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How to Design Outdoor Dining Spaces

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Learn how to design outdoor dining spaces like this one.

An outdoor dining area is an excellent way to take advantage of the beautiful weather while increasing your restaurant’s seating capacity and providing a memorable dining experience for your guests. Restaurant owners can transform an unused outdoor space into a dynamic, stylish dining area for guests to use as they enjoy delicious food and the sunshine.

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Advantages of Creating Outdoor Dining Areas

An outdoor restaurant design can provide an inviting and relaxing space for guests to enjoy a meal and the scenery. The following are some advantages outdoor dining areas provide:

Extra seating may be perfect for larger families who require more space than the traditional dinner reservation.

1. Additional Seating

Outdoor dining areas allow you to add additional seating to your restaurant and increase overall capacity. By welcoming more guests, an outdoor dining area may help to increase your restaurant’s overall revenue. Extra seating may also be perfect for larger families or parties who require more space than the traditional dinner reservation.

2. Beautiful Weather

An outdoor dining space is a perfect way to enjoy the beautiful weather and soak up the sunshine. A comfortable outdoor dining experience may make guests more likely to remember your restaurant or return in the future.

3. Pet and Kid-Friendly

An outdoor dining area can be a more pet-friendly and kid-friendly space, making it an ideal choice for parents or larger families looking for a place to enjoy a meal. Pet owners may be more likely to visit a restaurant if there are outdoor policies that are dog-friendly.

If your outdoor dining area is easily visible, people may be more intrigued by your restaurant.

4. Free Advertising

An attractive outdoor dining space can also work as a form of free advertising. If your restaurant is in an area that experiences a lot of foot traffic or if your outdoor dining area is easily viewable, people may be more intrigued by your restaurant. An outdoor dining area can be a great way to attract attention and showcase your delicious drinks and food to those passing by.

5. Enhanced Ambiance

Outdoor dining spaces act as an extension of your interior design. They provide a fantastic opportunity to create an appealing outdoor environment that can attract guests.

6. Positive Guest Experience

An outdoor dining area is a great opportunity to provide guests with a unique and positive experience. Prioritizing guests’ needs and comfort can help create a memorable experience for them and increase their chance to return or tell family and friends to consider your restaurant. Research shows that customers are likely to spend 140% more if they have a positive experience compared to customers who report a negative experience.

Outdoor dining is an increasingly popular choice for guests that want a unique dining experience.

7. Trendy Environment

Outdoor dining and cocktail spaces are an increasingly popular option for guests looking for a unique dining experience. Rooftop bars, beer gardens and outdoor restaurants offer a stylish and memorable environment for guests, and they may be more inclined to promote your space on social media if they enjoy their unique dining experience.

Here are our ten steps for creating an outdoor dining space.

Ten Steps for Creating Outdoor Dining Spaces

When creating an outdoor dining area, there are many design elements to consider and implement. One of the most popular outdoor restaurant design trends includes implementing green infrastructure, which can provide numerous benefits to your business and the planet.

An effective outdoor dining area can provide an inviting environment for guests while remaining fully functional for waiters and other employees. Our 10 steps for how to design outdoor dining spaces can help you get started on creating your outdoor restaurant:

1. Choose Your Space

One of the first steps is to consider possible locations for your outdoor dining space. Ideally, an outdoor seating area should be close to the indoor dining area and the kitchen. An appropriately placed outdoor seating area allows waiters and staff to easily cater to indoor and outdoor guests without much walking. Consider an outdoor area that can easily fit tables and chairs, comfortably accommodate guests and serve as a functional working area for staff.

2. Maximize Efficient Seating

When considering your outdoor restaurant design plan, aim to create an appealing yet functional space. It is essential to consider various layouts to determine which arrangement can maximize efficient seating that is comfortable and convenient for guests and staff. While some restaurant owners may want to place as many chairs and tables as possible, it’s wise to avoid sacrificing the utility and functionality of an outdoor dining area to add more seating.

3. Select Your Furniture

Furniture can complement your existing design and create a cohesive branding image for your outdoor space. Outdoor furniture comes in a variety of materials and designs. The best options will likely be weatherproof and easy for staff to stack or move when the restaurant needs to be cleaned or closed.

Durable furniture is often recommended as an outdoor restaurant seating idea because it is long-lasting and can hold up well to continual use and various types of inclement weather. The outdoor furniture you choose has the potential to elevate your design and set your outdoor dining area apart, making it a unique experience for your guests.

4. Prioritize Functionality

While overall aesthetics play an important role with outdoor restaurant design, functionality is key to building an effective and efficient dining experience for guests and staff. The design of your outdoor restaurant can prioritize workflow for employees to provide a positive experience for guests.

On average, 87% of customers who report a positive experience are more likely to make a purchase again in the future. When your outdoor restaurant is aesthetically appealing and also functional — with adequate space to walk between tables, protection from the sun and comfortable seating — your guests may be more likely to return to your restaurant.

