Planning your Patio – Creating Outdoor Tasting Areas – Part 1

March 29, 2017

Spring is officially in swing and it’s time to throw off the coats and open up the outdoor tasting areas.  The focus of this week’s post will be to highlight several considerations for outdoor spaces to help craft a destination place and a memorable experience for your customers.

 1.   Access to Interior Spaces

  • Think about how the outdoor spaces interact with the indoor spaces.  Do you want your customers to walk through the entire building to access the bar or restrooms?  How does your staff move from the bar or kitchen, to their customers outside?  We recommend master planning outdoor and indoor spaces at the same time when possible.  Master planning gives you a clear vision of where you will grow, but allows you to phase and take a manageable piece at a time.

2.   Comfortable Furniture/Variety of Seating

  • You can increase the flexibility and use of the outdoor areas by offering a variety of seats and styles.  Picnic tables are a classic go-to, but by offering alternative options such as Adirondack chairs, benches, and a variety of 2 and 4-top tables, you create opportunities for patrons to find what makes them and their group the most comfortable.
  • Don’t be afraid to introduce non-sitting spaces and furniture as well.  Try introducing a wide drink rail or a few high-tops without chairs to allow the more casual groups to gather and hang out.
  • Location: spread equally through area or offer “zones” for larger groups, casual diners, etc.

3.   Covered Stage/Live Entertainment Areas

  • Bands are a great way to attract a crowd, and providing a defined space for them to perform will create a focal point for the patio and increase the days bands can perform. 
  • Location: Coordinate with the sun, but consider views from the inside as well.  Your winery or brewery isn’t a concert hall, but the more opportunities you can give for people to see the live entertainment the more opportunities you have to fill seats during events.

4.   Fireplace/Radiant Heaters

  • Many customers won’t sit outside if they can’t get warm.  By installing radiant heaters overhead, you can increase the number of days you can use your outdoor areas while keeping the customers at a comfortable temperature range.
  • Another option for temperature control is to use a fire pit or fireplace.  While radiant heaters provide a level of warmth and temperature control, offering a fireplace creates a gathering place for visitors.  The ambiance, warmth, and nostalgia of fireplaces offer a lot of character, just don’t let the kids get to close!
  • Location:  Radiant heaters can be installed overhead in most covered outdoor patio areas.  Fireplaces should be coordinated with the local authorities and fire department depending on their preferences.  If using real wood, make sure you have good ventilation so that smoke doesn’t blow into your building.

5.   Paving vs. Grass Surfaces

  • From experience in the industry, we recommend not limiting yourself and doing both if you can.  By including both paved and unpaved surfaces, you offer more variety to your customers.  Paved areas are great for tables and special event areas. Unpaved areas and grass are relaxing and great for outdoor games, but can get muddy during rainy season and come with more maintenance to keep healthy and aesthetic.
  • Location: Provide key zones of each throughout the outdoor area.  Consider locating paved areas closer to doors where food and drink are most likely to be served.  Locate grass areas further from doors where possible to prevent mud/ cut grass from being accidentally tracked into the building.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to be released next month!