Whether you’re a restaurant owner deciding to take your current outdoor dining area to the next level, or you’re just starting out; know that adding a patio space could skyrocket your restaurant’s popularity and profitability — we have some tips for you. From adhering to ADA and COVID-19 regulations to deciding on the perfect furniture and layout, here are some great ideas for creating an inviting outdoor dining space.
Research Outdoor Dining Laws and Regulations
First and foremost, your outdoor dining space needs to be up to code. Research your state’s and city’s outdoor dining laws to understand the guidelines for capacity, accessibility, and even parking regulations. You’ll also want to make sure your insurance offers patio coverage to keep your mind at ease. Zoning commission officials to determine if your city requires you to pay any fees for your outdoor dining space. Be sure to read through your restaurant’s liquor license to see if it covers serving drinks outdoors.
Because we are in a pandemic, something to take into consideration is your local guidelines for social distancing. Position your tables or seats six feet away from other groups and know what 25% and 50% capacity looks like. Follow health regulations such as frequently disinfecting surfaces, providing single-use menus, and making sure your outdoor servers also wear protective masks.
Design the Best Layout for Your Restaurant’s Outdoor Dining Area
Decide on a layout for your outdoor dining area and stick with it. Moving around chairs and tables constantly takes time and energy, and can confuse your servers.
Think about whether you’d like to arrange for outdoor entertainment in the future, such as live music, open mics, or DJs. Make sure an open space exists for these acts, with easy and safe access to a power source.
Do you want your patio to come off as a communal gathering space? Invest in large tables or benches that take up the area. Are you opting for more of a cafe vibe? Smaller tables that seat fewer scattered around will do the trick. Will your outdoor area be sit-down dining only, or do you want to encourage a casual atmosphere? Take all of these questions into consideration when configuring your area’s layout.
Add an Outdoor Bar to Your Restaurant
Adding an outdoor bar to your patio area can increase profitability and stop customers from having to wait for drinks. You can add additional bar seating to encourage people to visit your restaurant without taking up an entire table. If not a full bar, consider a smaller bar station for employees to serve.
Covering Outdoor Dining Areas for Inclement Weather
Creating an outdoor space for your restaurant can be incredibly enjoyable. However, if you’re located in an area with unpredictable weather, you’ll need to work harder to keep guests comfortable outside. On a hot and bright summer day, umbrellas can be used to shield restaurant-goers from harsh sunlight. These umbrellas can also offer light reprieve from bouts of rain. Although a sturdy, durable tensioned fabric structure will do a lot more to offer further protection while still allowing your guests to enjoy their outdoor dining experience.
Patio heaters in the form of stands or strips are also a wise investment if you’re located in chilly weather. Keeping your outdoor area open frequently throughout the year is a great look, and is profitable for your restaurant.
Choose One Type of Furniture
When choosing which type of outdoor furniture you’ll use on your patio, consider factors such as how easy it will be to clean, the comfort level, and of course, aesthetics.
- Wooden picnic tables are great for seating small groups together and are cohesive to a casual, friendly atmosphere similar to a brewery or family restaurant.
- Steel bistro chairs and tables are very easy to clean and move around, and can give off a chic, sophisticated cafe vibe.
- Plastic furniture is the lightest and arguably easiest to clean — and as long as you choose high-quality, durable plastic, they won’t look cheap or thrown together.
- Upholstered lounge chairs and sofas are wonderful for creating the atmosphere of a club, or a comfortable and relaxing getaway, but you’ll need to be prepared to protect them from the elements. Make sure the cushions and covers you add to your patio can be thrown in the wash or easily wiped down with a cloth and natural soap solution.
Ensure Accessibility for All
An essential step before unveiling your new outdoor patio to the world is to ensure the area is ADA-compliant. Research the required size of outdoor furniture and doorways, and avoid narrow pathways, uneven ground, and stairs. If your area has stairways that are unavoidable, you will need to build an ADA-approved ramp. That way individuals who use wheelchairs can access the area.
Make Your Covered Outdoor Dining Area Visually Pleasing
Once the logistics are covered, making sure your outdoor dining area is easy on the eyes is very important. You want customers to be drawn to the area, and continue to spread the word to their friends and family about not only the food, but also the atmosphere.
Some ideas for what you can add to your outdoor dining area include:
- Flowers or potted plants
- Candles on tabletops
- Bistro lights
- Fountain or portable water feature
- Local art
If you’re on a journey to create a new outdoor dining area for your restaurant, we wish you the best of luck! WeatherPort Shelter Systems™ has worked with restaurant owners and managers for the past 50 years, and we’re very experienced in creating customized fabric structures to enhance all outdoor dining experiences. Our tensioned fabric structures offer unmatched durability and are a fantastic investment in your restaurant’s continued success.
Contact us today to find out how a WeatherPort fabric structure can fit into your outdoor dining plan. Need an outdoor restaurant canopy fast? Start custom-designing a 10′ x 10′ canopy for your restaurant now.