Tips for Designing the Outside of Your Restaurant

Restaurant outdoor dining area

Krishan Ghansela / Pixabay

While the dining room, bar, and kitchen are important parts of any new restaurant's design, don’t forget about the outside and entry areas. After all, it is the first area that customers see. Signage, lighting, seating, and decorations are just a few areas to consider when opening a new restaurant.

A Professional Business Sign

Many towns and business districts have strict ordinances for the types of signs that are posted by local businesses. As one of the first steps in opening your own restaurant, you need to determine which regulations and restrictions your business is subject to. Once you know what you can and can’t do for signage, you can hire a professional sign maker to create a specifically designed sign for your restaurant.

While there are some things in a restaurant you can do yourself- such as printing your menus, making your own outside sign isn’t something we'd recommend. Too many restaurants come and go, who don’t invest in a decent sign. A homemade (such as spray-painted on plywood) sign or a temporary Coca-Cola banner sends a message that your business intent is not serious and can deter potential customers. Remember, first impressions are Important.

Lighting and Other Signage

Parking signs, cellphone use, no smoking, open/close and any other signs you post outside of your restaurant entrance should also be professionally done. They will look better and last longer than a simple handwritten sign or one that you printed yourself.

Adequate lighting is necessary for customer safety as well as ambiance. Some strategically placed outdoor lights will create enough lighting without making customers feel as though they are in a police spotlight. Fairy lights (or little white Christmas lights) also add a whimsical touch to outdoor lighting, especially in the summertime. You can wind them through window boxes and planters.

Trash Receptacles

Placing a trash can or cigarette trash receptacle next to your entrance can prevent cigarette butts from being thrown on the ground. However, many people may not be happy about having to walk through smoke to enter your restaurant. And also consider that many towns and states have ordinances that ban smoking within twenty feet or more of any public entrance.

Restaurant Information

Outside menu boards or a glass menu case posted next to the entrance of your new restaurant is a great way to showcase your menu and lure in some foot traffic. Be sure to have adequate lighting for the menu board, so customers can read it in the evening as well. Along with wall mounted menu boards, you can also use a sandwich board on the sidewalk to advertise daily and nightly menu specials.

Outdoor Seating

If you have space, you can place a bench or two for customers to wait, in good weather. You could also set up some small tables and chairs, reminiscent of a French sidewalk café. The furniture you choose should be attractive as well as durable. While you may be able to find some outdoor furniture at a local big box store, a restaurant equipment supplier will carry sturdy patio furniture, ideal for commercial use, in a variety of styles to suit your particular concept or theme.

Beautifying an Outdoor Dining Space 

You can extend your restaurant’s ambiance to your entrance area with music. Many popular chain restaurants employ this technique. Just make sure your music isn’t too loud for your neighbors. An awning over your entrance area serves multiple purposes. It shelters customers from rain as well as sun. It can double as a sign for your business. And it adds a welcoming feel to your restaurant. Many companies specialize in awnings, allowing you to select specific colors and designs to suit your restaurant theme.

A few well-filled planters or window boxes can really dress up even the plainest of entrances. They are a low cost, low-fuss way to decorate during the summer. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, there is probably someone on your staff who enjoys gardening- ask that person to help you oversee the plants by water and pruning when needed.