Restuarant Concept

Create an Outdoor Oasis with Today’s Restaurant Patio Design Trends

While Alaska may have another month of winter, for most of us, spring has arrived. Every year, the National Phenology Network lists the Status of Spring. Defined by the first buds appearing on once barren trees and the first spring blooms, they determine where spring has sprung. For instance, in Green Bay, WI, it arrived five days early. The coastal regions of Washington, Oregon, Northern California, some of the Great Plains, and the southern Midwest are seeing the earliest arrival of spring on record. 

So, what does that mean for the restaurant industry? 

It’s time to spruce up your patio, get out the lighting and outdoor heaters, and surprise and delight your customers. These areas allow you to enhance the guest experience, an all-important consideration in today’s action-oriented and experiential-minded customer. 

It’s also very lucrative. In an interview with MENU Magazine, David Hopkins, President of The Fifteen Group, said, “If you’ve got an 80-seat patio and you can turn 40 more people per day just because you’re efficient, that will probably amount to about $100,000 to $120,000 more profit over the course of the summer.” 

And that was back in 2021. Not bad.

If designed correctly, these outdoor spaces can also attract new guests, leading to more word-of-mouth recommendations and a rising number of brand-loyal enthusiasts. Let’s explore the latest outdoor dining trends and how you can create an experience your guests will talk about now and far into the future.

No Patio? No Problem

A patio is a general term in the restaurant industry that refers to any space that offers diners the beauty of the outdoors while enjoying their meal. It may be found on a rooftop, along a sidewalk, and even in a parking lot. One of the benefits of the pandemic was the change in county ordinances that opened spaces for outdoor dining. Make sure to check your local regulations, and then start on your expansion plans. Here are some design ideas to consider.

An Oasis

Who wouldn’t want to dine in an oasis-like setting? There are a few key ingredients that go into creating this mesmerizing space. 

  • Plants—Lots of Plants: If you’re not a plant enthusiast, offer some of the experts at your neighborhood nursery a meal on the house in exchange for some ideas. They’ll know the plants that grow in your area, including those that thrive in shade and dappled sunlight. 

They’ll also know what types of plants create different aesthetics. Some offer a tropical retreat, while others engage the senses with a luscious fragrance. You can create a romantic, beach-like, or desert oasis with the right plants. Ideally, if the right growing conditions exist, they’ll align with your concept. For instance, if you own a Mediterranean restaurant, consider herbs like basil, lavender, and rosemary, and vines like bougainvillea and jasmine. Be sure to ask for the non-poisonous varieties and discuss how to care for your new friends.

Optimum placement creates an inspired setting and can screen diners from each other, helping enhance privacy.

  • Lights Resembling Starlight and Moonglow: Today’s outdoor LED lights can genuinely create a magical moment. Did we say Instagram-worthy? Hidden tape lights create breathtaking beauty from an unseen source. Wall sconces create a charming ambiance. String lights can make a star-like effect. 

If you’re fortunate enough to have a tree on your patio or the space for one, highlight it with string lights or place downlights high in the branches, creating the effect of moonlight illuminating your outdoor area. LED lights can be changed with a button, transforming from a golden candlelight glow to cerulean and aqua for a tropical feel.

  • Incorporate the Elements: Eating outdoors appeals to those who want to enjoy nature as they dine. Adding the natural elements can enhance this experience. 

Consider a fountain to add the sound of running water. Chimes bring in the element of air while adding a relaxing component. Custom fire pits or fireplaces can entice customers and attract attention. Fire bowls offer an alternative for smaller patios. Even the right candles can create an enchanting atmosphere. 

Hanging lanterns, globes, and wrought iron glass candle holders offer unique and beautiful lighting in nearly limitless designs. If you’re going tropical and have the room, the latest tiki torches provide the perfect illumination.

Experiential Dining

Experiential dining is more than Instagram-worthy décor. Like most memorable experiences, it’s unique and adventuresome. In restaurants, it hits the perfect note between aesthetics and flavor. If you’re going for an island theme, add some unique menu items that resonate with your new design and take your guests on a journey.

If you have the space, you can add outdoor games like bocce ball or ping pong. One restaurant, Pinewood in Nashville, even added dipping pools and food served from their retro airstream.


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