5. Ensure Weather Protection

Outdoor seating areas are more functional when they can protect guests from various types of weather. You will also need to consider weather protection for when the restaurant is closed to prevent potential damage to the property. Many outdoor restaurants secure furniture after use or move the furniture indoors during inclement weather.

Even if there is no inclement weather in the forecast, it is best to provide weather protection for guests and create a place to accommodate guests if the weather turns. It is also important to secure any loose furniture that may move from the wind or become damaged by the weather.

6. Provide Ample Shade

In addition to protecting guests from the weather, it is essential to offer ample shade for a comfortable meal. While sunshine is a beautiful aspect of dining outdoors, shade helps provide protection from the heat to increase comfort while dining.

Many outdoor restaurants use premium shade structures when creating an outdoor restaurant design plan. An outdoor restaurant shade structure is a unique and aesthetically pleasing way to elevate your restaurant’s design and provide guests comfortable shade to enjoy. Shade structures also provide added architectural value to your restaurant.

7. Add Exterior Lighting

Exterior lighting is a great way to add to your outdoor restaurant’s decor and provide ambient lighting for your guests. In addition to standard lighting, you may want to consider decorative lighting, such as a neon sign or other aesthetic light sources or signage.

If your outdoor restaurant is open later for guests, exterior lighting is a necessary element to ensure guests can safely and comfortably enjoy their meal. Waiters and staff will need proper exterior lighting to work and walk to and from the outdoor dining area. Some popular exterior lighting options include string lights, fire pits, candles and lanterns.

8. Supply Outdoor Heating

Outdoor heating can be a valuable option to consider depending on your restaurant’s location and the season. Even if your restaurant is in a warmer area, outdoor heating can be a useful addition if your restaurant is open later in the evening. Outdoor heating can be stylish and provide warmth to dinner guests for a more comfortable dining experience.

In addition to providing comfort, outdoor heating can ensure you can use your outdoor restaurant space on a colder or cloudy day. When installing outdoor heating, follow all safety regulations and secure any loose wires to avoid a tripping hazard for guests and employees.

9. Enhance Ambiance

Outdoor decor and unique decorations can be an excellent way to craft the overall ambiance of your outdoor dining area. Stylish decor and small decorative elements can dramatically enhance a dining area’s design and create a memorable environment for your guests.

Landscaping is an important element of your restaurant to consider when determining how to enhance the overall appearance. Attractive landscaping and the placement of plants or greenery throughout the outdoor dining space can greatly complement your design.

10. Implement Pest Control

With the beauty of the outdoors comes the potential for bugs, birds and other pests that may be attracted to your outdoor dining space. It is vital to prevent pests from entering your restaurant space. Pests are an inevitable aspect of the outdoors, so it is best to have a plan to deal with them and reduce the likelihood they will bother guests.

Regularly cleaning your outdoor dining area can ensure there is little unattended food or crumbs to attract pests. Employees can clean any uneaten food or fallen debris as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Additionally, plan to add trash receptacles that are covered and maintained to prevent pests from entering and looking for scraps.

Incorporating Shade Structures Into Your Design

Shade structures have become an increasingly popular design element for outdoor restaurants to improve aesthetics and increase functionality. As the name implies, shade structures provide extra shade and offer guests a more comfortable outdoor dining experience. Shade structures come in a variety of designs, sizes and colors so you can find the shade structure that fits your restaurant’s design perfectly.

A drive-thru shade structure is perfect for quick-service restaurants with a high volume of orders.

Drive-Thru Shade Structures

Drive-thru shade structures are a convenient feature for quick-service restaurants with a high volume of takeout or to-go orders. A quick-service shade structure can provide shade for guests and help employees stay dry and protected from the sun’s UV rays. A convenient and well-designed drive-thru can contribute to a positive experience for guests and attract potential new guests.

Curbside shade structures can create a comfortable, properly shaded area for guests to pick up orders.

Curbside Shade Structures

Shade structures are a great option for restaurants that offer curbside pickup regularly. A curbside shade structure can create a designated area that is comfortable and properly shaded for guests to pick up their orders. While guests are waiting for their pickup order, they can enjoy the coolness a shade structure provides. Curbside shade structures also elevate the architectural aesthetics of your restaurant.

A shade structure for outdoor dining areas come in a variety of styles and designs.

Outdoor Dining Structures

For restaurants looking to design an outdoor dining area, outdoor shade structures can provide shade and comfort for guests. Shade structures come in a variety of styles and designs so you can choose the style that reflects your brand the best. Shade structures also come in various sizes to accommodate the size of the outdoor dining space you are looking to create.

With the increase in comfortable seating capacity that shade structures provide, you may be able to increase your overall revenue and the number of customers you can serve at one time. Most importantly, shade structures can increase guest comfort and improve their overall experience, making them more likely to return in the future.

