It’s Ridiculous That More Restaurants Don’t Have Purse Hooks
Which is worse: balancing your handbag in your lap during a nice meal, constantly readjusting your purse as it slides off the back of your chair, allowing your bag to rest on a germy floor, or brandishing a tacky purse hook that will keep your purse safe, but looks undeniably dorky? None of these scenarios are ideal, but in a world where purse hooks at restaurants and bars are few and far between, these are often the only options.
Why do so few restaurants install purse hooks when they a simple fix to a larger problem: making sure diners, and their belongings, are comfortable and safe during an outing to a restaurant or bar? It’s a cheap and easy fix, given that purse hooks can cost as little as $3 per hook.
“I used to joke that restaurants and bars without purse hooks hate women, but it's a problem for people with stuff everywhere! To me, it shows a real lack of thought and care from the establishment,” expressed Alina Nguyen, a Los Angeles-based copywriter with strong opinions regarding utilitarian objects. Though Nguyen doesn’t necessarily have an answer in mind to the purse hook problem, she does think that interior designers have a responsibility to think up an option that is “inconspicuous, out-of-the-way, and helpful for bag people everywhere.”
However, solutions aren’t always as simple as they appear. Amy Morris, the co-founder and creative director of the James Beard award-winning restaurant design firm, The MP Shift, says that purse hooks aren’t always the magical problem-solving element they seem to be. “People often put too much weight on the hooks and then the hooks pull out of the wood or stone and start to cause wear and tear,” she explained.
Furthermore, when it comes to designing a restaurant space, comfort isn't always the first priority. For Morris, design starts with aesthetic before doubling back and considering more pragmatic aspects. “It’s important for [clients] to see the design first and then it’s easy for us to then walk through the space virtually to think about how it will function.”
Instead of hooks, she’s seen other methods that combine storage with comfort and functional sensibilities. “In Mexico City, they bring a mini coat stand to your table. In New York, people are used to being in tight spaces and we make do.”
In my own experiences traveling in Japan, crate boxes are often placed behind diners’ stools -- a makeshift cubby within tightly packed restaurants that keeps your belongings close, but out of the way. Coat checks exist, but like in America, they only seem to appear at higher-end restaurants. Aside from these options, which feel a little bleak in comparison to a sturdy hook, there’s not much else restaurants do to ensure your purse stays safe from dirt and sticky surfaces, thieves, or the threat of constantly sliding off of your lap.
“Restaurateurs need every inch for seating to turn profit,” Morris admitted. “I agree it could be considered more. I’m often surprised there are not hooks lining the bathroom hallway or just outside the door.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Robert Ceraso -- the owner and creative director of popular New York City restaurants like The Wayland, The Lost Lady, and The Wild Son -- sees purse hooks as mandatory. “Honestly, it wouldn’t occur to us not to install them,” he remarked. “They tend not to affect any design aesthetic because they are usually fairly high up and not even completely visible under the bar.”
Greg Blier, design director and founder of Los Angeles-based design firm, STUDIO UNLTD, echoes this sentiment. “We would get crucified if we didn’t use purse hooks in our design. Either no female was related to the project on [the] client or design side or it was really an oversight,” he relayed. “It’s inexcusable any more to be honest.”
Blier defines himself as a purse hook loyalist, claiming that other options -- like cubbies under tables -- tend to accumulate left-behind items. He believes that purse hooks are a “tried and true method.”
Despite this, Blier emphasizes that different type of restaurant will service customers in varying ways. For example, “with some concepts, comfort isn’t a necessity, such as fast casual. You don’t want people hanging out, so durability and aesthetics rule the day.” This can explain why some restaurants opt out of having purse hooks at all -- the space isn’t intended to necessarily feel homey.
That being said, purse hooks -- whether they’re in dimly lit bars, fast-casual spaces, or a high-end restaurant -- still seem to be the ultimate storage solution for all diners. Whether it’s stowing a bag, hanging a scarf, or a place to set a coat for the night, purse hooks have been unyieldingly helpful in dining and drinking spaces. And though Nguyen jokes that restaurants that lack purse hooks hate women, it’s important to acknowledge that the purse hooks benefit everyone; coats and scarves and hats and purses are genderless -- and need to be stowed somewhere.
Here is an open plea to restaurants and bars everywhere: please install purse hooks. Put them under your bars, at your tables, in your booths. Consider the functionality of your establishment, and how it can benefit from something as simple as a small hook.