September 15

Keep Your Outdoor Seating Going All Winter

If you’re looking to extend your patio seating this Winter, here’s what you need to know.

With Fall a week away and the end of patio season in sight, restaurants nationwide are beginning to grapple with the realities of indoor dining restrictions during the pandemic. For some, investing in a winterized patio is the best solution to keeping doors open, extending guest capacity and ensuring customer safety. If you’re just now considering your options, figuring out where to start can be overwhelming. Looking for advice, we turned to Teote, a Portland, OR restaurant serving up Latin American street food in their magnificent year-round patios that showcase the artwork of Teote’s founder, Michael Kennett. Matthew Latterell, part owner and manager of Teote, gave us advice on the fundamentals of building a temporary — or more permanent — winterized patio and key points restaurants should keep in mind.

Maintain ambiance 

“We always set up our patios to be an extension of our indoor space, so that it hopefully feels like you’re somewhat inside,” said Latterell. “We put in fire pits, an attractive covered ceiling, artwork and ambiance into the patio to hopefully make it feel like a natural extension of our indoor space.”

Guests want to feel like they’re in the restaurant they’re visiting — ensuring that the atmosphere you create in your winterized patio represents the core character of your restaurant is extremely important in how comfortable your guests feel. Stylizing your covered outdoor patio with quality lighting, greenery and artwork will go a long way in creating an impressive outdoor space, and keep your guests satisfied they received the full experience of your restaurant. Latterell emphasized that other than heating, ambiance shouldn’t be an afterthought for restaurants looking to create a covered patio to get through the winter.

Create Heat

“Heat is really important.” Latterell emphasised. “You’re never going to make a patio the same temp as the indoors, but our goal is to try for an ambient temperature of at least 55-60 degrees. With fire pits, heaters and you know people are layered up — then they’re going to have a good time.”

When offering a warm and inviting outdoor space to guests — the goal is to create heat and retain heat. Latterell shared that Teote’s patio has a combination of natural gas heaters fixed to their ceiling and walls and a couple of propane umbrella heaters, in addition to fire pits. He suggests installing a mounted heater that connects to a gas line to restaurants with that option as a more cost effective solution. Ultimately, creating heat from any source should be your main focus. Then, it should be how you retain that heat. At Teote, they’ve installed removable vinyl curtains, which keep the patio well ventilated, but are thick enough to hold most of the heat. For a more permanent structure, consider curtains that come in panels and connect through snaps or zippers — these are something to invest in because they make it easy to remove in the Summer, and reapply when the weather turns.

Abide regulations

“If there is an opportunity to create a more lasting space, restaurants should consult a contractor, maybe an engineer and definitely jurisdiction regulations for both permanent and semi-permanent structures.” Latterell advised.

Regulations around outdoor structures vary from state to city and sometimes between counties— it’s extremely important that you consult your local jurisdiction to ensure the space you are building meets all the requirements. Latterell expressed that in Portland at least, there are smoking regulations, seismic regulations, fire regulations and of course COVID-19 health regulations. These things are serious, and they can cost you a lot of time and money if they are ignored.

“If you’re trying to create a patio for this Winter, focus on heating and how you’re going to retain the heat, because you’re spending all your money on heat that will just be blown away. If you’re looking for a permanent winterized patio, then take the time and be intentional about it being an extension of your restaurant.” Latterell stated in his final words of advice. No matter what you’re looking to create, or how much budget you can put into winterizing your patio this coming season — once you make the initial investment there is very little maintenance in years to follow. And while it certainly will help expand your business during the next six to nine months, it’s something you might be happy you took the time to do in years to come.

About the author


Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.


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