Orders come in hot and the food goes out fast. Chefs prep and cook, others wash dishes, and servers scramble for hot plates. A poorly designed kitchen can make an already-tough job feel next to impossible.
Transforming your outdoor space into a patio presents an opportunity to deliver new experiences to your customers and drive profitability. That said, creating a patio requires careful planning in order to maximize the space you have available with regard to the furniture you choose and how you layout your space. Below is a list of key considerations to keep in mind when planning in order to get the most out of your patio space.
Check Local Laws and Regulations
There will be laws and regulations which will need to be adhered to when opening an outdoor space or patio. If you are leasing your restaurant space you should talk to your landlord about any extensions you plan on making. If they allow you to expand your restaurant, you will want to reach out to your insurance provider to see if they offer coverage for outdoor spaces. You will also have to speak to local zoning officials to obtain any permits you may need for construction.
Once you have approval to begin construction, the next step is to get in contact with your governing agencies to determine which permits you will need to begin service. Required permits vary between states and local agencies, so be sure to do comprehensive research when applying. Some of the most common regulations include:
- Liquor laws and serving permits
- Dog-friendly patio permits
- Live entertainment (noise ordinances)
Choosing Your Patio Layout
There are several patio layout options to consider, each with their own unique attributes and benefits. Below are some of the most common patio layouts:
Front Yard Patio
Front yard patios are ideal for restaurants located in tourist destinations or near famous attractions. The key to running a successful front yard patio is turnaround time. If you are located near a tourist attraction, guests will likely be looking for a quick meal so it is important that you structure your patio to allow for that. Having speedy service and easy to clean tables can help you streamline your operations and increase profitability.
If you have space available behind your restaurant then you should consider building a backyard patio. Backyard patios can serve as a waiting area for guests who have not been seated yet or can be a fully outfitted dining area. Backyard patios offer a private dining experience for guests which often translates to rave reviews and repeat customers.
If your restaurant is located in a busy area, consider setting up sidewalk seating. Sidewalk seating allows you to provide an outdoor dining experience without a substantial investment. This is ideal for smaller restaurant locations as it increases the number of guests you can serve.
Converting a rooftop to a dining area and bar presents a significant opportunity for restaurant owners to generate income. Rooftop bars are a customer favorite as they can eat and drink while enjoying the view.
Choosing Patio Furniture
The furniture you choose is extremely important to the overall look and feel of your patio. For this reason, It is essential that you furnish your patio with the same attention to detail as your dining room. Some important factors to keep in mind when selecting patio furniture include:
Before selecting your patio furniture you first need to determine how much available space you have. Drawing a floor plan of your patio will help you identify where furniture can go as well as give you an idea of the traffic flow of guests and servers. Floor plans are also required to obtain permits. Once you determine your available space, you will then need to choose which pieces of furniture to invest in. The key when selecting patio furniture is to maximize the number of guests you can seat while still maintaining comfort. Smaller furniture is recommended for oddly shaped layouts as it can be easily moved and rearranged should a customer need more space. If you have open space, you can invest in larger tables that are able to seat more guests but are stationary.
Types of Furniture
Some of the most popular options for outdoor tables include bar tables (40-42-inches) and dining tables (28-30 inches). Outdoor tables can be made of a variety of materials including aluminum, resin, composite wood, and steel.
Aluminum is lightweight but sturdy, making it the perfect option for restaurant owners who are looking for furniture that is low-maintenance and easy to maneuver. Resin is the material of choice if your restaurant is near the beach as it is extremely durable and won’t break down from the salt in the air. Additionally, resin is heat resistance which makes ideal for outdoor seating where there is no shade. Composite wood is made of wood and plastic and is also designed for outdoor use. It offers a stylish look and can be framed with aluminum and steel for extra support. Steel furniture is a popular choice for outdoor seating due to its sturdiness and resistance to weather. Additionally, most outdoor furniture can be colored so that your outdoor furniture matches the theme and decor of your restaurant.
Comfortable outdoor seating can go a long way in creating a favorable customer experience. When choosing which seating to purchase, there are a few important factors to consider. For the most part, outdoor seating is made out of aluminum, steel, and resin, each of which has its own benefits outlined above. You can choose between chairs that have arms and chairs that have no arms. Chairs with arms offer greater comfort for guests but are more difficult to store. Conversely, chairs without arms are easier to store but provide less support for guests.
Outdoor sofas are ideal for guests who are waiting to be seated or are enjoying a drink. They are usually made out of lightweight material such as resin, so they can be easily moved or adjusted to fit a new layout. Some of the best spaces for outdoor sofa include:
- Communal areas
- Rooftop bars
In addition to outdoor furniture, there are other accessories you should consider purchasing in order to provide the best comfort for customers sitting in your patio area. Some common patio accessories include:
Umbrellas are an essential accessory in non-shaded areas as well as open areas where portable heaters are used.
Heaters help keep customers warm during the colder months of the year thereby extending the use period of your patio. Portable heaters can be used in spaces where no permanent roof exists. Conversely, permanent heaters can be mounted to a wall or roof and heat an entire room.
Lighting adds ambiance to your outdoor space or patio and ensures that customers are able to see after dusk.
Placing fans around the perimeter of your patio will allow for consistent airflow keeping your customers comfortable.
Much like umbrellas, awnings keep customers shaded while eating. While awnings are more expensive, they are able to cover larger areas and can free up space around tables.
Setting Up An Outdoor Bar
Creating an outdoor bar is a great way to offer drink service to customers who are sitting on the patio or are waiting to be seated indoors.If you want to test the viability of an outdoor bar at your restaurant, consider purchasing a portable bar so you can determine whether or not the revenue justifies a full service bar. These are less expensive than a traditional outdoor bar setup and do not require a full staff to run.
It is important to keep in mind that operating an outdoor bar requires additional staff. That said, you will want to track drink sales to determine the best times to have your outdoor bar open. You may find that you generate the majority of your sales over the weekend, which can be used when creating schedules.
A patio can help generate additional business during the spring and summer months which makes it an enticing opportunity for restaurant owners. If you are looking to develop your own outdoor space, take time to create a plan that addresses the factors outlined above as doing so will help you to create the best quality experience for customers.