Creating an Outdoor Oasis

Tis the season for drinking and dining al fresco! Make sure you have everything you need to get your outdoor dining area ready for the spring and summer months.

The first thing to consider is the aesthetic. It’s important to realize this outdoor area is an extension of the inside of your establishment—not an entirely separate space. “This ultimately expands customer capacity and gives owners the opportunity to increase revenue,” says Jessica Dowling, style expert at Wayfair Business. “A bar or restaurant should always keep branding in mind when decorating their outdoor space. After all, it’s a continuation of the indoor dining room and is a reflection of the company’s brand. It is the first space customers see, so it should be inviting and have a cohesive look to what customers will see inside.”

Those customers are who you should keep in mind when choosing furniture and other décor for outdoor spaces. “When bar and restaurant owners are choosing outdoor furniture, they should first think of their target demographic. It is important that owners select décor that is aesthetically pleasing to the audience they’re catering to,” says Dowling. “From there, I recommend selecting furniture that is durable, commercially-rated, and has a warranty.”

Outdoor furniture is exposed to the elements, and only certain materials will hold up in outdoor conditions.

“To protect your furniture against the elements, it starts with buying the right product to begin with—taking preventive measures is key,” says Dowling. “It is best to avoid natural materials, like wood and fiber, as this requires upkeep and as a result, can be an added expense to the organization. It is better to choose synthetic fibers and items that are rust-resistant—rod iron and metal materials have come a long way over the years.”

Aside from choosing the right materials and finishes, owners need to make sure they maintain the furniture by keeping it clean and covering it in bad weather.

As for setting up that furniture once you’ve chosen it, Dowling recommends having a floor plan laid out before you start and to take your time assembling and placing the pieces.

“Design the outdoors like you do for indoors – make it aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, and find the right-sized tables so wait staff can get around easily,” she says.

Of course your establishment will need more than just weather-resistant tables and chairs to ensure your patrons are comfortable outdoors. “The more comfortable guests are, the more likely they will enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant or bar and come back,” says Dowling. “Incorporate heat lamps, fire pits in a lounge space, and shades when needed. One of my favorite touches is placing blankets on the back of chairs during colder months.”

There are many ways to shade from the sun and rain, but the first thing to consider is the location of your establishment. If you’re a beachside bar or restaurant that experiences a lot of wind, you’ll want a sturdy umbrella that can withstand those ocean winds as well as the wear and tear of the saltwater air. In this instance, TUUCI, an outdoor parasol manufacturer based in Miami, Florida, recommends its Ocean Master MAX collection, which is designed to withstand high winds.

All of TUUCI’s frames are constructed from durable, marine-grade, weather-resistant materials—including fiberglass, armor-wall aluminum, Dura-TEAK composites, Aluma-TEAK aluminum and sustainable hardwood—so saltwater air isn’t a problem. Also, all fasteners (nuts, bolts, pulleys, cam cleats, etc.) are marine-grade stainless steel and will withstand the most corrosive environments. This comes as no surprise since CEO Dougan Clarke spent time as a boat rigger and incorporated much of what he learned into TUUCI’s durable products.

In other instances, wind isn’t the problem. “Sometimes we’ll work with a space that is in a courtyard so they might not experience a lot of wind, but they have a lot of sunshine they need to shade from,” says Vannessa Cendan, Marketing Manager at TUUCI, who recommends their Plantation collection for these types of locations.

Bar owners also need to decide what type of shading product they’d like to use—an umbrella for each table, or large, rectangular or circular umbrellas that shade a larger area.

Dowling recommends Wayfair Business’ large shade sails. “They reduce temperature and create a cool oasis for guests and employees alike,” she says.

Cabanas are also an option, and TUUCI even offers the ability to customize them with lights, outlets, and Bluetooth speakers. “It creates a hangout space for guests,” says Cendan. “It’s really about comfort, conversation, and community. And it’s so important for us, working with businesses, that we create those spaces where their customers can enjoy a luxurious, comfortable experience and really inspire that connection with each other.”

As with outdoor furniture, it’s important that owners properly care for and maintain their shade products in order to extend their life.

As with all other aspects of outdoor décor, owners should also consider how the umbrella or shade product will fit in with their overall aesthetic.

“It’s not about drawing all the attention to the umbrella. It’s about making sure that it fits in perfectly with the aesthetic that your company already has,” says Cendan. “You want something that fits into the brand and aesthetic, but also serves its purpose, which is to provide shade and bring people to hangout, enjoy themselves, and connect with each other.”

Some establishments even go as far as to brand the umbrella with their bar or restaurant’s name and logo. This further drives home branding, but it also provides a mobile product that a bar can take with them to offsite events that will quickly establish the brand. “That’s a great way to continue with that branding experience so people can continue to relate to it, see it, and recognize it,” says Cendan. “It’s just another great promotional tool that serves more than one purpose—it provides the shade that you need but also promotes the brand.”

By Ashley Bray

Photos: TUUCI & Wayfair Business.