February 16

The Best Restaurant Patio Cooling Options


A Guide On The Best Ways To Cool A Restaurant Patio During the Warmer (And Hotter) Months To Keep Customers and Staff Comfortable

The last few summers have been a doozy. With record heat nationwide (and worldwide), restaurants are taking all kinds of strides to keep their workers cool during the hot, hot weather. 

For restaurants that now depend on their outside patio seating as a lifeline for revenue—the increased heat poses another problem: keeping patrons cool.

To help you beat the heat and keep that patio full well into the Fall, we scoured the earth and found the best outdoor cooling systems for restaurant patios for 2024. 

Mr. Misters

Take these broken pipes and learn to spray again, seriously—go listen to Mr. Mister. I was disappointed to learn that the band wasn’t named after a sentient spray nozzle, but I DID learn that the band is from Phoenix, Arizona, where temperatures last year were over 110 for ten days straight.

Misters can reduce surrounding temperatures by as much as 30% when properly installed. Not only that, but they are surprisingly energy efficient. Data supports that the water used to generate electricity for the average air conditioner is almost double the gallons per hour that a 10 x 10-foot outdoor misting system would use.

Most misting systems consist of a series of tubes that carry the water from the source to distribute it throughout your outdoor area. Then the water is vaporized at high pressure, where each nozzle is placed. The higher the strength (measured in PSI or pounds per square inch) the water is at each nozzle, the cooler the effect.

Proper installation includes one nozzle per 3 feet of tubing and adequate PSI at the nozzles, which will vary with the number of nozzles you need. We found everything from as little as 40 PSI straight from your location’s water supply will work. Still, the higher the PSI, the more effectively the nozzles will turn water droplets into water vapor. A pump can evenly distribute as much as 1000 PSI to lengthier systems. Pumps run anywhere from $750 to over $2500. Whole systems can be bought for $1480 and come with all kinds of upgrades and options.

There are several options for portable misting fans. Some can be used with a drum of water that has to be replaced (good for remote locations or areas without a water supply), but most of them connect to your faucet normally. Really good industrial ones can be found for $250 bucks.

There are also large misting umbrellas and misting boxes that are one unit with many nozzles that can be placed strategically.
A few factors to consider when deciding if patio misters will help cool your patio: 


  • Dry environments (low humidity)
  • Breezy but not too windy
  • Access to water but not in places where water prices are abnormally high
  • Great in covered and semi-covered patios


  • Humid environments won’t be ideal, and it won’t make them completely ineffective but drier climates are where misters really shine.
  • If low water pressure is an issue at your location, you may need a pump. Pumps for systems of moderate size can become very expensive.
  • Proper care means regular upkeep. Leaky nozzles and systems can drip on customers or just fail completely. Rust and mineral deposits can clog nozzles, potentially meaning annual replacements.

Throw some shade at your customers. They deserve it.

This one’s for the K.I.S.S. crowd. Shade is just the best thing you can do for your outdoor diners. You will have to account for things like wind and securing whatever you choose to install, but after that, mild upkeep will be all that is required. 

Longevity is the main concern, so remember that bamboo or other woven wood shades will deteriorate much faster than vinyl or canvas. With vinyl being the most waterproof option, you might need to accommodate for the random summer rainstorm, but if that’s rare, a canvas tarp can more effectively trap heat, thus absorbing it instead of your guests.

Rigid aluminum sheeting works best for the reduction of heat as it absorbs heat quickly but disperses it quickly, too. Keep in mind that this is only an option for more permanent structures. 

The last thing to remember is open airflow. Trapping heat in closed-off spaces can be worse than no shade at all.

Outdoor Air Condition Could Work, But Stick to Evaporative Cooling

In closed spaces like your car or house, a normal air conditioner gets several passes to continually cool the air over and over, achieving its target temperature. This process creates a lot of heat, which is generated outside and kept there.

Outdoor environments won’t allow for this continuous cooling process, and being outside where your AC produces massive amounts of heat makes it almost impossible. That is, with one very specific exception: Evaporative Coolers.

Portacool Cyclone 140 costs a little over $1200, but it can cool a space up to 900 sqft. You’d likely want to close this space off as best you can. You can use one big unit (and my god, they get huge), but you’ll be paying about $5,000. If your patio is permanent and supports a ducting system, you can more effectively distribute the cooler air directly where customers are sitting.

Lastly, Plants and Fans

In the same way a mister lowers temperatures by using evaporation, plants can be a somewhat effective add-on to a patio. Not only do they supply some natural shade, but the plants themselves will pull heat out of the air. The soil also stores moisture and converts heat as it evaporates.

When all else fails, plain old fans keep the air moving and dispersing the heat naturally, so don’t rule them out when tackling cooling your outdoor tables this summer.

With the hotter days on the horizon, now is the time to start planning how to keep those dinners cool and collected on your restaurant patio this Summer. 

Evaluate your patio environment to determine what will work best for you, and once you have things functioning year round—check out Poached to hire a couple of extra hands to keep that patio fully operational!

About the author

Jakup Martini

Jakup Martini likes to quote the movie Ghostbusters in social settings... During the rectification of the Vuldronaii, the Traveler came as a large and moving Torb! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the Meketrex supplicants, they chose a new form for him - that of a giant Sloar! Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of a Sloar that day, I can tell you!


You may also like

Hire Faster, Hire Better.