Make Your Restaurant's Patio a Winter Dining Destination

As the weather gets cooler, it is time to prepare your restaurant for winter. Your terrace, which could double your capacity during warmer months, sits unoccupied until spring. What if you could make your restaurant's patio an attraction during the winter months? In metropolitan areas all over the country, contemporary bistros, cafes, and eateries have redefined winterizing their spaces. Instead of closing their terraces, they bring out the heaters, cozy decor, and exclusive menu items to draw guests outside in chilly weather. Keep reading to see how you, too, can transform your restaurant's patio this winter.

Why Should I Keep My Patio Open this Winter?

Your patio is a valuable part of your restaurant’s space. It is an area that you own or lease regardless of the time of year, which gives you the opportunity to generate more income for your restaurant. Especially if space is at a premium in your establishment, leaving your patio open for the winter could help you bring in more profit during your slower season. Not only does this free up more space for potential customers, but it also sets your business apart from other eateries that can’t offer the unique attraction of a cold weather patio experience.

How to Make the Most of Your Restaurant's Terrace in Winter

If you are at a loss for how to make your patio suitable for winter use, start with these guidelines.

Make It Warm

restaurant terrace

Heating elements are necessary to make your patio operational during cold winter months. Depending on your patio’s size and layout, you can choose from several heating options to keep your patrons toasty.

Fireplaces add a rustic feel to your terrace's ambiance. A fire will add heat, sound, and light to make a cozy atmosphere that is inviting to guests. If your patio is small, a fireplace may be all that you need to generate sufficient heat.

Alternatively, commercial patio heaters provide warmth throughout your outdoor space. Standing heaters can be placed around your customers’ tables, while wall-mounted options radiate heat from the perimeter of your patio.

To keep the heat that you generate within the confines of your terrace, it is best to have some sort of enclosure. Transparent vinyl curtains can help your patio retain heat, but they do not take away your guests’ view.

Make It Comfortable

To entice your patrons to come outside when the weather is chilly, make your patio space comfortable and welcoming. Providing an area with lounge-style furniture creates a casual environment that encourages guests to feel at home. With blankets and cushioned chairs for extra insulation, customers can bundle up and order food and drinks without being hindered by the cold.

Make It Exclusive

girl holding glass of wine

If a comfy environment isn’t enough to draw your customers outside, adding the element of exclusivity can bring patrons to your patio. Try offering a menu of starters or shared plates that is only available outside or craft hot cocktails exclusive to your outdoor guests.

Similarly, you can run promotions to welcome customers into your exterior space. Try a happy hour special for drinks ordered on the patio, or include complimentary s’mores with an entree purchase.

Make It an Experience

The key to successfully operating your patio during the winter is not treating it like an extension of your indoor dining room. Your outdoor space should provide a different experience that guests will seek out. Whether you entice your customers with cozy decor, unique menu items, or simply the chance to watch snow falling, it is important to recognize that your patio can have unique charm during the winter.

To enhance its charm, try hiring musicians for live entertainment on your terrace. This addition not only attracts customers who enjoy music, but it also differentiates the ambiance of your outdoor space from indoors.

Additionally, you can coordinate your lighting with the type of atmosphere you want your patio to have. If you keep lighting low, this encourages your customers to look outside at the wintry sights.

This winter, instead of packing up your patio furniture, consider a new way to winterize your space. With the addition of some heating elements, seasonal decor to add ambiance, and a few special promotions, your restaurant can draw guests outside in cold weather.

Posted in: Management & Operation | Seasonal | By Christine Potts

Winter is Coming: Preparing Your Restaurant for Colder Weather

It's inevitable: every winter, foodservice profits drop due to cold weather and snow. If your restaurant is located in an area that receives frequent snow during the winter months, you're sure to have experienced a decline in sales. Cold weather and snow keep many potential customers indoors between December and March each year, and making up these losses can seem impossible. However, there are several things your business can do to avoid the winter blues. For tips and information on preparing for and combating the big freeze, check out the recommendations and advice below.

