Inviting spaces for outdoor dining and entertainment aren’t just a fun way to improve your guests’ experience these days: during a pandemic, they may be your primary means of keeping your operation going. Restaurants and other entertainment businesses with existing outdoor service spaces had a leg-up on the competition, and those who did not quickly pivoted to be able to serve guests in safe, open-air environments.
Whether you have an existing outdoor space you’re remodeling to better comply with social distancing regulations, or are designing an al fresco entertainment area for the first time, here are some tips for ensuring your commercial patio or deck accommodates your guests in a safe, comfortable, and appealing fashion.
1. Research the Rules
Anything worth doing is worth doing right, so take the time up front to ensure your outdoor space meets all applicable government regulations. These may include:
- Local noise ordinances – Some municipalities have different regulations for different types of noise. For example, Chicago differentiates between music and mechanical equipment noise. Be especially mindful of these ordinances if your business is located within or adjacent to a residential neighborhood.
- Capacity limits – Be sure to consider the various reopening stages or steps as laid out by your city and/or state.
- Permits – Some cities and counties require restaurants to obtain specific patio permits to offer outdoor dining while others don’t. Other permit considerations will depend on what you plan to offer your al fresco guests, such as serving alcohol or allowing dog owners to bring their canine companions.
2. Map It Out
The axiom “measure twice, cut once” comes into play here. Yes, your design should follow city and state requirements, but it should also meet the needs of those who will be using it. Make sure your layout allows your guests to be entertained comfortably, lets your staff easily maneuver around the space to best serve your guests, and so on. A few measurements to consider:
- Spacing between tables – We’ve all experienced that feeling of being packed in like sardines, whether on an airplane or bus or at a crowded bar, and it’s not an experience that most people enjoy. Give your guests a quality experience with ample room to sit down, get up, and navigate around your outdoor space without hassle.
- Doors and other entry/exit points – Getting into and out of your outdoor space is just as important as moving around in it. Be sure entrances and exits are not blocked, and that any doors leading to/from your patio are given sufficient room to be safely operated.
- Space surrounding appliances and serving areas – Some of this is common sense; for example, you certainly would not want to seat guests directly next to a blazing-hot pizza oven! You also don’t want servers tripping over tables to get to the outdoor bar, or one unlucky table of diners to be situated next to the air conditioner unit. Put yourself in your guests’ and staff members’ shoes and make sure appliances meant to enhance the outdoor entertaining experience do not unintentionally hinder it.
3. Set It Up
You’ve done your due diligence and calculated every relevant measurement; now it’s time to start bringing your outdoor entertaining dream to life. Here are some key elements to factor in:
- Proper furniture – When determining the right tables and chairs for your al fresco experience, do take into consideration guest comfort: for example, bar stools and chairs may be difficult for some guests to get into and out of. Also think about the heft of the furniture: pieces should be light enough to be rearranged as needed, but heavy enough that they aren’t easily disrupted by windy weather. Last but not least, invest in durable pieces that can withstand the elements and general wear-and-tear to avoid frequently replacing damaged chairs and tables.
- Inclement weather – Think about your geographic location and typical weather throughout the seasons. If your area is prone to rain, you may want to invest in patio umbrellas, pergolas, or another type of covering that provides protection from wet weather. Lots of not-quite-cold but not-especially-warm days? Patio heaters could facilitate outdoor entertaining during chilly temperatures. On the other end of the spectrum, awnings and fans can keep your guests comfortable on sweltering days.
No matter the size or shape of your outdoor space, we’re here to help guide you through the process to create the commercial space that you and your guests deserve. Contact Souder Brothers today!