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How to Create a Profitable Patio Space

How to Create a Profitable Patio Space

Last updated on 1/27/2018

Now that the warmer months are upon us, customers are eager to enjoy their meals and drinks while soaking up some sunshine! From sidewalk seating to a private deck, patios are the perfect solution to dining outdoors. To make the most of the beautiful weather, you can learn how to build a patio bar or revamp your current patio to provide guests with outdoor dining options. If you have a patio or are looking to recreate your restaurant patio design, we have some tips that will make your space more inviting for guests and more profitable for you.

Take Care of Nitty-Gritty Law Stuff

Make sure you contact your township or local development office to complete the required paperwork and obtain permits for having outdoor seating and dining. Even having sidewalk patios can be restricted by local government, so do your research before you start designing your dining space. If you need electricity or plumbing, or you're planning to cook or serve drinks outdoors, you'll likely need permission for that as well. The last thing you want is to start building only to find out you're breaking the law, so get permission first!

Understand the Restrictions of Your Space

For customers to feel comfortable, make sure you have enough square footage to accommodate your furniture, and space it out enough so guests don't feel cramped. There should be enough space for servers to easily walk around with trays of food and for guests to push their chairs out from their tables without bumping into anything. If you own a small outdoor area or can only offer sidewalk seating, you'll need to limit the amount of seats. Having an outdoor patio bar or a cooking station will also reduce your available seating, so take that into consideration before starting construction on your patio.

Cook Outside

If you have the space, incorporate outdoor cooking equipment like grills, fryers, or outdoor pizza ovens into your restaurant patio design. Customers love seeing their food prepared in front of them, especially when they get to see you pull a rustic hand-tossed pizza straight from the oven or plate a barbecued rack of ribs right off the grill. This equipment can also enhance the style and ambience of your patio as well as contribute to the decor.

Build a Bar

An outdoor patio bar is a fun dining option that will generate lots of revenue for your business. If you're wondering how to build a patio bar, consider using a portable bar unit or cocktail station to serve up customers' favorite beers and mixed drinks. These mobile bars have lots of storage and are great for businesses that aren't able or ready to commit to permanent fixtures. If you want a stationary bar, you can install one and incorporate it into your decor, too. Guests will love being able to see their drinks made in front of them and sitting at an outdoor bar, especially in the evening. It's the perfect summer relaxation combination. 

Don't Forget About Mother Nature

Outdoor dining can bring high temperatures, intense sunlight, rain showers, and lots of wind, not to mention bugs and critters. Protect customers from the elements with umbrellas and canopies. You may even be able to install ceiling fans if you have a sturdy roof and proper electrical connections. To lengthen the time your patio is open and extend service into the fall months, consider investing in outdoor patio heaters, too! Whenever you're serving food outdoors, also be prepared for extreme weather, and have a plan in place if you need to bring diners indoors or close the patio down temporarily.

If you're cooking or mixing drinks outdoors, you could consider using bug zappers or other bug repellents to deter mosquitos, flies, and gnats. Be prepared for birds, squirrels, mice, or stray animals that will hang around your patio for food scraps, too. If this becomes an issue, talk to a pest control company to discuss your options. Customers will be more comfortable, and their food will be more sanitary if you take some precautionary steps.

Choose Appropriate Furniture and Decor

Use furniture, shading, and lighting to capture the ambience of your restaurant patio design. Do you want to use rustic wooden picnic tables and benches, or do you prefer a charming set up with metal chairs and seat cushions? Whatever furniture you decide on, keep it in line with the concept of your restaurant. Many times a patio is removed from crowded areas, or owners place a barrier of a fence, planters, or dividers around the space to create a feeling of privacy. Because your patio is an outdoor advertisement for your business, use that to your advantage. Bright colored flowers or dramatic canopies will be noticeable during the day, and light strings or candles will illuminate your patio in the evening.

Be sure to take the state of your floors into account, as well. Do you have uneven pavement or floor boards? Depending on the quality of your floors or their materials, you may need to change the furniture you choose or compensate for ground that isn't level. You don't want your customers' tables or chairs to rock back and forth as they're eating (unless that's part of your restaurant's concept).


One of the easiest ways to advertise your patio is to attract diners with an outdoor sign. If your patio is next to the street or on the sidewalk, it'll be easier to draw in customer attention with signs and decorations. If you're not in an obvious place, such as a location off the back of your restaurant or an area surrounded by trees, customers may not notice your patio as quickly. Use signs, banners, string lights, and eye-catching decorations to draw in people's attention. Place signs and lights on the sidewalk outside your business, at your entrance, or even inside your restaurant so guests waiting to be seated will know there's an outdoor dining option. 

Add Special Features

You should think about what will make your patio stand out from the competition, and you can even use your customers to determine what's best. Patios are great for after-dinner drinks or late-night parties since guests like to be outside in the evening when it's cooler, especially in the summer months. Add group games, hire a DJ, and consider other fun night-life elements to add a unique atmosphere to your scene. You can also use your hours to correspond with your theme or concept, such as having your patio open for brunch on the weekends or at lunch during workdays. Consider extending your business hours and keeping your kitchen open late into the night so guests can dine under the stars, too.

If you live in a dog-loving city, obtain permission from your local government to let customers bring their pets with them. You can also offer special promotional deals for patio-only diners, especially if you're preparing meals or beverages in an outdoor patio bar or kitchen. Add a lookout spot if you're near a scenic view, build a fire pit, or include smoking areas. The possibilities are endless depending on your location, building restrictions, and creative ingenuity!

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