Creating an inviting restaurant patio may seem like a daunting task, but as long as you have an external space to utilize, all you need is a bit of ingenuity. There are plenty of low-budget outdoor restaurant design ideas to transform your courtyard, back alley, or sidewalk into a diner-friendly oasis.
Explore these design tips to beautify your restaurant patio
1. Easiest outdoor restaurant design hack? Expand onto the sidewalk
As restaurant patio ideas go, the sidewalk can be prime real estate for outdoor dining. A packed and cheerful sidewalk patio provides a breezy place for your patrons to dine, while also giving passersby the opportunity to see what you have to offer.
2. Provide accessible seating
An accessible seating plan is key to making your patio welcoming to guests of all abilities. If your outdoor dining area is visible from the sidewalk, anyone will be able to see if there’s space or judge whether the place is too crowded. Consider how to accommodate groups vs. couples — benches make for fun, social dining, while smaller tables allow for privacy — and be mindful of customers with different mobility needs. Ramps provide access to elevated areas, while railings, automatic doors, line-of-sight travel corridors, and Braille signage can also ensure that your outdoor restaurant space remains inclusive.
3. Create a dog-friendly restaurant patio design
A restaurant that accommodates dogs invites a whole new dynamic to the table. Water bowls (placed away from high-traffic areas), secure o-rings or metal fixtures for tying down leashes, and spacious corner tables that leave ample room between parties with dogs and other diners are thoughtful touches that any dog owner will appreciate.
4. Create visual appeal with low-budget outdoor restaurant design
Take advantage of your location by placing patio tables in the best spot to take in the sights. Adding some greenery can also make any space visually appetizing: Think hanging ferns or climbing vines, bold planters, and mini palm trees. You could even use hedges as natural barriers to pedestrian traffic. Small, cheerful plant pots on each table can brighten up the place, while artificial or dried flowers eliminate the need for garden maintenance.
5. Pick a theme to brighten up your outdoor restaurant design
A creative theme based on your restaurant concept or your own personal interests can really step up your outdoor restaurant design. Serve tacos and margaritas? Spice up the space with some beautiful tiles, flags, and other items from Mexico. Like classic cars? Collectible license plates, unique vintage hubcaps, and antique tools can up your patio’s motorhead appeal.
Color schemes are another way to make your restaurant stand out visually. If your neighbors use muted tones, consider bright colors for your signage, outdoor furniture, decor, umbrellas, or tableware. If you’re surrounded by vibrant design, go minimal with a sleek neutral color palette. Whatever your aesthetic is, have fun with it — and your diners will too.
6. Beautiful lighting elevates your outdoor restaurant design
Lighting is a key feature that will define a restaurant’s ambience, inside and out. Solar-charged table lamps are attractive and will also save on power costs. Candles are a romantic classic, but flameless options minimize fire risk and are an equally ambience-setting alternative. Roll out the multicolored string lights for the festive season. And weaving fairy lights amongst your greenery will make your patio feel like a magical secret garden.
7. A simple outdoor restaurant design tip: provide shelter from the elements
A few simple touches can ensure your outdoor dining area is welcoming all year round. Think transparent screens, wind barriers, strong retractable awnings, or sturdy umbrellas to shield diners from the sun or the rain. To keep the space comfortable even in winter, add outdoor heaters and blankets.
8. Showcase your menu
There’s nothing better than sitting down to a meal full of the freshest bounty nature can offer, while local specialities and seasonal ingredients attract diners looking for variety. If your tables are visible to passers-by, vibrant dishes will catch anyone’s eye and get them wondering whether it’s time for lunch yet.
But to really create a lively atmosphere on your restaurant patio, consider bringing part of the kitchen outside. Outdoor bars put your cocktail-shaking bartenders in the spotlight, while an outdoor pizza oven will instantly become the center of attention.
9. Provide signage to streamline your outdoor patio operations
Balancing indoor and outdoor restaurant operations can be overwhelming. To make it easier on your staff, provide clear signage directing customers to the different areas. Make your host area easily accessible from the entrance to prevent customers from taking a seat on the patio before they have been greeted by staff.
Remember, indoor customers and online orders will be coming in at the same time as your outdoor diners, so balancing operations are crucial. You can find tips for efficient patio operations in our blog post How to Prepare Your Restaurant for Outdoor Dining.
Share your restaurant patio ideas with the world
Once you’ve created your unique outdoor dining area, all that’s left is to invite diners to the table. Be sure to update your website, social media, and email newsletters to alert guests of the new dining options. A picture is worth a thousand words, so doing a photoshoot beforehand will help you spotlight your new patio.
You can also help the space market itself by adding unique, personalized touches that will have guests reaching for their own cameras. Just one distinctive feature — like a gorgeous mural or an entertaining turn of phrase in beautiful lettering on your wall — will attract social media-minded diners. While you’re at it, create your own hashtag and put it somewhere prominent on your menus or signage.
Ready to share your special outdoor space with the world? Check out our Guide to Instagram Marketing to learn how to make social media work for your business — whether you own a restaurant, liquor store, or food truck.