outdoor dining expereience with wine and lights

The Essentials for Treating Customers to an Enjoyable Outdoor Dining Experience

When the weather warms and the evenings last longer, there is nothing more inviting than alfresco dining or happy hour on a patio bar.  If outdoor dining is a new option at your establishment, it’s easy to overlook some of the simple things that make the experience more pleasant for your customers. Take the following outdoor dining essentials into consideration to create an enjoyable atmosphere that customers will want to return to.

Climate Control

Whether its the summer humidity on the East Coast or the chilly breeze blowing off nearby oceans or lakes, nature can sometimes interfere with a comfortable outdoor dining experience.  When you’re introducing sidewalk or patio dining at your establishment, you need to consider the temperature and what you may need to add to ensure your customers are comfortable.

To protect from a hot noonday sun, you can utilize large patio umbrellas, an awning, or a pergola to provide shade.  Ceiling fans and misting systems are also available to provide a cooling effect for diners. To protect customers from the evening chill, strategically placing space heaters or fire elements around the dining area will provide just enough warmth.

Proper Lighting

Evening alfresco dining is a romantic notion, but it’s not enjoyable when you have to squint and struggle to read the menu.  When creating an outdoor dining space, choose lighting options that provide enough light for your customers and service staff to see their surroundings, but not too bright that you’re taking away from the ambiance.

Popular choices include strings of globe lights hanging overhead, paper lanterns or hurricane candles on tables, or floor lamps or light posts placed throughout the dining space.

Upgraded Paper Goods

Outdoor food and drink service requires paper goods that can stand up to the elements.  Outdoor dining brings with it several issues that you don’t need to worry about when eating indoors, including heat, wind, and unwelcomed pests. Consider upgrading your paper goods to address outdoor dining challenges.

Glass caps

If these aren’t currently in your paper goods inventory, you’ll want to add them for the outdoor dining season.  Paper covers for glasses are a must-have when leaves, petals, or other debris blow on to your patio or sidewalk eating area.  They are also perfect for protecting drinks from insects that happen to buzz by.  Multiple sizes are available to fit water glasses, cocktail glasses, or even soda and beer cans.


There’s nothing more annoying than a strong breeze that blows paper napkins around the table.  For outdoor dining, choose napkins made of a sturdier material, like Linclass Airlaid.  Airlaid is woven paper material that is nearly indistinguishable from fabric. It offers the convenience of a disposable product but with more durability.


Summer cocktails are great fun.  But condensation and sloppy coasters are not!  While a multi-layer tissue coaster may work well for indoor drink service, when heat and humidity cause condensation on drink glasses, tissue coasters can begin to disintegrate.  For drinks outdoors, use coasters made from durable materials such as Airlaid, absorbent paper, or thicker pulpboard.

Accident-Proof Dinnerware and Drinkware

When you’re serving customers outside, you may want to skip using your highest quality plates and wine glasses.  At the same time, you don’t have to go as far as serving on paper plates and “to-go” cups.  There are plenty of outdoor-safe tableware and drinkware options that you can use and still maintain the style of your establishment.

Melamine dinnerware is a durable and stylish option for plates and dishes.  They have an appearance similar to china or ceramic dinnerware, but are resistant to chips and cracks and won’t break if dropped on harder outdoor surfaces.  Reusable plastic drinkware is also an essential for patio dining and outdoor bars.  All varieties of drinkware are available in plastic, from cocktail glasses and tumblers to wine glasses and pint glasses.

Restaurant Development + Design offers even more information on creating a winning outdoor dining and bar area.

Alfred Mank provides custom-printed paper products for outdoor dining and bar service, including coasters, bar mats, and glass caps. Request a quote or free sample to see first-hand the quality of our products.