The following are shade structure options you can consider for your space:

  • Squares and rectangles: A popular design, square and rectangular shade structures are a simple and cost-effective option to consider if you are looking to create an outdoor dining area. These shade structures feature clean lines for a modern and polished aesthetic. Zinc-rich primer is also available for square and rectangular shade structures to provide added protection against corrosion, which can be ideal for restaurants close to water or wetter areas.
  • Multi-sided: Multi-sided shade structures are a great way to add a vibrant and unique element to your outdoor dining space. Multi-sided shade structures come in various designs, including mariner, multi-panel and more. A multi-sided shade structure is typically ideal for a larger space or a space that may be irregular in shape. Multi-sided shade structures also come in numerous forms, including hexagon, octagon, triangle and five-point sail.
  • Sails: Sails are an excellent choice to provide shade while offering a contemporary and innovative design. Commercial shade sails also feature columns of varying heights so you can choose the column height that fits your unique space best. Custom shade sails can be overlapped to create a unique and architecturally appealing design. Commercial shade sails are ideal for areas that receive an abundance of sunlight and can be made of various materials that offer UV or weatherproofing protection.
  • Cantilever: A cantilever shade structure is a great choice for areas that need to be free of excessive columns or retain their view. For example, a cantilever shade structure may be a great choice for a restaurant looking to provide shade protection while ensuring they are not blocking a view that their waterfront dining features. Popular cantilever shade structure designs include pyramid cantilever, full arch cantilever, full hip cantilever and more. If a cantilever shade structure is used for waterfront properties, a zinc-rich primer can help to avoid potential corrosion.
  • Single post: A single post shade structure is ideal if you are looking to add extra shade but have a space that can’t easily accommodate numerous columns. These shade structures come in various styles and designs like flower petals, butterfly wings and more to complement your restaurant’s theme. A single post shade structure is also ideal for spaces that require an open area, such as a restaurant that only has limited space for guests and employees to walk.
  • Specialty: Specialty shade structures are innovative modular structures that can help restaurants looking for a unique addition to set themselves apart. Specialty shade structures emphasize aesthetics and an elevated architectural look. These shade structures feature unique qualities to provide a contemporary aesthetic and are tailored to complement your restaurant’s existing design.
  • Custom: For a truly unique feature, custom shade structures can be fully tailored to meet your specific design needs and provide your restaurant a unique aesthetic that can differentiate your brand from competitors. A signature shade structure is fully customizable in terms of size, shape and even materials used. Popular shade structure materials include Shadesure or Colourshade FR fabrics. Base plates, recessed base plates and embed mounting designs are also available.

Here are a few ways you can prepare your outdoor restaurant design for inclement weather.

Prepare Your Outdoor Restaurant Design for Inclement Weather

While an outdoor restaurant design plan is typically created with beautiful weather in mind, you will need to consider the possibility of inclement weather. It is recommended to choose furniture that is stylish yet holds up well against potential inclement weather. You will also need to consider how you can ensure guest safety and comfort in the case of bad weather. Consider the following elements for your design:

  • Dining shade structures: An outdoor restaurant shade structure can add aesthetic and functional value to your restaurant. Premium restaurant shade structures can increase the functionality of your outdoor space and protect guests from harsh sun rays.
  • Weatherproof furniture: Durable and stylish furniture is a popular outdoor restaurant seating idea because it is stylish, waterproof and can hold up well against bad weather. Many restaurants also choose to use furniture that is easily stackable during inclement weather so they can store the furniture indoors.
  • Drive-thru and curbside shade structures: Drive-thru and curbside shade structures are ideal for quick-service restaurants that want to provide a cool and comfortable area for guests out of direct sunlight.
  • Umbrellas and covers: Umbrellas and other forms of coverings are a great way to keep moisture out on a rainy or drizzling day. Umbrellas and other covers are also a simple way to provide shade for your guests to more comfortably enjoy their meal.
  • Outdoor heaters: Outdoor heating is an excellent way to provide added warmth on a brisk afternoon or a chilly evening.
  • Outdoor fans: Consider outdoor fans or other devices to increase airflow for your guests. Outdoor fans are an incredibly useful tool on hot days to improve air circulation and ensure your guests are not too warm when dining.
  • Secure furniture: Outdoor furniture should be able to be secured during inclement weather or high winds. Additionally, you may want to secure any furniture when your restaurant closes for the day to ensure no accidental damage affects your furniture or restaurant.
  • Inclement weather plan: Even if there is only sunshine in the forecast, it is best to plan for inclement weather. First, have a plan for employees to secure furniture and minimize the risk of property damage. In the event of severe inclement weather, you may need to consider how to safely accommodate guests and remove them from the outdoor seating area.

Request a quote from USA Shade to enhance your restaurant design.

Enhance Your Outdoor Restaurant Design With USA SHADE

At USA SHADE, we offer innovative shade structures that can enhance your restaurant’s architectural aesthetics while providing a comfortable space for guests to enjoy their meal.

We offer various shade structures specially designed for dine-in restaurants and quick-service restaurants. Our goal is to provide our clients with innovative solutions, and our shade structures are designed and built with people in mind. We offer a large selection of restaurant shade structures that can be fully customized to meet your restaurant’s designs and goals.

Browse our shade structures for restaurants to enhance your outdoor dining area, and request a quote online today.