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9. March 2023, 5 min read

Sun on the menu: elevate your restaurant’s outdoor dining season

Author: Birgitte Brøndum
Outdoor dining
Elevate your restaurant's outdoor dining area

As usual, spring made us wait impatiently to pack away our winter coats. But very soon your guests will grab every chance they get to enjoy a tasty meal in the sun. The value of a good outdoor dining season can’t be underestimated. Prepare now and become the restaurant guests flock to in the coming outdoor dining season!

Even though you may still see people wearing warm jackets and scarves on the street outside your restaurant, the spring sun will soon bring warm rays and longer days. Now is the time to prepare for the outdoor dining season, and if we’re lucky April might just be the perfect premiere for outdoor lunch. In this article, we’ll run through some things you can do to make your restaurant’s outdoor dining season even better!

Good outdoor seating for your restaurant

Cobblestones, sidewalk tiles, and other outdoor surfaces can be a tricky starting point. During the outdoor dining season, guests usually won’t mind tables that are a little wobbly; it can even be part of the charm. However, naturally, there are limits. Guests should be able to enjoy their food and drinks without worrying that a plate will slide off the table.

Having an outdoor dining area in a city often means having limited space and surfaces that can be challenging to work with. Small adjustments can go a long way in making your guests feel more comfortable while they’re sitting outside. Pick chairs that are as comfortable as possible and ensure that the tables are well-spaced. If your tables and chairs are so wobbly that it’s hard to enjoy a meal or sit comfortably, you can place outdoor mats or rugs under them.

When you provide adequate space between tables, you will also make guests with disabilities feel more welcome in your outdoor dining area. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that some tables have a height that accommodates guests using wheelchairs. If your restaurant’s patio can only be accessed via stairs, consider investing in a portable wheelchair ramp.

Comfortable and accessible outdoor seating can entice guests to come back several times.

Rosé in the rain: outdoor dining in mixed weather

Weather protection for your restaurant's outdoor dining

If you own a restaurant in a European country, you’ll experience all kinds of weather from April to October, especially if you’re in Northern Europe. However, mixed weather during spring and summer won’t stop guests from enjoying their food outside, as long as you provide suitable weather protection in your outdoor area.

Many restaurants and cafes use outdoor heaters to keep guests warm, but they have become controversial due to climate concerns. In fact, they have been banned in France. Nevertheless, Mikal Holt Jensen, the environmental manager at Horesta (an industry organisation for the hotel, restaurant, and tourist industry in Denmark), says that Horesta is against a ban because it’s bad service if restaurants can’t keep their guests warm. He recommends that restaurants use infrared outdoor heaters as a less energy-heavy alternative to gas heaters.

On chilly days and late summer evenings, blankets draped over the chairs at your outdoor dining area signal to guests that they can keep warm, even if they didn’t bring an extra sweater.

The sun is what we want during the summer. But it can also be harmful if we get too much of it. Furthermore, enjoying the flavours of a meal can be difficult in the scorching sun. Make sure to provide shaded seating in your outdoor dining area at all times, and adapt to the sun’s visiting hours during spring and summer.

Even with parasols, patio covers and pergolas, it can be hard to avoid rain on the salad. If the weather turns very sour, your guests might want to be relocated to a table inside. Have a backup plan for these kinds of days. It can also be a good idea to decide whether or not, your staff should replace a rain-soaked club sandwich or a salad that several wasps found irresistible.

Outdoor dining with warm and welcoming lighting

During the daytime, the sun will do most of the work when it comes to lighting up your outdoor dining area. It’s hard to top the feeling of enjoying a tasty meal with a glass of wine in the sun. But with the right lighting, you can create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere for your outdoor guests when the shadows are growing longer.

Restaurant lighting is an important factor that influences your guests’ dining experience. Ensure that your outdoor dining area is well-lit during the evenings. Soft lighting creates a warmer ambience that invites guests to stay longer. Wine glasses reflected on the table in soft light, ambient restaurant music, delicious food, and the buzz of people chatting — a recipe for a restaurant experience your guests will want to repeat.

Restaurant patio acoustics

Many restaurants have outdoor dining areas right in the middle of the hectic and noisy city life. Some guests enjoy slowly sipping a cappuccino while listening to tourists and locals going about their day in the sun. But too much noise is an issue. The sound of your restaurant furniture being moved over cobblestones and tiles can also get very loud. But there are many ways to reduce the noise in your outdoor dining area. Here are a few:

Outdoor dining acoustics

Get the right permits for your restaurant’s outdoor seating

Don’t forget to apply for a permit for your restaurant’s outdoor dining area. The rules and regulations regarding outdoor dining areas vary from country to country, and even from city to city. If you’re considering creating a new outdoor dining area for your restaurant or expanding or changing the one you have, we recommend that you check which rules apply in your area.

Use your restaurant’s social media channels

Do you already know when your outdoor dining area opens? Make a grand opening announcement on your social media channels, so your guests can add the date to their calendars. If you have some great pictures from last year’s outdoor season, share these in your posts and stories. And why not host a special event to celebrate the opening? Offer a special menu package at a good price, and sell event tickets to make your guests commit to their visit.

From weather protection to noise reduction and improved accessibility, there are countless ways to elevate your outdoor dining area and create a memorable experience for your guests. Start preparing now and get ready to become the go-to destination for outdoor dining this season!