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How to Make Your Restaurant's Outdoor Patio More Appealing This Winter

Our office is on the coast of California, so winter is basically fall but with the occasional bit of morning frost (I own an ice scraper but it’s for cleaning my hiking boots). For the rest of the country, the cold weather has been around for awhile now. With the shorter days, lack of sun, abundance of clouds and cold temperatures, it’s natural for most of us to want to retreat inside! With just a few modifications to our outdoor spaces though, many of us can enjoy time outside year round and still be comfortable. Check out these tips below, inspired by a recent Houzz article, on how to get the most out of your outdoor spaces this winter.

The first tip, and the most obvious, is to address the cold temperatures. There are a few options to combat the heat, the best one will depend on your climate, the size of your patio, and your preferences. Fire pits add a lot of ambiance and romance, they can put out a lot of heat, and can be very inexpensive. They are great for group settings where everyone can gather around to roast sausages or make smores. However, wood burning fire pits are a bit more messy, requiring that you buy and store wood, make kindling, and clean up ashes from time to time. Propane options are easier for restaurants, as they can easily be turned on, off and adjusted on the fly. We have an entire guide on how to choose the best heat source, which you can check out here

Beyond the obvious solution of heating up your space, there are other ways to make colder outdoor spaces more appealing. One of the best options is to make your patio and aesthetically pleasing place to spend time; nothing keeps millenials attention like a perfect Instagram backdrop. Adding winter hardy plants is a great way to add visual interest, and can even make your space feel more upscale. “Bold plants can add valuable height and form while bringing a sense of seclusion” by segmenting areas, making them feel more cozy and intimate. The best plants will depend on your local climate, but some generally good options include Hostas, which feature beautiful, large leaves and come in a variety of colors. Certain varieties of boxwood can also be great options, as they are evergreen and can be trimmed into shapes that look natural and sporadic, or need and tidy. Check out your local nursery for plants that will work in your specific space. 

Speaking of aesthetics, no one is going to be posting lifestyle shots of a poorly lit patio. Warm, bright, diffused light is the name of the game. It should be bright enough that nighttime photos turn out well, but not so bright that it takes away from the ambiance of a winter night outside. Diffused lighting, rather than direct spotlights, are a great option as they remove harsh shadows while still creating the right ambiance. Consider using overhead string lights criss crossed above your patio, and then continue them down the walls. That creates diffused lighting on all sides to provide even lighting. 

Adding new, more comfortable furniture and soft fabrics can help to add warmth to a space. Sitting down on a cold, hard seat isn’t very appealing. Adding removable cushions to your outdoor chairs is an inexpensive and easy way to add a lot of comfort. Tablecloths can also add warmth to a space, especially an oversized piece that blocks the breeze underneath the table. While we’re talking fabrics, having blankets available for your guests is another big draw. Who doesn’t want to get cozy under a warm blanket while enjoying delicious food? We recommend dark fabrics that are less prone to staining, or white fabrics that you can bleach. 

What tips are you going to take away to improve your patio? And what techniques have you already tried? Let us know by connecting with on Instagram.