Spruce Up Your Summer Patio
and Draw in the Crowds
Throughout most of the U.S., we’re forced to bundle up and huddle indoors for much of the year. But once spring turns into summer, we begin to crave the outdoors and feeling the sun’s warm rays on our skin.
As a restaurateur, you’ll naturally want to pack your dining room all year-round, but if you have outdoor space — whether a sidewalk area in front of the restaurant or a patio on the side or out back — you can capitalize on the season by giving patrons what they want: al fresco dining. Here are some tips from restaurants around the country to understand why they set up patios, how they keep them looking their best and what makes for a great outdoor dining experience for their customers.
Keep Things Comfortable
“Use fabric or other soft furnishings to make the space feel like an outdoor room. And utilize fans, misting fans and heaters depending on the weather.” – Suzanne Perry, owner of Roux, Datz and Dough restaurants in Tampa, Fla.
“Stay away from metal patio chairs without a cushion. [People] will complain they’re too hot in summer and they can leave marks on their legs.” – Don Myers, owner Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen in Brea, Calif.
“We make sure our staff maintains the shade and adjusts the angle of umbrellas to provide shade as the sun moves throughout the day. Umbrellas are put away at the end of the day to make room for patio heaters.”
– Adam Mischlich, The Detour Bistro Bar in Culver City, Calif.
“People dine and hang out on patios to relax and recharge, do not decorate the patio with crazy decor or out-of-this-world patio furniture. Keep it simple and clean.”
– Eddie Johnson, owner, Publik Draft House in Atlanta.
Make it Staff Friendly
“Make sure patio space has all P.O.S. systems, server stations, etc., so it functions as well as an inside section.” – Suzanne Perry, Roux, Datz and Dough restaurants.
“Think about how your servers will enter the patio to serve guests: Will they be walking through a traffic-heavy bar or front entrance? Consider a separate entrance for staff.” – Jill Giacomino, Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants
It's For the Dogs
“So many people these days include their pets in their activities, why should dining out be excluded? We have this great patio, right? I know our customers with dogs really appreciate [being allowed to bring them]. On Mondays a portion of each guest check goes to support the local SPCA.” – Chuck Shapiro, owner Wild River Grille in Reno, Nev.
“On the patio, guest and pet service go hand-in-hand. Offering a bowl of water is an important part of our patio dining experience. We strive to make the patio as comfortable for pets as it is for our guests.”
– Adam Mischlich, Detour Bistro Bar.
“Dogs are always welcome on the patio and each dog can enjoy a complimentary treat.” – Ellie Mannix, who works with Blast 825 Pizza in Fresno, Calif.
Let the Music Play
“Publik Draft House has been around for over five years and is located next to the popular Fox Theatre, which offers shows year round. A few years ago, the Fox and the city expanded the sidewalk in the area. We found room to build a patio so we decided to seize the opportunity.” – Eddie Johnson, Publik Draft House.
“[We] feature live music from local artists nightly from late spring through fall, weather permitting. It’s always free for diners’ entertainment nightly.” – Natahsa Bourlin, Wild River Grille in Reno, Nev.
“Making sure your [outdoor] bar equipment is stainless steel to prevent rust is a must. We also have a seasonal schedule for re-oiling our wood patio furniture [on the roof deck]. Our tables are teak so they just need a coat of oil every couple months to stay looking good.” – Lauren Lafortune, general manager of Hello Betty Fish House in Oceanside, Calif.
“Herb gardens [around the patio] feature favorite edibles alongside quirky, decorative cabbages. The Oak Table also utilizes its outdoor space for special brunches where the chef will grill outside and local breweries present their beers.” – Dayna Cantelmi, Columbia Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau about the Oak Table in Columbia, S.C.
What's Outside is Now Inside (year-round)
“We enclosed the patio [by adding a roof and walls that can be open completely or closed in bad weather] and it saved the concept. We have 65 seats in our beautifully enclosed patio and increased sales without increasing rent.” – Don Myers, Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen.
“Patios should be an extension of the restaurant; make sure you offer both lounge and table settings. All of Cooper’s Hawk patio furniture feature comfortable, plush designs and a modern feel.” – Jill Giacomino, Cooper’s Hawk.
“In fall 2014, the restaurant renovated its patio with roll-down glass garage doors, enabling them to install and utilize a fully functioning HVAC system year round. In nice weather, the garage doors roll up, offering a true outdoor dining experience. Now in cold, rainy or hot weather, the restaurant can utilize the patio for regular dining service as it would its main dining room.” – Tracie Broom with PR agency Flock and Rally about the Motor Supply Co. Bistro in Columbia, S.C.