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A Guide to Commercial Patio Umbrellas

A Guide to Commercial Patio Umbrellas

As outdoor dining continues to grow as an appealing option for customers, patio space is an asset like never before. Guests love indulging in your crisp salads and colorful entrees as they take in the fresh air and atmosphere of your outdoor space. Your patio needs to be comfortable and protected from weather and the elements, which is why patio umbrellas are an absolute must during the summer season. In order to make your patio space as profitable as possible, even in hot weather, use outdoor umbrellas to curate a cool, relaxing, and shady spot for your customers.

Anatomy of a Commercial Patio Umbrella

When you're in the market for an outdoor patio umbrella, it's important to identify the parts of the umbrella that distinguish it from a hand-held umbrella. The right patio umbrella will become your new favorite piece of outdoor furniture.
Diagram: anatomy of a commercial patio umbrella
  • 1. Finial: The highest tip above the canopy
  • 2. Canopy: The fabric tent that provides shade
  • 3. Vents: Slots in the canopy that allow air to pass through to prevent the umbrella from flying away in a strong gust
  • 4. Panels: Pie-shaped area of canopy between two ribs
  • 5. Ribs: The strong supports that hold the canopy open
  • 6. Stretchers: The strong supports that hold the canopy open
  • 7. Crank/Lift: The strong supports that hold the canopy open
  • 8. Pole: The tall, sturdy post / stand that connects the canopy to the base
  • 9. Base: The heavy foundation that supports and secures the umbrella in place

Outdoor Umbrella Canopy Materials


Heavy-duty fabric is the preferred material for the canopy of commercial patio umbrellas. Fabrics give slightly so as not to tear and break under the elements, come in a variety of colors and patterns, and serve as a protective barrier between the intense sun and your guests. Consider that thicker fabrics will offer more protection but will cause the ribs and stretchers to work harder to support the weight.

Umbrella with acrylic canvas canopy material
Umbrella with acrylic canvas canopy material
Acrylic Canvas
Pros
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Very resistant to UV rays and color-fade
  • Combats mold and mildew growth
Cons
  • Scratchy texture
  • Can be much more expensive
Umbrellas with blue, polyester canopy material
Umbrellas with blue, polyester canopy material
Polyester
Pros
  • Typically inexpensive
  • Naturally water-repellent
  • Very lightweight
Cons
  • Not UV-protected unless specifically marketed as such
  • Usually not as durable and doesn't last as long
  • More difficult to keep clean
Umbrellas with olefin canopy material
Umbrellas with olefin canopy material
Olefin
Pros
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Water- and mildew-resistant
  • Easy to keep clean
Cons
  • Less resistant to fading and UV rays
  • Can be damaged by friction and high heat
Umbrellas with thatch canopy material
Umbrellas with thatch canopy material
Thatch
Pros
  • Creates great ventilation
  • Rot- and fade-resistant
  • Attractive and festive appearance
Cons
  • Not durable against the elements
  • Difficult to maintain and clean

What to Look for in a Patio Umbrella Base

Some umbrellas are sold with their base already included as a kit, but many are not. The base is a vital part of the umbrella, as it stabilizes the pole and secures it in place under windy and inclement conditions. There are a variety of shapes and designs to choose from, but your biggest considerations should be the weight and material of your umbrella base.
Restaurant Equipment

Commercial Umbrella Base Weight

The weight needed to secure your umbrella safely in place will depend upon the size of your umbrella canopy. You may choose a heavier base if you’re operating in a location known for high winds and violent weather.

  • 40 lb. - 50 lb. Weight: A 40 lb. - 50 lb. base is all that will be required for umbrellas with diameters between 5 feet and 8 ½ feet. These umbrellas are small and require less weight to counterbalance the canopy.
  • 55 lb. - 70 lb. Weight: Bases that weigh between 55 lb. – 70 lb. are considered sufficient for medium-sized umbrellas. You can safely secure an umbrella with a diameter between 9 feet and 10 feet with this base.
  • 100 lb.+ Weight: These bases are meant for the largest commercial umbrellas. Any umbrella with a diameter larger than 10 feet should be secured with a 100+ lb. base. This also may be the best choice for patio umbrellas located in geographic regions known for high winds and stormy weather.

Expert Tip

Some commercial umbrella bases come with wheels attached for increased maneuverability.

Commercial Umbrella Base Material


The base of your umbrella is going to face quite a bit of wear and tear, from puddles, to UV rays, to everyday grime.
Black cast iron base weight

Cast Iron

  • Cast iron fits well in a high-end environment. It comes in a variety of designs and the weight comes from the iron itself, so you won’t need to fill it with sand or gravel to keep it in place.
  • It's a good idea to invest in a powder coating to prevent rust in high humidity.
  • The notable downside of a cast iron base is that it is incredibly difficult to relocate around your patio. While it isn’t impossible to move, it’s certainly not an easy task. 

