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.

outdoor furniture parisCustom Benches

Paris Site Furnishings offers custom benches to complement a variety of decors or environments. Laser cutting allows accurate reproduction of customer-supplied graphics, logos and other imagery.

Paris Site Furnishings

outdoor furniture castelleChanneling Palm Springs

With a nod to mid-century Rat Pack stylings, the Barclay Butera Palm Springs Collection incorporates intersecting and askew lines into a geometric frame. Custom fabrics and finishes can help create fresher and more modern aesthetics.

Castelle Contract

outdoor furniture deepstreamAttractive, Functional Carts

These exterior-grade Ipe wood carts use the manufacturer’s marine-anodized aluminum extrusions. Carts come equipped with waterproof HDPE drawers mounted on stainless steel slides. Countertops and casters are stainless steel as well. Other panel choices include recycled plastic, metal, slate and 3Form resin. Coordinating planters, receptacles, benches, screen walls and other custom fixtures are available.

DeepStream Designs Inc.

outdoor furniture janusPlayful Side Chair

The Panini Side Chair, designed by Janice Feldman, is handwoven in JANUSfiber. Available in three finish combinations — Bamboo Green and Limestone, Caramel and Limestone, and Palladium and Limestone — the chair is suitable for restaurant seating or a contemporary cafe patio. Restaurants can use the Panini Side Chair indoors or out even in inclement weather.

JANUS et Cie

outdoor furniture jardinicoQuad Sidepost Umbrella

With the ability to cover more than 430 square feet in designer shade, the JCP.501 Quad Sidepost umbrella features aluminum construction and a crank lift system. Available to be configured as two, three or four umbrellas and however many shades chosen, each one operates and tilts individually.


outdoor furniture two usaDurable Aluminum Shutters

Weatherwell Elite aluminum shutters are engineered to weather the elements and adjust to various outdoor areas to maximize their use throughout the year. The customizable shutters can be used to securely enclose a balcony or patio; block sun, wind and rain; build privacy screens; protect interior windows; and make an architectural statement. They’re available in five installation methods — hinged, fixed, multi-fold, sliding and Bahama — and in five colors. Extreme-wind rated and maintenance-free, the powder-coated shutters can be locked to secure furnishings and supplies during off-hours.


outdoor furniture grosfillexWater-Resistant, Durable Tabletops

The Exterior Vanguard tabletops from Grosfillex come in four finishes: light oak, aged oak, dark concrete and geo concrete. The lightweight tables coordinate with the maker’s Gamma table bases. The bases come in black and silver gray finishes and in standard dining and bar table heights.


outdoor furniture emuamericasComfortable, Stylish Curves

The Modern Collection from emuamericas is made from e-coated steel and features a mesh design. This line includes armchair, side chair and bar stool, with stackability of eight, eight and four respectively. The curvy line was designed by Chairamonte/Marin.


outdoor furniture tonikDurable Outdoor Tables

The JUX Table base is one solid piece of high-impact, UV-resistant polyethylene. The tables have a 500-pound static load capacity. The top can be polyethylene or operators can choose outdoor-grade phenolic available in eight prints. The JUX ballasting option reduces the likelihood the tables will take flight. The Moonglow finish channels porcelain during the day and lights up at night. Use the remote to choose from 16 LED color options.


outdoor furniture shademakerShade Made Easy

The Libra umbrella from Shademaker features a counterweight open and close system. The unit is suitable for market style applications. The umbrellas are available in square (6-foot-6-inch and 8-foot-2-inch) and octagon (8-foot-2-inch) styles. Protective cover is included.


outdoor furniture outdoor greatroomFire-Pit Dining Table

The Kenwood Dining Gas Fire Pit Table features a brown composite deck top and base with a graphite gray powder-coated aluminum frame. The elevated 12-by-42-inch Crystal Fire Burner is UL listed. Gray glass burner cover included. An access door conceals a standard 20-pound propane tank in the table’s base but it can be converted for natural gas.

Outdoor GreatRoom Company