Restaurants and bars can offer an excellent addition to the typical dining room by expanding a few tables and chairs to a patio. Whether it’s just outside the front door, in a cozy backyard setting or overlooking a beautiful view, outdoor seating adds a special element to any dining experience. The following tips will help you implement profitable patio dining options for a new space, or when improving the patio you already have:
Obtain the Proper Permits
As harmless as it sounds, putting a few tables and chairs on the sidewalk in front of your building may actually be unlawful. Before you expand your restaurant to include an outdoor dining section (especially one on a rooftop), make sure you have the proper permits. For instance, the City of Chicago requires a “Sidewalk Café Permit” for retail food service establishments to serve food on the sidewalk outside their restaurant. It is only good for certain months out of the year, and must be renewed annually.
Permit Your Guest's Furry Friends
People that see a patio bar automatically want to leash up their pup to enjoy the day side-by-side. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that! But before you put out a metal bowl of water and a puppy bed, be sure you get permission. In certain cities, a “dog-friendly permit” is required if you plan to allow furry friends to be leashed up on the patio fence.
Be Prepared for Critters
When you serve food outdoors, you may also need to think about neighborhood critters. Depending on your location, you may encounter squirrels, pigeons or stray cats enjoying leftovers and handouts. Being outdoors, you may even encounter a few spiders, flies or hornets. Have a defense plan ready, such as signs to discourage feeding birds or strays, and bug zappers if needed.
Head For the Roof
Rooftop patios are becoming more and more popular. Still, you may not have the resources, location or building permit to do so. If you cannot serve customers on the roof, you can still use your location or building to your advantage, like they did at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Wisconsin where goats graze on a grassy rooftop.
Offer a Few Yard Games
From ladderball to croquet, yard games are on-trend with youngsters, hipsters and even the more refined of diners. If you have the space, offer a few ways for customers to enjoy the yard.
- Hopscotch. Great for families and children, this game is easy to create with chalk on a slab of concrete. Even easier, it can be washed away in the evening and before the more adult happy hour crowd arrives.
- Outdoor foosball. In a covered section, put up an outdoor foosball table. It’s conducive to groups as well as partners, and keeps some of the noise outside.
- Sand volleyball. Not all bars or restaurants have this option, but outdoor sand volleyball can be a fun way to attract recreational sports teams and even just groups of friends or coworkers for happy hour games. Offer a drink and bar food special and right away you have an attraction, as well as built-in entertainment for other guests.
Give Customers Some Shade
In the summertime, patrons enjoy outdoor dining for the chance to relax and enjoy some sunshine. Many of them may be escaping the daily grind at work and would relish the chance to get out from under the fluorescent lights. However, bright sun and summer months can be still be uncomfortable for some. Provide outdoor market umbrellas for your outside tables and give your customers a cool break from the sun and heat.
Keep Your Patio Dining Open Late
In the summer season, days are longer and evenings are warmer. People are more apt to stay out later during the summer. When they do, they want a fun and comfortable place to enjoy. Try altering the hours to keep your kitchen open later in order to offer late-night deals to diners. Allowing customers to enjoy a starry night or a full moon can bring on a memorable experience, and even bring in more profits for your business.
For more on decking out your outdoor seating area, check out our blog post on Inspiration for Restaurant Patio Design.
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