At a meeting in an international corporation, a Canadian speaker mentioned having a "red chair" culture and later continued to talk about their "red chair" learnings. I'm not sure what that implies.

I searched on Google for that phrase and broader phrases but I couldn't find any definitions. I looked on Dictionary.com but it's not there. I checked if it's an idiom relating to furniture without results.

What does "red chair" imply when it's used like that? What is the figurative meaning and what history lead to the literal meaning?

Addendum. Since posting this, I've heard from corporate leaders in Australia and New Zealand that clarify that the "red chair" represents the voice of the customer. In practice, an empty red chair is positioned at the conference table during corporate meetings to remind staff to think about how a customer may react to the meeting's conversation. In other words, becoming more customer centric as an organization.

I'm still not sure where the "red chair" concept originated, or why it's red, or if this technique is broadly used by many companies or not.

  • 1
    Maybe this: "Whether it’s a place to rest after a leisurely stroll or to cheer your successful completion of a strenuous hike, our red chairs offer a place to slow down, to relax and to truly discover the best that Parks Canada has to offer." pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/sk/grasslands/activ/activ21.aspx
    – user66965
    May 5, 2016 at 15:53
  • Nero Wolfe, the detective, had in his office a number of yellow chairs for guests, and one red chair for the most favored guest. For whatever that's worth. Jun 8, 2023 at 1:36

4 Answers 4


Could they possibly have been pitching/talking about this company?

Bukhari Group LLC

Our philosophy is to create a case around your strengths and business strategy while incorporating the Red Chair Culture: consistency in delivering your service to your clients to promote retention &/or kick start growth.


A quick browse around the googlewebs leads me to recruitment and PR agencies, a site promoting 'sitting down and listening' to get more gender equality, a war memorial, and some TV shows. All of that combined, I think red chair culture means to create connections, with the intent to work on a collaboratively improved future. Sit down on the red chair to listen, not to talk.

But today was the first I ever heard of this.


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) often uses a (literal) red chair for interviews conducted on the street where a common opinion question is asked to passerby citizens rather than subject matter experts or professional pundits; i.e., literally inviting and listening to the 'customer' rather than opining.


To follow up on the previous answers. George Stroumboupoulous sat his guests in a red chair on his excellent CBC chat show. Graham Norton has a red chair segment concluding his BBC show, in which audience members sit to tell a story. If it's boring, Norton or a celebrity guest pulls a lever to eject the person.

I think all of this derives from thrones, which are often depicted as embroidered in plush red velvet. In commerce and on the television programs mentioned, the guest is placed in the seat of honour, with Graham Norton extending the metaphor to include the French revolution.

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