Creating Ambiance, Functionality, and Style to Your Outdoor Restaurant Seating Area

As a restaurant owner, you don’t always need more square footage to increase open seats. Weather permitting, you can invite your guests to sit at tables that are set up outside your restaurant. This is generally a highly attractive option, as it creates a fun, even romantic setting for diners.

However, the expectation is high for your outdoor seating area. Your guests want a functional, stylish setting with just the right ambiance—otherwise, their discomfort will mar the entire experience, no matter how much they enjoyed the food.

Avoid leaving a bad impression on your guests and create a seating area they’ll love using the following tips:

Add a Fireplace and Fans

One of the primary challenges of an outdoor eating area is the temperature. As temperatures change year-round, it may not be pleasant to eat outside. You may not be able to keep the outdoor section open 365 days per year, but you can maximize the time you have with temperature control.

An outdoor fireplace is an excellent source of heat that provides ambiance with functionality. The idea of a wood-burning fire may seem enticing, but burning gas logs is much safer and more efficient, and your guests won’t notice the difference.

In the summer, fans can do wonders for combatting overhead heat. Install tall fans that circulate the air overhead or low fans the blow at your feet, since no diner wants harsh air blowing in their faces while they eat.

Provide Overhead Coverage

Rain or shine, you can keep your outdoor patio area open as long as you have the right overhead coverage. This can be as simple as tables with large umbrellas overhead or as comprehensive as a large overhead canopy covering the entire patio area.

The latter will make the patio area usable more days out of the year, but it will be more expensive to install and maintain. If you make more money this way, it’s worthwhile, but consider the cost and the value of such an installation before moving forward.

Keep It Clean

Of course, you can’t keep your patio space as spotless as you would the interior of your restaurant, but you can make it cleaner than the typical sidewalk. Sweep and pressure wash the space at the end of every night to take care of spills and grime from everyday eating.

You’ll also want to pay special attention to things like bird droppings, cleaning them up as soon as they occur to avoid making a bad impression. No diner wants to eat near a chair rail covered in unmentionables.

Focus on Lighting

Whether the overhead canopy blocks the sun or you plan to offer outdoor dining after the sun has gone down, you’ll need artificial lighting. It should be bright enough that customers and wait staff can safely navigate around the patio without injury, but it should be soft enough to create a comfortable ambiance.

A popular form of restaurant patio lighting is fairy lights or white Christmas lights spread overhead. It’s whimsical while providing the perfect illumination.

Be Careful with Trash Receptacles

Remove all dumpsters, cigarette receptacles, and other large trash cans that can ruin the experience of outdoor eating. For diners, smell is the second most prominent sense, and a whiff of the wrong thing can ruin the outing.

Along with keeping trash receptacles away from the patio, ask smokers to stay at least 100 yards away. Not only is this more comfortable for your guests, but it’s also the law.

Use Plants and Outdoor Decoration

Sconces, candlesticks, and artwork might be your decoration of choice inside, but outside, stick with what’s natural. Use plants and other outdoor decoration to create the desired atmosphere.

A few well-placed planters and window boxes can drastically improve the space. Prevent them from blocking walkways or beautiful city views, but use them to add a touch of nature that outdoor eaters often crave. In some cases, large plants may also afford privacy, an enticing perk for many diners.

Make It Comfortable

Outdoor dining is typically perceived as significantly less comfortable than indoor eating, but that doesn’t have to be the case. After addressing the lighting, overhead coverage, and temperature needs, there are a few more items to consider.

Find comfortable outdoor furniture that can withstand the weather. Add a portable bar, sidewalk signs, bug zappers, and other minor items of comfort to provide a cozy space.  

Follow the Rules

Your city will have commercial ordinances to follow regarding outdoor eating areas. There may be zoning restrictions, fire codes, and other considerations to help you avoid liability and meet city codes.

Check with your local municipality government before installing an outdoor eating area. Learning the rules ahead of time will keep your patio safe, prevent changes in the near future, and provide a wonderful space for diners to relax.  



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