Pump Up Your Marketing

Carefully crafted marketing campaigns are an effective way to increase your business volume and sales during the winter season. You could try offering specials during these months, such as 2 for $20 deals or free appetizers and desserts. While you may initially lose money this way, your profits will ultimately increase as more customers learn about and begin taking advantage of your deals.

Another way to improve sales over the winter months is to spend more time on social media marketing. For example, you could engage with customers via Instagram or Twitter by posting pictures of special drinks and meals, or offering complimentary appetizers to the first 25 patrons who "like" your posts. Other non-social media-related options include adding hearty, winter-themed menu items, decorating with winter-themed decor, and devising creative holiday cocktails.

Use a Delivery Service

Using 3rd Party Delivery During Winter

One way to get your food to hungry customers is by using a 3rd party delivery service. You can do this by hiring a third-party company or by having your own front-of-house employees drive food directly to your customers' doorsteps. Delivery, of course, hinges on how bad the roads are, and you should never endanger lives just to make a profit. However, if you make a lot of money via deliveries, you might consider purchasing a four wheel drive vehicle to use when delivering food in inclement weather.

If your restaurant is located in an urban area, you could also have your delivery people walk or ride bikes. If you live in the countryside or less-populated areas, you might use a snowmobile, jet ski, or all-terrain vehicle, although most businesses may find these options a bit extreme.

Prepare for Inclement Weather

If your restaurant is located in an area where snow, ice, and other bad weather is common, be sure to invest in a generator. Power outages not only keep customers from patronizing your business, but can also lead to large quantities of spoiled food. Your restaurant should also have your heating system inspected by an HVAC technician, which will ensure things are operating safely and effectively. You can also ensure customer safety by keeping sidewalks and parking lots clear of snow and ice.

Winterize Your Outdoor Spaces

Preparing Your Restaurant for Cold Weather Follow these steps to prepare and protect your outdoor areas during the winter.

Clean Your Furniture

Before you close up your restaurant’s terrace for the season, be sure to clean all of your furniture. Pay special attention to fabric elements, as they can become moldy if not properly cleaned. To prevent this, try vacuuming each cushion and umbrella, and then cover them for storage in a dry area.

Plastic furniture can simply be washed with soap and water and stored indoors, while wicker and wood furniture should be treated with oil before storing.

If you use metal tables and chairs, be sure to check for rust and paint scratches after you clean them. Small rust spots can be scraped and painted over, but if a piece has large rusty patches, consider replacing it.

Power Wash Your Patio

After all of your furniture and cooking equipment is cleaned and put away, wash your patio floor with a power washer or hose. This step will make it easier to clean again in the spring and will help to remove any debris from your busy summer.

When you are finished, clear the hose of any water and turn off the outdoor tap to help keep pipes from bursting. This is also a good time to cover any exposed pipes in your building with foam insulator.

Protect Against Pests

To prevent pests from entering your restaurant in attempts to get out of the cold weather, make sure that any outdoor vents are properly covered with mesh. Also consider trimming plants and shrubbery around the patio, as small animals love to burrow in the shelter of bushes and flowerbeds.

Consider Staying Open

An outdoor patio makes for a unique atmosphere that customers enjoy, even in the winter months. If you provide the proper heating and amenities, you can turn your patio into a winter dining destination. Plus, keeping outdoor areas open and comfortable for guests will set you apart from competitors with closed terraces in the winter.

Regardless of the type of business you own, properly preparing for cold weather and incorporating innovative strategies to keep customers coming back is essential to the success of your establishment.

