It’s dining al fresco season! If you’re a restaurant owner and you already have an outdoor seating area, this means it’s time for some spring cleaning and maybe some furniture and decor updates. On the other hand, maybe you don’t have an outdoor seating area yet but have been considering creating one.
This addition could open up new avenues of revenue for your business, even if you only have a strip of sidewalk to work with. Don’t let the size of the outdoor space you have available discourage you. For that matter, smaller seating areas actually create the feeling of exclusivity, which can lead to higher demand. Adding just a few tables outside is a great and economical way to test if an outdoor dining area would be beneficial enough for your restaurant that you should do a full patio remodel. The most important thing is that you invest in furniture that will please guests and that will perform well outside.
Here are the main things you should consider when furnishing a restaurant’s outdoor seating area of any size…
- Come up with a plan. Don’t start buying furniture blindly. Take measurements of your space and really consider what size tables and chairs you can fit in there, and how many of each. Are there any other kinds of pieces you’re trying to fit in, such as umbrellas, heaters, or even a bar? This could affect the amount of seating you can offer. Don’t forget to account for ample space between all of the furniture. Not only do you want your guest to be comfortable, but you’ll have busy servers coming through there that will need plenty of room in order to do their jobs well. If you have to sacrifice some seating to make everything more spread out, that’s okay. Again, if the seating area is smaller, it can give it an air of exclusivity.
- Continue your restaurant’s concept. Once you’ve come up with a floor space and started your shopping, make sure to take furniture design into consideration. Your outdoor seating area should, at least in some ways, feel like a continuation of the inside of your restaurant. For example, if you have a high-end restaurant, you’ll want classic, quality pieces. Outdoor furniture gets a bad rep sometimes, but there are some seriously impressive designs made with weatherproof materials these days. You don’t have to settle for a picnic table, although if your restaurant is more casual, that could actually be a very cute choice. It’s all about consistent ambiance.
- Consider your diners. Do people tend to hang out for a bit when eating at your restaurant? Set up a lounge area outside! One the other hand, if they’re more likely to stop by for a quick bite, small café tables might suit your needs better then. The point is that you should furnish and decorate any new spaces you create in your restaurant in a way that is likely to please your guests and suits their habits the best. After all, this is who you’re making the changes for.
- Be different. Choosing unique colors when picking furniture is a great way to make your outdoor seating area stand out from the competition. There are so many options now, why not think outside of the box and set yourself apart? Throw an unexpected cozy couch into the mix, or a couple of lawn games. The point is to make eating outside of your restaurant feel like an entirely new experience. Whatever you can think of doing to achieve this, while staying in theme of course, is worth giving a try!
- Look for durable, weatherproof materials. It’s so important to use furniture that is specifically designed for outdoor spaces. For example, tables often have mesh tops so that they don’t collect water. This is not something you would see inside. Outdoor furniture will hold up much better to wear and tear, and the materials are usually much easier to clean. Look for materials like wrought iron and teak that are excellent at withstanding the elements.
- Search for stackable and foldable chairs. These can help save space and there are plenty of style options for them now. Extras can be stored when they’re not needed and pulled more out at busier times. Conversely, they can also help in situations where you don’t really have storage space. It’s much easier to find a place to tuck a stack aside than a bunch of individual chairs.
- Provide shade. Umbrellas are a classic and easy choice. They can be placed in matching tables or in bases. The advantage of the latter is that they can be more easily moved to fit your needs, and they leave guests with more table space. Some umbrellas even have telescopic arms, which really allow for a range of motion. Not only do they help keep people cool, they keep the sun out of their eyes, and they also help to protect the integrity of your food on a hot day. Of course, if you feel like you need more coverage there are plenty of awning and canopy options on the market. These could actually help not only with shade but also with some protection from the rain. There are even retractable options available that allow the open sky can be enjoyed when possible.
- Provide heat. Fire pits are often a great addition to outdoor dining spaces. There are also plenty of heater options. Both of these can help you extend the daily and seasonal time frame that people will want to eat outside.
- Include a bar. There are all kinds of options for this, from offering full service, to having a portable station, to only offering a few beers and wines. A bar would take away from the space you have available for seating, but alcoholic beverages are often high-profit menu items. If you do include a bar, make sure it’s as visible as possible as this can boost impulse sales. Your guests are likely to stay longer and order more items if they find themselves in the lovely situation of enjoying a cold drink on a warm evening.
Once you find the perfect furniture, it’s time to decorate! Our top suggestions are live plants and creative lighting. Don’t forget to keep everything spick and span once it’s all set up. By investing in outdoor furniture that’s made from hearty and easy to clean materials, you’ve now made the job of maintenance much easier for yourself. From there, listen to what your guests think about your new space and feel free to keep it evolving over time. Always make sure any changes you’re making are in line with any town ordinances, but other than that, there are no rules! Create a unique, enjoyable space that will delight your current regulars and attract new ones.