You can position your restaurant, bar, winery or brewery as the go-to place for customers by creating commercial outdoor dining spaces for your business. A well-designed outdoor seating area lets your customers dine out with friends and family comfortably in a relaxing setting.
In addition to being a healthier and less-risky option for diners, outdoor seating benefits your customers and your business in many ways.
Let’s dive into the pros and cons of outdoor dining areas and how outdoor eating areas can benefit quick-service restaurants (QSR), wineries, breweries, bars and restaurants. Learn how to design and build your open-air restaurant area to provide your patrons the best dining experience.
Read the full article or jump to a specific section:
- Importance of Outdoor Dining Spaces
- Pros and Cons of Outdoor Dining Areas
- Outdoor Eating Areas for Quick-Service Restaurants
- Outdoor Patio Areas for Wineries and Breweries
- Outdoor Dining Areas for Restaurants and Rooftop Bars
- Ways to Design Outdoor Dining Spaces to Benefit Guests
Importance of Outdoor Dining Spaces
- Alignment with customers’ dining preferences: These days, many diners feel unsure about dining in enclosed restaurants, bars, wineries and breweries. In contrast, 77% of customers are more likely to dine in outdoor spaces with proper ventilation, less congestion and better capacity for social distancing. Creating an outdoor dining area can position your business to attract more customers.
- Increased customer serving capacity: Outdoor dining spaces increase your seating capacity and enable you to serve more customers simultaneously. For example, if your indoor seating capacity is 40 seats, creating an outdoor dining area on your patio, terrace, sidewalk or nearby parking lot can increase your seating space to 60. This can reduce your customer wait time and increase their satisfaction with your business.
- More appeal to parents and pet owners: Outdoor eating spaces — for example, outdoor patios — can be more pet-friendly and allow parents with kids to dine without concern that their kids may disturb other patrons. Creating an outdoor dining area can attract parents with kids and patrons with pets to your establishment. This helps you expand your customer demographic.
- Additional advertising for your business: Especially in the warmer months when it’s nice outside and plants are thriving, an outdoor dining area can attract customers. Aesthetically pleasing open-air dining space design — with shade structures that protect your diners from the heat — can become a form of advertisement. Passersby will see the lively atmosphere among customers eating outside, and some may decide to come to dine at your place. Millennials, couples and people on vacation are particularly drawn to outdoor dining.
- Better dining experience for your customers: Open-air dining allows your customers to enjoy a nice meal or drink with an outdoor ambiance, fresh air and access to nature. This can be a great atmosphere for friends to bond and hang out. They’ll associate the superior dining experience of eating outdoors with your establishment and return more often.
- Increased business revenue: An outdoor seating area that appeals to many types of customers and increases your overall seating capacity improves profits. You can seat more customers in a day and encourage more customers to return, leading to an increase in your restaurant’s overall bottom line.
Pros and Cons of Outdoor Dining Areas
Retrofitting your establishment with an outdoor dining space certainly offers some major advantages. It also comes with some challenges. Whether you make it an extension of your indoor services or you offer a 100% outdoor experience to your patrons, outdoor dining has some pros and cons.
Some pros of creating outdoor dining areas include:
- Increased seating capacity: Outdoor dining areas allow you to serve more customers at a time. Adding outdoor dining lets you serve more customers than if you only had indoor seating.
- Improved foot traffic: If your restaurant is near a busy area, an outdoor dining area can draw in passersby to dine with you. This is especially in the spring and cool summer seasons, when dining outdoors is particularly desirable.
- More freedom of design: An outdoor dining area gives you the freedom to adjust your restaurant’s look and feel to the surrounding environment. Moreover, indoor dining may include booths and other furniture pieces that cannot be reconfigured. In your outdoor dining area, you may be able to push tables together or move chairs to make room for different-sized parties.
- Create multiple dining experiences: Outdoor dining areas help you diversify your customer demographics and increase your customer base. For example, families and pet owners may be more comfortable eating outside than inside. Meanwhile, your restaurant can serve different demographics in your indoor and outdoor dining areas. For example, you might host live music at your outdoor dining area. Guests who want to enjoy the live entertainment can eat outside, while guests who would rather enjoy a quiet dining experience may eat indoors.
- More revenue streams: Restaurants with a separate outdoor dining area can rent out the patio for private events while still allowing customers to dine indoors.
Some cons of outdoor dining areas include:
- Dependence on weather conditions: Patronage of your outdoor dining area depends on the weather conditions. In the hot summer sun, your outdoor space may not be a desirable place to eat. This can greatly affect your return on investment in your outdoor dining area. However, to combat this, you can install shade structures to help cover your customers from the effects of the hot sun.
