How to Organize Your Restaurant’s Patio During the Pandemic

The pandemic has led to a lot of restrictions hitting the hospitality industry. These restrictions are focused on indoor activity, which has made restaurants with patios and decks very attractive to customers. Customers will now prefer restaurant’s patio because of how the wind mitigates their exposure to COVID-19. Patios and decks are becoming a big draw and need to be capitalized on. 

Here are several tips to setting up a restaurant patio that will draw customers in. 

It goes without saying that the distancing of tables is vital to keeping up with state and local laws. Having your customers feel safe, with proper social distancing guidelines, is crucial to the success of your business. Table seating needs to be set up so that everyone has enough space to move around and sit comfortably. Walking lanes, for servers and customers, need to flow correctly and be clearly defined. Tables should not be placed in front of doors because of spacing issues with other tables. Properly spacing your restaurant may mean having to remove some tables. Depending on the setup of the restaurant, you may need to rope off a few parking spaces by the patio and extend the seating out into the parking lot. Special permits may be required. It’s alway best to know your state and local laws first.

With outdoor seating now being the focus, providing the serving staff with the tools they need to serve each section effectively is now very important. It’s the norm in restaurants to have servers come inside, to a point of sale system, and enter orders, then swipe a pin pad. That could mean a lot of extra mileage for the servers. An outdoor server station could reduce the amount of walking a server does, giving them more time to interact with their tables. But an outdoor server station would require housing and protection from the weather. If that is not feasible, then giving each server their own point of sale tablet is another viable option. Total Merchant Supply offers 7” or 10” Windows tablets; the perfect size for entering orders. We always advise employees to have them wiped down between shifts and at the end of the day.

The Weather will always play a factor in the attractiveness of a patio. Whether it is losing the ability to seat customers outside, when a storm moves in, or not baking the customer under the hot glaring sun; covering and shade will do a lot for a patio or deck. Umbrella awnings and retractable canopies both serve to cover your customers from the sun and rain. A different approach can be taken by planting a tree in the middle of your patio or deck. A pergola can be decorated with ivy or even grape vines to provide shade. Finally, greenery can help improve the overall look of a restaurant’s patio.

There are a lot of options when it comes to what kind of outdoor furniture to put on your patio or deck. Round or square tables, high top or standard tables, etc, could all be used to improve the quality of your restaurant’s patio. Most importantly, don’t overlook the pros and cons of the material these tables and chairs are made from. Plastic is cheap, light weight, and struggles to hold up in most kinds of weather. They eventually fade and become brittle due to too much exposure to sunlight. Metal furniture is moderately expensive, heavy, and will last the longest if cleaned properly. However, it can get very hot in the summer and can be uncomfortable for customers. Wood furniture is expensive, sturdy and will last a long time, if it is taken care of. It can be a little time consuming to stain and coat them regularly. That being said, wood furniture tends to look the best on a patio or deck, than other material. Furniture from pallets in the gazebo. Sofa and table in the barbecue lounge area.

Lastly, adding that signature touch, that makes any patio and deck unique to your restaurant, will give the customer a reason, beyond food, to come back. Decorations like ceiling fans, fire pits, heaters, and misting systems will add a bit of comfort and flair. String lights, curtains, and potted plants will add to the ambience. Bike racks and large dog water bowls can help make patios more inclusive. There are endless decor options and ideas that can be covered here, so keep an eye out! 

These tips and tricks will help any restaurant owner capitalize on the growing profitability of their patios and decks. The pandemic may continue to change how restaurants do business. Having an appealing patio, that draws customers in and makes them look forward to returning with friends, will be a step in the right direction. 

As always, we are here to help. Let us know if you have any questions. 

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Total Merchant Supply is a POS dealer based in Charlotte, NC

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