Outdoor patios are an easy way for a business to increase their dining or bar areas during the warm months of the year, and have been proven to be quite lucrative. Fact is, when the weather is nice, many customers prefer to sit (or stand, as the case may be) outside. But, the initial phase of opening a restaurant or bar patio isn’t always cut and dry. First, select an appropriate size area for your ideal patio. Once you know how big your patio will be, and how you want it to function, you will have to purchase some items specifically for your outdoor diners (and bear in mind that eventually it may have to be stored indoors).
Restaurant Patio / Dining Area: Traditionally, every restaurant or bar patio will have some sort of dining area. There are some essentials that need to be purchased to for a fully functional patio dining area.
- Patio Furniture – First and foremost, an outdoor patio must have outdoor patio tables and chairs. Patio furniture can be constructed from any number of materials, however it is imperative that the furniture you purchase for your dining area be able to withstand the elements. This furniture will fall victim to extended exposure to the sun, rain, and standard wear and tear, so make sure you don’t have to replace it by investing in something heavier duty from the get go.
- Umbrellas – Large patio umbrellas are a great way to shield patrons from the occasionally brutal sun. Though your customers may want to enjoy the outdoors while they dine, the sun can take its toll on anyone over an extended period of time. Patio umbrellas are one of the most common ways to protect your customers, your furniture, and dress your patio up at the same time.
- Awning / Patio Curtains – Awnings are another way to shield your outdoor patio from the sun, but an awning can also shield it from rain as well. Awnings allow businesses to open their patios even when it is raining outside, and many businesses will convert their patio areas to be usable during colder times of the year as well. By adding a study awning / roof, and utilizing either heavy duty plastic patio curtains or folding track doors, an open patio can be converted into a secondary enclosed dining area.
- Patio Heaters – Businesses that opt not to enclose their patio or keep it open all year still have the option to serve customers when there is a bit of a chill in the air. Vertical patio heaters are becoming more commonplace, and are the best way to keep patrons in a small area warm without having to shield it entirely from fresh air.
- Melamine – Most restaurants and bars invest in melamine tableware for use outdoors. Patios tend to be set up on concrete or other hard surfaces, and there is an increased chance that tableware may fall and chip or break. Melamine is a composite material that is known for its durability and is an inexpensive way to protect your investment.
- Host Stand – Since patios are usually set up in front of an establishment, restaurateurs have started to set up secondary host stands outside or moving their primary host stand outside. Having an outdoor host stand can reduce the amount of clutter around the doorway when people are waiting for tables inside and out.
Bar Patio Area: As previously stated, most patio bars feature a dining area and will need all of the standard pieces required to set up a patio dining area. Patio bars also, however, have some pressing back bar needs that business owners need to examine before setting up.
- Plastic “Glassware” – For the same reason that melamine tableware is used, glassware should be replaced with clear (or colored) polycarbonate cups, carafes and pitchers. Glass breaks much easier than ceramic, and polycarbonate is an inexpensive way to save on replacing glassware.
- Keg & Bottle Coolers – Refrigerated storage is key behind the patio bar. Temperatures outside get much higher in the summer than inside the standard bar, so having plenty of refrigerated space for bottle beverages is crucial. Draft beer dispensing coolers are a must if you intend on serving draft beer. They are the best way to keep keg beer flowing cold on the otherwise hot outdoor patio. Operations with large draft systems may be able to connect their tap lines to their outdoor patio, however, when doing so, make sure those tap lines stay cold.
- Ice Bins / Sinks / Glass Washers – The dishwashing station and ice machines will be inside, and as outdoor patios get busy, there isn’t always time to keep running back and forth. Make sure that you’re patio has adequately sized and insulated ice bins, as well as a properly sized sink and several (depending on your bar’s size) manual glass washers.
- Blender / Frozen Drink Machine – When the weather gets warm people tend to drink more frozen / blended beverages. A blender is absolutely essential on every patio bar, but depending on the number of frozen beverages your business will be serving up on your patio, a frozen beverage machine may be a way to save time. Frozen drink machines can hold several different flavors, and can save bartenders the time it takes to make frozen beverages and wash the blender.
- Refrigerated / Ice Cooled Condiment Station – Condiments / bar fruit end up on every bar, especially the often tropical themed patio bar, but fruit won’t last very long resting out in the summer heat. An ice cooled or refrigerated condiment station will not only save your patio bar money in fruit, but also help keep away some of the pests that warm fruit attracts.