Posted in: Management & Operation | Seasonal | By Nora Fulmer

How to Make Spaetzle

Every country has its own signature style of cuisine. In Germany, you’ll find a lot of meat-focused dishes, like wiener schnitzel and bratwurst. Some German entrees include sauces or gravy that go great with starchy side dishes. One of the most iconic and recognizable German side dishes, spaetzle are little dumplings made from a simple batter of flour, eggs, and milk that are formed into droplets by using a spaetzle maker.

While it’s possible to make spaetzle with a regular colander, a spaetzle maker delivers more consistent and superior results because of its larger holes and flat surface that sits securely over a pot of boiling water. This handy kitchen tool also features a sliding hopper that holds the batter and distributes it evenly among the holes when moved back and forth in an even sliding motion. Though it may be a funny-looking contraption, a spaetzle maker is a must-have item for German restaurants that prepare this dish frequently. It also comes in handy for any establishment that hosts an annual Oktoberfest celebration.

Spaetzle Recipe


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp butter


1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.

2. Combine and mix the dry ingredients.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Pour the milk into the eggs.

4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a whisk. Stir until smooth. You can add more milk if the batter is too thick.

5. Melt the butter in a skillet. You can brown it if you like.

6. When your entree has just a few minutes to go, set your spaetzle maker on top of the pot of boiling water. It should fit securely. Slowly pour your batter into the plastic hopper. The hopper should slide easily back and forth across the holes to distribute the batter evenly as it drops through into the water. You may need to refill the hopper a few times until all the batter has been added to the water.

7. Boil the spaetzle for 3-4 minutes.

8. Use a skimmer to remove and drain the spaetzle. Add them directly to the pan of hot butter. Toss them a few times until they’re fully coated and slightly golden brown in color.

Posted in: Recipes | By Jessica Wieser

6 Fall Flavors that Aren't Pumpkin Spice

Fall is one of the most beloved times of the year for two reasons: beautiful foliage and the start of the holiday food season. But when you think fall, what flavors come to your mind? For many enthusiasts of the season, that flavor is probably pumpkin spice. While the seasoning is just a combination of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg, it would seem that there’s been a pumpkin spice explosion since Starbucks introduced the now infamous PSL (“Pumpkin Spice Latte”) back in 2003. Although pumpkin spice is comprised of common cold-weather spices, it’s possible to create delicious fall recipes without them being strictly pumpkin flavored. If you’re experiencing P.S.O. (Pumpkin Spice Overload), check out some other fall flavors that can get customers into the fall spirit, no pumpkin needed.

Apple Cider

1. Apple

Cider or even apple cake are great things to offer during fall months. Because apples are naturally sweeter and more delicious than pumpkins, they're the perfect produce selection for your fall menu.

2. Salted Caramel

Sticky salty goodness. This sweet treat is perfect for customers craving an escape from spice. Caramel candies, cookies, and hot drinks are all good ideas. Caramel lattes have an especially autumnal quality that's comforting on a cold day.

3. Hazelnut

The warm and smooth flavor of hazelnut pairs extremely well with coffee or hot chocolate. This flavor has become an extremely popular flavor in recent years, largely due to the increased popularity of Nutella spread.

4. Maple

Maple-bacon cupcakes, anyone? Maple flavor reminds a lot of people of pancakes on lazy Sunday mornings. The taste makes us picture frost-covered maple trees. What better feeling for fall?

5. Pear

Pear flavor tastes great with a variety of spices, including cinnamon, star anise, and vanilla. Whether you want to make homemade pear butter for biscuits or offer fancy pear tarts, this fall fruit is simply scrumptious.

Ginger Snaps

6. Ginger

Ground ginger can add a kick of flavor to a wide range of foods, but is especially delicious in gingerbread. While gingerbread is associated with Christmastime, gingersnap cookies are a perfect autumn cookie, especially when paired with hot tea.

With so many flavors that make up fall, why stick with the same old pumpkin spice theme? This fall, leave pumpkins where they belong… on your front porch. NOT in your coffee.

Posted in: Menu Tips | Seasonal | By Jessica Wieser
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