Creating Ambience in Restaurant Outdoor Seating

July 14, 2016

The Ambience that People Want

Restaurants with outdoor seating offer something that people want-the outdoor dining experience. A leisurely lunch, an evening celebration with friends, or a romantic dinner are more appealing in an outdoor setting with ambience. Whether it’s a rooftop terrace, an intimate outdoor café, an outdoor wine and coffee bar on a second story patio, an elegant restaurant with a breathtaking lake view, or a table for six at a covered beer garden – restaurants with outdoor seating are in demand.

“We like to watch the people passing by.”

“We enjoy the view of the river.”

“We love the ambience of dining outdoors, especially in the evening.”

Creating the Ambience: Space, Fabric, Trellises, Plants, and Lights!

Cafe Flore sidewalk seating.jpg

“Cafe Flore sidewalk seating” by Andreas Weigend from San Francisco, USA – IMG_0718. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

How can restaurants create an inviting outdoor dining space? It can be done by locating the best space, and creating ambience with fabric, trellises, plants and lights.

For restaurant owners, it may mean some initial investment, but it’s typically easy to recover, even if you can only set up a small intimate seating area. “It has majorly paid off,” says Heather Ramola, who co-owns IndeBlue in Collingswood, NJ, with her chef husband, Rakeesh Ramola. We’ve seen a large increase in business in the warm weather months… when the winter is especially cold, guests can hardly wait for the weather to break so they can sit outside,” Ramola explained in a recent article in the Courier-Post.

If you own a restaurant, bar, pub, or cafe these tips can help you set up outdoor dining areas.

Finding the Space

  • Be sure the outdoor seating location is protected from noise and exhaust
  • When possible, place the outdoor area where it can be seen by people passing by, but still has a feeling of privacy (outdoor diners are an advertisement for a restaurant or pub)
  • Consider adding a live musician at evening performances or afternoon brunches… particularly if the setting is intimate
  • Use round tables which allow for more space
  • Ensure that you have adequate covering from rain and sun or can provide indoor seating if a sudden storm arises

Defining the Space

Define your space using trellises, facades, carefully placed trees or shrubs, fabric, or drapes. These can be arranged around seating areas to contribute to privacy and buffer sound. Outdoor trees and shrubs in corners add to the feeling of being in nature. Shrubs, trees, facades, and trellises also provide a place to hang lights-the magical element in outdoor dining. If you are planning on conducting outside cooking during the warmer months, then you may want to see what type of equipment you can bring outside for you to use. For example, there are portable commercial sinks that can be used all over, as well as cooking appliances that will help showcase your skills as you entertain at the same time.

LED Lights-the Magical Element

Lights have the most potential to dramatically affect the ambience for outdoor dining. Utilize outdoor LED lights to create a unique, magical look for evening diners. String them on the building, in trees or shrubs, along facades and trellises and even along umbrella stands. Choices in bulb sizes and style, colors, combinations of colors, and strand types allows you to create different moods: romantic, festive, funky, bold, cool and refreshing, or patriotic. Don’t just think of using basic white. Lighting options for your restaurant’s outdoor dining can be matched to the theme of your restaurant, the seating areas, a special event, or a particular dish being featured. These are some popular lighting selection for restaurants with outdoor seating:

LED lights are also energy efficient (saving you on electricity costs), cool to the touch (safer in public areas, especially around children), and environmentally friendly and can be recycled. Consider getting different lighting strands for separate seating areas or for different occasions.