White resin base weight

Resin

  • Resin is a great choice if you think you would like to relocate your patio umbrellas. If you like to redesign and remodel from time to time, resin umbrella bases will give you the freedom to do just that.
  • Heavy-duty resin won’t rust, flake, or crack.
  • Resin itself is very lightweight, the downside of which is that it can be a laborious process to fill the base with water, which runs the risk of freezing and cracking from the inside if left outside during the winter, or gravel, which can get messy.

 

Square steel base weight

Steel

  • Steel bases are sturdy, strong, and resist denting and damage.
  • Galvanized or stainless steels are better options for outdoor furniture because they resist rust and are long-lasting when exposed to the elements.
  • Untreated steel bases are prone to rusting just like cast iron. A rusting base can leave unsightly marks on your patio that are difficult or even impossible to clean, so it’s important to powder-coat your steel base to prevent such deterioration with time.

Expert Tip

For an eco-friendly option, choose a base made of recycled resin. Recycled resin is strong and requires little maintenance. Many types are made of recycled plastic milk jugs and containers.
Restaurant umbrellas with aluminum poles

Choose the Material for a Patio Umbrella Pole

Umbrella pole material can be an overlooked facet of the umbrella. Still, the pole will take quite a beating after months and years of raising and lowering the umbrella canopy. It's important to find a pole that can handle the pressures of the elements and long-term use.


Aluminum

Can handle hazardous weather without buckling or breaking.

Pros
  • Lightweight and low-maintenance
  • Resistant to wear and breakage
  • Considered the most popular material for outdoor furniture
Cons
  • Does not promote a high-end look
Fiberglass

Increased flexibility and durability. Great for very windy environments.

Pros
  • Bends in the wind without breaking
  • Highly durable and dependable
  • Resists rot and mildew
Cons
  • Typically much more expensive
Resin

A cost-effective option.

Pros
  • Resistant to UV rays
  • Will not corrode, mildew, or rust
  • Comes in decorative varieties and colors
Cons
  • Tends to show dirt the most; scratched areas collect grime
Wood

Great for upscale settings such as hotels or resorts.

Pros
  • Natural, classic appearance
  • Some varieties (such as teak) are naturally water- and rot-resistant
Cons
  • Requires proper sealing
  • Can fade and wear if untreated
Expert Tip

Some umbrella poles have a hinged design so you can tilt the entire canopy in the direction of the sun throughout the day.

The Lift on Your Outdoor Patio Umbrella


Freestanding patio umbrellas are the perfect choice for restaurants and cafes that need versatility and mobility. They come in a variety of lift types to match your needs.
Cantilever umbrella with brown canopy

Cantilever

Cantilever umbrellas come with their own base and can be easily relocated. They provide more usable shade, as the pole is located on the outer edge of the canopy.

Crank umbrella with green canopy

Crank

Crank lift umbrellas open and close by rotating a crank handle. This style is ideal for large and heavy umbrellas, because the crank does all the heavy lifting.

Pulley lift umbrella with brown canopy

Pulley Lift

Pulley lift umbrellas open easily using a rope and wheel system. This style requires little physical effort to use.

Push lift umbrella with nude canopy

Push Lift

Push lift umbrellas are simple to operate but require the most physical effort. They can lock into place with a pin.

Outdoor Umbrella Sizes for Your Space

You need to consider how much shade you’d really like for your patio, and how the sun will change direction and intensity through the day.

  • Do you want heavy shade across the entirety of your space?
  • Would you like partial shade during the morning and heavy shade in the afternoon?
  • How will the temperature affect how much shade your patrons need during daylight hours?

 

Perhaps you want to have one umbrella for each table on your patio. You should be asking, "what size table can my umbrella accommodate? How much shade will my umbrella make? Will it cover this table and all of the chairs around it?" Use the comprehensive chart below to determine what size umbrella you need to cover the desired size of tables and chairs on your patio. Or, you can choose to shade a large area rather than separate tables. In that case, you should be asking "how many umbrellas do I need to shade my patio space?" With the information in the table and a little simple math, you can choose the correct number of umbrellas for your square footage.

Example Situation: "I want to buy 6 1/2 ft. umbrellas to shade as much of my 500 sq. ft. patio as possible. How many umbrellas should I buy?" 500 sq. ft / 40 sq. ft. = about 12 umbrellas for full shade

Canopy Diameter
Table and Chairs Shaded
Approximate Area of Shade Produced
6 ft. - 6 1/2 ft.
30" table or smaller
2 - 4 chairs
Up to 40 sq. ft.
7 1/2 ft. - 8 ft.
36" - 40" table
4 - 6 chairs
Up to 50 sq. ft.
9 ft. - 10 ft.
40" - 48" table
6 - 8 chairs
Up to 75 sq. ft.
11 ft.
48" table and larger
10 - 12 chairs
Up to 95 sq. ft.