- Additional regulatory requirements: Based on the state where you operate, running an outdoor dining space may require compliance with several local, state and national laws. For example, you may be required to get additional permits before expanding your business outside. You’ll also need to follow outdoor business operation regulations. Violation of these rules can lead to legal issues and fines. Consulting your state’s outdoor dining requirements can ensure you operate on the right side of the law. Consulting your state’s outdoor dining requirements can ensure you operate on the right side of the law.
- Additional retrofitting costs: Retrofitting an outdoor dining space for your restaurant can involve thousands of dollars in additional costs. Designing and constructing the new space to meet your needs may incur additional expenses. You’ll need to invest in outdoor-ready furniture and decor alongside amenities such as shade structures for the sun. Also, you may spend more on hiring new staff and purchasing additional dishware and cutlery to meet the increased customer capacity.
While the decision to expand outdoors takes some consideration, in the long run, the advantages and benefits of creating outdoor dining spaces can easily offset the challenges and disadvantages that it presents.
Whether you own or manage a traditional restaurant or a quick-service restaurant, bar, winery or brewery, your business can benefit from an outdoor dining space. In the sections that follow, we outline the specific benefits of outdoor dining spaces for different establishments.
Outdoor Eating Areas for Quick-Service Restaurants
How would a quick-service restaurant benefit from an outdoor dining space?
Though quick-service restaurants are typically characterized by take-out food, designing an aesthetically pleasing outdoor dining area as an attachment to your business can benefit your QSR in many ways.
Here are some ways a quick-service restaurant can benefit from designing an outdoor dining area.
- Create a promotional opportunity: Especially in busy areas with high traffic, an outdoor dining space can show off your business and increase customer awareness. If your QSR has an outdoor space covered with an eye-catching cantilever shade structure, it can increase awareness for your restaurant and attract more people to visit your fast-food spot and hang around instead of ordering to go. The longer they stay, the more they can buy from you.
- Improve customer satisfaction: A comfortable outdoor dining area attached to your quick-service restaurant can provide your customers a convenient place to sit and have a quick meal, socialize and hang out with friends. This creates a value-added service to your customers, increases their positive experience at your restaurant, and makes them more likely to recommend your establishment to others.
- Boost your competitive advantage: In the QSR market, your closest competitors might be in the same parking or across the street from you. How do you get passersby to choose your QSR over your neighbors? An aesthetically pleasing outdoor dining area could be the deciding factor between choosing your restaurant over your competitors.
Outdoor Patio Areas for Wineries and Breweries
How can outdoor dining areas benefit you as a winemaker and brewer?
Beyond making smooth and tasty wine and beer and taking your patrons on an amazing tour, an outdoor patio area can add to the customer experience. Here’s how outfitting your winery or brewery with an outdoor dining space can benefit your business.
- Create a trendy place for your patrons to socialize: In beautiful weather conditions and if you have your outdoor space covered, an outdoor dining space can be just what your patrons need to chat about their experience on their tour with a nice sip of your product.
- Offer more seating for your establishment: An outdoor patio or terrace for your winery or brewery expands your sitting capacity. It provides more space to serve more customers without the added cost of building a fully enclosed dining area with walls, roofing and other expensive physical structures.
- Improve the customer experience: People love to drink outside, and if asked to choose between drinking indoors or outdoors, many will choose outdoor, especially in warm and temperate weather conditions. A beer garden, for example, can help you attract more customers and provide them a great time with friends without the confining nature of a walled establishment.
- Book more private events: If you have a high-capacity, attractive outdoor seating area offering ample shade, you could make your vineyard or brewery more attractive to weddings, corporate events and private parties. If the dining area offers shade structures, event planners will know they can count on a comfortable outdoor venue even on the hottest and sunniest days.
Outdoor Dining Areas for Restaurants and Rooftop Bars
Outdoor dining areas for restaurants and rooftop bars entice customers who want to dine al fresco, linger, catch up with friends, drink and be merry.
Let’s consider the benefits of open-air restaurant design and rooftop bars.
First, the benefits of outdoor dining areas for restaurants include:
- Design and sitting freedom: Outdoor dining spaces provide you with design and creative freedom. Add shrubs and flowers, unique lighting, such as torches or string lights, and other elements to liven up your outdoor space without the restrictions of indoor spaces. Some restaurants and cafes may offer flexible seating with movable furniture, allowing groups of friends to move tables and chairs to accommodate the size of their group.
- More seating space: A patio can help you create more space to serve more customers. This helps you reduce customers’ wait time — which can negatively affect your reputation and their experience at your establishment.
- Increased customer base: Restaurants that offer outdoor dining are more appealing to parents and pet owners. Parents won’t have to worry about their kids disturbing other patrons and hence may be more open to going out with them to your restaurant. Also, pet owners who may otherwise not be able to bring their pets into an indoor restaurant or leave their pets home for long can easily come to your establishment with their pets. Meanwhile, patrons who want to socialize loudly can do so without disturbing other guests like they might if they were confined to indoor dining.
