Making the Most of Your Restaurant’s Outdoor Dining Space

Terrace dining. CC image courtesy of Richard Whitaker (Flickr).
Terrace dining. CC image courtesy of Richard Whitaker (Flickr).

Now that summer is upon us, it’s time to move dinner to the great outdoors. If your restaurant is lucky enough to have an existing patio space, we’ve got four weeks of tips and tricks to help you make the most of your patio and enhance your customers’ dining experience. Each week we’ll take a look at one aspect of patio dining starting with creating the perfect patio space. Later in the series, we’ll provide you with some alternative ideas to patio dining.

One of the most important aspects of patio dining, is creating the right atmosphere for your customer base. If your restaurant is considered high-end, you’ll want to give some thought to the type of furniture and decor you place on your patio. Clearly, plastic patio tables won’t be as appropriate as wire wicker or a higher-end materials. Likewise, appropriately selected, coordinating furnishings can add a touch of class to a simple setup.

If you’re lucky enough to be located near natural landscapes, you’ll want to take full advantage of the existing decor. Emphasize the customers’ view by creating natural frames with plants or other structures. This creates an image for the customer that is “as pretty as a picture.” If you’re not blessed with natural landscapes, you’ll need to create the atmosphere on your own. Add various potted plants, or if your patio features overhead structure, climbing vines can produce beautiful spring and summer blooms. These small touches provide your customers with a beautiful setting for their delicious meal and set the tone for the perfect customer interaction.

Beach-front dining, anyone? CC image courtesy of travelgirl123 (Flickr).
Beach-front dining, anyone? CC image courtesy of Candace Taylor-Weber (Flickr).

Once you’ve established your patio’s look, you’ll need to consider seating. Specifically, how many customers you can seat comfortably and how you will position the tables necessary to equally accommodate every single customer on your patio. No one wants to sit in the chair with a gigantic pillar blocking their view of the ocean or mountains, nor do they want to sit in the lap of the customer beside them. Resist the urge to cram as many tables as possible in to your dining area. This may maximize profit when the patio is full, but is bound to prevent return customers who can’t lift their elbows to cut their steak.

Finally, once you have established your seating arrangements, you’ll need to consider the additional staff necessary to adequately serve your customers. There’s nothing worse than an empty glass or cold food, because there weren’t enough servers to keep up with the demand. You don’t want your staff to just meet your customers’ expectations, either, but be able to exceed them. A happy customer is most certainly a return customer. This may mean you need to consider additional support staff, as well. Is an extra hostess needed to man the patio area? If a mobile bar has been set up, additional bar tenders will certainly be needed to pour drinks, and, if available, provide at bar wait-service.

There are also other considerations that must be made for the safety and comfort of your guests. Will your patio allow pets? How about smoking? These questions will more than likely be based on your state’s laws and Health Department requirements. Many states have now banned smoking, even in outdoor areas, like patios, as well as pets (other than service animals) from outdoor dining spaces to enforce food safety practices. Keep your customers’ comfort in mind when deciding. Your main goal is to create an open and inviting environment every customer will want to return to, again and again.


Written by Teresa Glasgow, Technical Writing Specialist, Future POS, Inc.