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Entertaining – How Many Can Sit at a Table?

Summer brings entertaining which brings guests which brings seating issues. It is never fun to sit packed together at a table with no room to eat. No matter how great the food, people will come away with a bad experience.

People often ask me how many can sit at a particular table, bar or counter. Let me offer some quick tips to keep you out of trouble and your guests comfortable.

  • Place settings are about 18″ wide.
  • Dining chairs generally run between 16″-20″ wide for side chairs. Bar stools can be narrower and armchairs (often outdoor chairs too) can be 22″-24″ wide.
  • A safe amount of space (width on table) to consider for each diner is 24″. This takes into account arms and movement while eating. Larger men with big brawny arms might require 30″ of space.

Here are some general rules for table sizes:

  • 60″ long rectangular or oval table will seat up to 6 people comfortably.
  • 84″ long rectangular or oval table will seat up to 8 comfortably.
  • 36″ round will seat 4 people.
  • 60″ round will seat 8 people.
  • 54″ square will seat 8 people.

What about benches or picnic tables?

True, you can squeeze people together a little easier because you don’t need room for moving chairs but 24″ per adult is still recommended. For small children you can get away with a bit less.

Asking people to sit without back support, works for short duration meals only. If you are planning a multiple course patio dinner hoping your guests linger for hours consuming copious amounts of food and wine, give them a chair.

Always take into account the above measurements for diner space, your chairs and your family.

This table is 72″ long and 44″ wide. Following the above for 24″ for each person would mean 3 x 24 = 72″. There are websites selling tables who indicate this is fine. It should seat three people on each side and possibly one on each end. Doesn’t work in the real world.

These chairs are 19″ wide at the seat and 21″ at the chair back. Can I squeeze three chairs along a side? Not and give anyone room to move. What works best for this table is two on each side and one on each end for six total.

Remember, your guest should be comfortable. One needs room to eat, drink and pass food. More room is always better than less.

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