Rooftop bars provide a serene outdoor dining experience even in the busiest cities. Benefits of adding an outdoor rooftop bar to your establishment include:
- An amazing view: Whether in a hotel or a bar establishment, rooftop bars provide patrons a great view of the city and close contact with nature. This can greatly increase your customers’ experience in your bar, entice them to stay longer and buy more from you.
- Increased your business revenue: If your customers stay longer, they are more likely to buy more from you. This translates to more sales and increased business revenue.
- Added seating without increasing your footprint: Especially in cities, every square inch of land comes at a premium. Adding an outdoor dining area could cut into sidewalks or the parking lot. On a crowded city street, there might be no room to expand outward. A rooftop bar or dining area offers additional seating areas using the space you already have on your building’s roof.
Ways to Design Outdoor Dining Spaces to Benefit Guests
Let’s go through the step-by-step process for designing outdoor dining spaces for your restaurant, bar, brewery or winery to delight your customers and grow your business revenue.
While the required steps may involve some extra financial commitments and legal considerations, the benefits your business will enjoy from creating an outdoor dining space can pay for their costs many times over.
Step 1: Understand the Legal Requirements
Based on the state where you operate, the rules and regulations for retrofitting a patio, sidewalk, parking lot or other outdoor space into a dining area for your restaurant, bar, winery or brewery may differ. Contact your local authorities to ask about the permits you need to get and the regulations for running an outdoor dining space.
For example, you have to know whether you can add lighting and running water to your outdoor space. You’ll also want to look into local ordinances on noise, smoking, outdoor dining hours and pets.
Step 2: Design Your Dining Space to Provide the Best Experience
Consider the space you want to turn into a dining area and create a design that will best serve your customers. Think about what you want to install in the space to make the best arrangements that will accommodate any appliances, electrical work or plumbing.
If you want to add entertainment, such as DJs, Karaoke or live bands, you may want to factor a stage into your design layout and section off this space to not impact patron seating areas.
Also, to serve your customers better, you might add a bar or food serving stations to make it easier for customers to get drinks and to allow staff quick access to the items they need from the outdoor area. That’s not all — some restaurants go as far as cooking the food in front of the guests. This increases the customers’ trust in the quality of food you serve and serves as a means of entertaining patrons and enticing other customers to buy more.
Step 3: Provide the Needed Furniture
The furniture you purchase depends on the design you want for your outdoor space. For example, if you want to convert a section into a lounge, you may need to purchase outdoor patio furniture such as sofas. The furniture requirements may vary if you want to create a beer garden.
Ensure the furniture you purchase complements the shape of the land. Also, add lightning, flowers and plants. Consider where to add shade to protect your patrons from the sun as part of your design.
Step 4: Prepare for Pests
Insects, stray animals, rodents, birds and other pests can become a menace to your outdoor eating space if you do not take measures against them. They can become a disturbance to your patrons and negatively affect their experience and level of satisfaction in your establishment.
For example, birds may be attracted to leftover food, rodents to crumbs and spills, and insects to sugary leftovers. To combat this, make sure spills and leftovers are cleared on time and barricade your outdoor space against stray pets and animals. Use insecticide in your dining areas with caution to avoid contaminating patrons’ food. Hire a pest control expert to help you control pests if an infestation goes beyond your abilities.
Step 5: Make Provisions for All Weather Conditions
Weather conditions can change and make your outdoor dining space undesirable if you’re not prepared for it. Make provisions to protect your customers from weather conditions such as heat and UV radiation. You can fit your outdoor space with shade structures by USA SHADE to protect your customers against extreme weather conditions and give them an all-year-round outdoor dining experience.
Equip your staff with the necessary supplies needed to clean up chairs and tables after a downpour. You can also provide fire pits or patio heaters for chilly evenings or colder weather. No place is immune to adverse weather conditions.
Regardless of the design you choose for your outdoor space and the capacity you want, protecting your customers from the elements while giving them a full outdoor view helps you get the most out of your investment. USA SHADE can help you retrofit your outdoor dining space with quality shade structures that are both aesthetically pleasing and designed to last long.
Browse USA SHADE’s Outdoor Shade Structures for Restaurants to Start Enhancing Your Outdoor Space
USA SHADE is the industry leader in designing and engineering quality and aesthetically pleasing shade structures for restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries and establishments of all stripes. We bring over 25 years of experience creating permanent fabric shade structures to help you boost your customers’ experience and satisfaction. Thanks to their long-lasting durability and material quality, our shade structures offer long-term value and satisfaction for your investment.
We are a partner that will work with you from ideation to implementation and ensure you get just what will satisfy your customers. We specialize in turnkey solutions and customized designs to meet all your shade design needs.