Winter Outdoor Dining Ideas for Restaurants

When winter arrives in a flurry of snow and cold temperatures, many restaurant owners transition from outdoor dining and focus on creating enticing seasonal menus and deciding whether to stay open during the holidays instead. However, don't abandon your outdoor dining area until spring. Winter outdoor dining advancements offer bars and restaurants options to overcome the seasonal slowdown and increase sales. Use our winter patio ideas to convert your outdoor dining space into a magical winter wonderland, complete with heaters, exclusive menu offerings, and charming rustic decor.

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Winter Patio Ideas for Restaurants

Most restaurant operators prepare their restaurants for winter by closing up their patios. Outperform your neighboring eateries by cold-proofing your patio with our winter patio ideas and make your outdoor dining space a year-round destination.

1. How to Warm Your Patio in Winter

restaurant terrace

Depending on the location of your restaurant, temperatures can dip below freezing. Keep your winter outdoor dining area warm for guests using patio heaters, an outdoor fireplace, or vinyl curtains.

  • Patio Heaters - Heating elements are vital to making your patio operational during the cold winter months. Patio heaters provide warmth throughout your outdoor space. Place standing heaters around your tables, while ceiling and wall-mounted options radiate heat from the perimeter of your patio.
  • Outdoor Fireplace - Add a rustic feel to your terrace with a firepit. Firepits add heat, sound, and light to create an inviting atmosphere for chilled guests. If you have a small patio, a fireplace may be the only element needed to generate sufficient heat.
  • Vinyl Curtains - To keep the heat that you generate within the confines of your terrace, it is best to have a makeshift enclosure. Transparent vinyl curtains can help your patio retain heat without obstructing your view.

2. How to Make Your Winter Patio Comfortable

Comfortable patio furniture

Entice your patrons to come outside when the weather is chilly by making your patio space comfortable and relaxing.

  • Patio Furniture - Providing an area with lounge-style patio 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.
  • Unscented Candles - Candles are cozy, add warmth, and set an intimate tone that draws guests into conversations. There is a type of candle available for every occasion, but we recommend unscented candles that won't interfere with the taste and aroma of your carefully crafted dishes. Plus, you can place your candles in candle holders for extra security. To eliminate fire hazards, use flameless candles.

3. Offer Exclusive Specials to Winter Patio Diners

girl holding glass of wine

If a cozy environment isn’t enough to draw your customers outside, offering exclusive menu items can lure patrons onto your winterized patio.

  • Special Appetizer and Drink Menu - Offering a menu of starters or unique seasonal cocktails exclusive to your outdoor guests will intrigue potential customers. Similarly, you can run promotions to welcome customers into your exterior space. Create a special happy hour menu for drinks ordered on the patio, or include a complimentary DIY s’mores maker with an entree purchase.
  • Warming Entrees - While space heaters and blankets are essential, you can also warm patrons by serving an exclusive menu of hearty dishes. Fondue is a great outdoor concept because the flame beneath the fondue pot keeps the cheese warm. For bowls of warmth, turn towards ramen or pho, curry, minestrone, and gumbo. For other entree ideas, offer straight-from-the-stove fajitas, lasagnas, risotto, chicken pot pie, beef stroganoff, and eggplant parmesan.
  • Add Spice - Spicy foods are naturally warming. Keep customers comfortable by making your meals subtly spicy and serving them on warm plates.

4. Privatize Your Winter Patio

private dining bubble

Creating a more intimate dining setting with completely closed-off walls keeps the heat in and cold air out. Outdoor restaurant tents will help retain heat. Stock your outdoor restaurant tent with blankets and pillows to increase the cozy atmosphere. If you can ventilate the restaurant pod, use space heaters and candles to generate extra warmth. Whether you choose an elegant plexiglass greenhouse or a durable plastic igloo strung with fairy lights, guests will love the private setting for intimate conversations between parties of two to six.

  • Restaurant Pods - When COVID-19 ravaged the foodservice industry, restaurant owners developed creative ways to stay afloat while keeping their guests and employees healthy. Operators turned to outdoor restaurant tents to provide a safe, private outdoor dining experience without the hassle of renting out entire rooms and turning the reservation into a catered event.

5. Create a Winter Dining Experience

Patio with pretty lights

Your outdoor space should provide a memorable experience that guests will seek. Whether you entice your customers with homey decor, unique menu items, or the chance to watch the snowfall, you can easily leverage this outdoor experience with appealing patio lighting and music.

  • Patio Music - Try hiring musicians for live entertainment on your terrace. This addition attracts customers who enjoy music while differentiating the ambiance of your outdoor space from indoors. If live music isn't an option, install surround sound speakers and play acoustic or holiday music in the appropriate season.
  • Patio Lighting - You can coordinate your lighting with the atmosphere you want your patio to have. If you keep the lighting low, this encourages your customers to look outside at the wintry sights.

Why Should I Keep My Patio Open This Winter?

Your patio is a valuable part of your restaurant dining space. It is an area that you own or lease, so winter-proofing your patio allows you to generate more income year-round. Winter outdoor dining provides more space for potential customers and sets your business apart from other eateries that can’t offer an outdoor winter dining experience.

Instead of storing your patio furniture until spring, contemplate a fresh approach to embrace winter outdoor dining. While your staff delivers orders to your patio throughout the colder months, take charge of the indoor climate in your restaurant by utilizing an air curtain. By incorporating heating, seasonal decorations, and a selection of enticing promotions, your establishment can provide a delightful experience for outdoor winter dining.

Posted in: Management & Operation|Seasonal|By Christine Potts
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please refer to our Content Policy for more details.
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