,” she says. “I always told myself if I ever got the opportunity to have a restaurant, I didn’t want to have that problem — where you’re always cleaning stuff up from under the tables.
Now Nussbaum has that restaurant. She is a franchisee and operator of a Tom + Chee unit in Green, Ohio. Tom + Chee is short for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The comfort food concept attracts a large following year-round.
Innovative solution to the rescue
Nussbaum and Dubois solved their problems with two innovative products designed and manufactured by FLAT Tech. The company has patented a stabilization system which works to level tables through hydraulics. “It’s like magic,” Dubois says.
For all of his restaurants, Dubois uses FLAT table-bases which incorporate a system that automatically distributes fluid through the bottom of the base to the feet which expand and compress, compensating for uneven surfaces in order to stabilize the table.
“The technology solves an age-old problem,” he says. “How often does that happen?”
Dubois wasn’t sold in the beginning, though. “The first time I saw it, I said there is no way this thing can work,” he says. He ran a test for about two years and was convinced of the functionality and the durability. “It became evident that they would hold up under really high-volume situations.”
However, not all operators wish to invest in new tables and as a result, FLAT devised an innovative solution to this issue. Last year the company launched FLAT Equalizers. Equalizers can retrofit existing table bases by replacing their screw-in feet. When an uneven table is given a slight press, the self-contained hydraulic feet shift fluid within and lock the “feet” into position and stabilize the table.
Dubois and Nussbaum have both found an unexpected but valuable added benefit of the technology. When two or more tables are put together, the system can help to level them out, aligning the adjoining tabletops.
“We are a family-oriented restaurant so we have a lot of groups of people who come in and pull tables together,” Nussbaum says. “We show them how to push down or pull up to level them. The customers are amazed.”
About the technology, she says, “I couldn’t be happier. It’s like a godsend to me.”
Savings in a number of areas
Peter Tichband, vice president of sales for FLAT North and South America, says operators can achieve savings in a number of areas.
- Labor: It takes time and energy to keep up with stabilizing tables which continually are on a crooked surface, whether inside or outside, so the technology saves otherwise wasted time. Staff have to be trained to deal with the issue, as well.
- Cost: There also is a replacement cost if food or beverages are spilled, plus the time it takes to clean it up.
- Customer experience: Having an employee reach down to wedge something under one corner of the table does not communicate a quality experience — not to mention the annoyance and inconvenience. If their dining experience is ruined, customers are not likely to return.
FLAT Equalizers recently won a 2018 Kitchen Innovations Award from the National Restaurant Association and will be included in a special KI section at the NRA Show 2018 in Chicago this spring.
Learn more at www.FlatTech.com.