Personalizing Your Commercial Umbrella and Patio Space

Patio umbrellas serve both as a functional shade-producer and a decorative accent! Given the variety of commercial umbrellas on the market, there's no need to choose an umbrella that doesn't contribute to the personality of your space.

Appearance


The colors, shapes, and styles of your patio umbrellas will contribute to the look of your outdoor space.
Umbrellas with matching orange canopies

Consistent Styles and Colors

Matching canopy colors and umbrella styles keeps your patio looking cohesive. For high-end establishments that want to maintain a classy look, this may be the best choice. Plus, maintaining similar commercial umbrella styles will be more convenient for your staff in terms of raising and lowering them daily.

Cafe with patio umbrellas with nude, navy, and white canopies

Mix-and-Match

Create a fun, lighthearted atmosphere on your patio by mixing canopy colors and umbrella styles. If you’re already working with a color pallet, choose two or three bright, eye-catching shades or shapes. Some commercial patio umbrellas even come in fun prints such as stripes and spots. 

Cafe with

Curate a "Vibe"

Does your restaurant or bar establish a theme or style inside the building? Extend the vibe to your outside space, too! Use decorations, text, paint colors, music, and other touches in conjunction with your patio furniture to curate a space that presents an intentional style.

Staying Cool


Pair your umbrellas with a few additional cool tools in your outdoor space to keep the heat at bay!
Misty patio with restaurant umbrellas and hanging lights

Fans and Misters

Consider mounting fans that are big enough to keep the air moving but don’t take up unnecessary floor space. Plus, make sure to choose fans that advertise their low operating volume. Fans not cutting it? Take it up a notch with patio misters! Misters quietly project water in the form of mist, dusting your patrons with a thin layer of water droplets. Water on the skin has an instant cooling effect and continues to cool the body as it evaporates. 

Big, leafy palm fronds

Tall Shade Plants

There’s a reason that paved areas in cities are called “heat bubbles.” Areas that don’t have plants are always hotter than areas that incorporate plants of any kind, especially plants with large leaves. Not only do they produce shade, they also naturally help reflect sunlight away rather than absorbing heat like concrete and brick. Consider leafy shade trees such as maple and birch, large shrubs such as rhododendrons, and even perennials in pots.

Accessories


Treat your umbrella as a decorative furniture piece that can be spiced-up to match your own unique ambiance. For your consideration:
Restaurant Equipment

  • Twinkle Lights: There’s no reason to close your umbrellas at night when you have twinkle lights! These lights add a gentle glow as the sun starts to set and look fantastic draped along the ribs of the umbrella right under the canopy. There are even solar-powered options to help you impress your eco-minded guests.
  • Pole Tray Attachment: Use the pole of your umbrella to hold napkins, condiments, and even utensils with a tray attachment. A tray is an easy way to keep table items collected and sanitary, and saves table space for your guests’ drinks, appetizers, and entree dishes.
  • Extra Weights: Do you operate in an extra-windy or stormy geographic region? Consider investing in extra weights for your patio umbrella to keep it grounded and secure under the elements.
  • Bug Net: Swarms of mosquitos and gnats are perhaps the biggest challenge to outdoor dining, and you certainly don’t want to use harsh chemicals to keep bugs at bay while you’re serving your signature dishes. Try a hanging bug net! There are nets specifically marketed for use with umbrellas; their lightweight nature makes them safe to attach along the edges of the canopy and reach all the way to the floor to keep bugs away from the table.

How to Care for Your Outdoor Restaurant Umbrella

Keeping your umbrella clean and cared for is the most important step to ensuring longevity. Follow these comprehensive steps at least once a week, if possible, to protect your investment.

  1. Close the umbrella and brush off dirt and spider webs with a soft-bristle brush.
  2. Make a solution with warm water and a mild soap and spray it all over the canopy with a spray bottle. Use the soft-bristle brush to gently scrub.
  3. Open the umbrella to clean the inside of the canopy in the same way.
  4. Close the umbrella again and spray it down thoroughly with a hose (make sure there is absolutely no soap residue left).
  5. Allow the canopy to dry in the sun in an open position.
Red restaurant umbrellas tied closed for the evening

Additional Umbrella Care Tips


  • If your canopy appears to be fading in color, use a UV-protection spray. Since UV rays are damaging to fabrics, applying a protective barrier in the form of an inexpensive spray will keep your canopy looking brighter, longer.
  • Always keep your umbrella canopy closed when it’s not in use.
  • If you won’t be utilizing your patio space (for example, during the winter months) always relocate your umbrella to a dark, dry place in your storage room to protect it from water and weather.
  • Consider investing in a high-quality umbrella cover. An umbrella jacket will protect your investment against wear and tear, rain, snow, and sun. It also keeps the canopy tightly compact to prevent damage during high winds.

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