When the weather is nice, the view is appealing and/or the ambience is just so, restaurants with outdoor dining spaces often find it’s hard to fill seats inside — everyone wants to enjoy the outside experience. With the appeal of dining al fresco growing, smart operators pay more attention to patios, rooftops, sidewalk cafes and terraces and invest dollars and design efforts accordingly.

Whether cozy and casual, sleek and sophisticated, a hidden oasis or perched above a stunning cityscape, outdoor spaces can serve as huge draws and revenue generators in their own right when done well. Planning and good design that speak both to aesthetics and operations are important and restaurant designers must consider all of the unique challenges that outdoor dining areas present.

Temperature control and weather protection rank top among those challenges as well as pest management. Depending on location, noise abatement may come into play, too. Many guests choosing to sit outside cut operators a bit of slack on such environmental issues as being out of their control, but buzz-worthy, sophisticated outdoor dining options are popping up all over and proving that’s just not the case. With more and better outdoor products coming on the market, designers and operators can, indeed, control many potential environmental negatives and create reliably comfortable, attractive, profitable spaces.

If you’re thinking of adding or expanding an outdoor dining space, or perhaps converting a rooftop for al fresco service, keep the following pointers in mind.

  • Get permission. Codes and permits for outdoor dining areas are usually different and separate from those governing indoor spaces.
  • Evaluate the capacity of the kitchen and staff to handle the additional volume.
  • Plan to be able to respond quickly and effectively to environmental changes. There’s nothing worse than having a sudden shower or wind storm pop up with a fully-seated patio if you’re not prepared. Think about wind and sun protection and temperature variances during different times of day/night.
  • Carefully consider access issues and ADA compliance. All guests should be able to enjoy outdoor dining spaces.
  • Employ professional, discreet, consistent pest-control strategies.
  • Think about traffic patterns and paths that may need to cross between guests and staff servicing outdoor areas. Can they be kept separate?
  • Make sure that the experience and brand messaging outside matches or complements the experience inside, both in terms of ambience and service. Outside may be more casual, but it shouldn’t be taken any less seriously.

bison product image 1Wood Deck System

The Bison wood tile deck system features commercial-grade, smooth-surface tiles constructed from sustainably harvested hardwoods in standard and FSC-certified species. They include Ipê (pictured), Cumaru, Massaranduba, Garapa, Mahogany and Bamboo. Dense tropical hardwoods contain a variety of graining and coloration and are resistant to insects and weather. While they may vary by wood type, available sizes include 2 by 2 feet, 4 by 2 feet and 30 by 30 inches.

Bison Innovative Products

deepstreamWeatherproof Fixtures

DeepStream’s weatherproof POS station and combination trash/recycling bin are made from pressure-cleanable recycled plastic lumber. The POS station has an aluminum tambour door; a weather-proof drawer, storage area and shelves; and a 316 stainless-steel insulated lid, drawer slides, hinges, leveling feet and door pulls. The line of custom fixtures includes valet stands, screen walls, planters, food display carts, benches and more to provide continuity in outdoor areas.

DeepStream Designs

fiberbuilt1Powered-Up Shade

Wattsun is an umbrella with an integrated solar-powered, 2-USB charging station. Features of this water-resistant system include wall-outlet charging speed, eight-hour battery backup and glass-free design. The 8- and 9-foot diameter umbrella frames consist of fiberglass ribs, a heavy-duty hub and a 1½-inch diameter one-piece aluminum pole available in seven powder-coat finish colors.

FiberBuilt Umbrellas & Cushions

grosfillex entry2 image1Bar-Height Two-Tops

Ramatuelle 73 Duo dining and bar-height tables include handles made of reinforced polyamide resin and tops that fold and lock into vertical position for storage. Finished with high-resistance polyester paint on stainless steel, they’re treated with cataphoresis anticorrosion treatment, making them suitable for use outdoors.


hearthcabinet1Ventless Fireplace

HearthCabinet’s Ventless Fireplaces utilize a self-contained, clean-burning, single-use alcohol gel cartridge that produces no smoke and no odor. All models are ETL-tested to the national UL 1370 standard for safety. Choose from standard models or customize to meet specific size and design needs.

HearthCabinet Ventless Fireplace

selectspace1Versatile, Lightweight Partitions

SelectSpace offers outdoor partition systems for restaurant patios, sidewalk cafes and outdoor dining areas. The lightweight, modular panels feature aluminum and stainless-steel construction for durability and rust resistance. Easy assembly, disassembly and storage enable operators to transform outdoor environments with relative ease. Combine the panels, stands and planters in many configurations to accommodate various spaces. Panels come in standard or custom colors and design styles, including laser-cut names and/or logos.

SelectSpace Partitions