How outdoor restaurants are winning this winter

Photo Credit: Robin Van Lonkhuijsen

Keeping up with constant change has been one of the main challenges of COVID19 for the global hospitality industry. Over the past eight months it occasionally seemed as if there was a new restriction or regulation every single day and almost every one affected restaurants, bars and hotels, directly or indirectly. But an amazing number of businesses worldwide have been clever, creative and indomitable in the face of the health crisis. And with winter fast approaching, the latest hurdle is of course how to keep customers safe and warm, socially distanced and happy when they’re forced to eat and drink outdoors in all weathers.

Most businesses can’t afford to invest big in winterising patios, terraces or (if they’re lucky) gardens. Affordable, simple and flexible ideas are what’s needed and here are a few we think will work just about anywhere outdoors this year and beyond.

Restaurants warm to comfort food

Normally winter menus mean a few seasonal adjustments. But this year it’s all change as Covid19 restrictions transform cold weather from a mild nuisance into a major influence on everything from cooking styles to atmosphere.

It might be more about power of suggestion rather than physical heat, but warming customers from the inside when they’re eating outside is effective. So restaurateurs taking outdoor eating seriously this year should be giving comfort food top billing and swapping haute cuisine for hearty portions.  And if changing an entire menu isn’t practical, hot cocktails are an easy way to help combat the chill of the great outdoors this winter.

Modular professional kitchens move outdoors

Flexibility is the key to success in times of COVID19 and restaurants are more aware than ever of the need to be agile and proactive to continue working while restrictions are in place. That’s why a lot of businesses are now integrating quick to construct very adaptable modular kitchens into their outdoor dining areas.

The infinite possibilities of systems like Baukasten from livecookintable® allow chefs to individually design workstations, adapt footprints in line with available space and maintain a sociable, inclusive guest experience which can be tricky to achieve at the moment, but it’s what customers crave, particularly in these uncertain times.  

Furniture focuses on outdoor comfort

It might seem like quite a small detail, but investing in quality outdoor furniture now will reward restaurants in the longer term. Inviting sofas and comfortable chairs tempt diners to linger longer and businesses paying attention to keeping furnishings pristine – even on the patio – will be seen as caring and customer-focused.

Fear of infection is very real and people want to know restaurants are taking hygiene seriously. So it pays to store outdoor furniture inside when not in use, launder fabrics religiously and frequently wipe all surfaces with anti-bacterial cleaner.

Winter blankets are bigger than ever

Offering customers blankets to keep them warm outdoors isn’t a new trend. Ski resort’s have been doing it for decades, rooftop bars were early adopters and countless urban hotels now add cashmere and wool blankets to outdoor terraces as standard, so guests can enjoy views day and night.

This winter, blankets shift from a charming accessory to one of the most practical and affordable ways to keep customers comfortable in restaurants where COVID19 restrictions have made outdoors the new indoors. Naturally, sharing isn’t an option so most businesses are giving luxury fabrics a miss and going for low-maintenance options which are washable and comply with new hygiene rules. And some canny operators have even re-purposed the classic BYOB as ‘bring your own blanket’ to cut down on laundry costs.

Planting softens social distancing rules

Restaurants don’t need to be told to green-up terraces and patios for spring and summer. Plants are the natural response to fine weather. But this winter it makes sense to extend the growing season indefinitely. 

Nothing is as good as nature at  breaking up space sympathetically, so well-placed plants are ideal for gently enforcing social distancing. If there’s room, take a tip from the French and use Box hedges to keep customers apart and provide some shelter from the elements. Climbers grown on trellis or screens make natural dividers too. And conifers fit well in tight spaces, plus they’re evergreen with a small root system which makes them perfect for pots and nothing cheers up a winter terrace as effectively as variations on a Christmas tree.      

Outdoor heating is this winter’s hot topic

Anyone investing in patio heaters at the start of 2020 would be doing very nicely right about now. In the run up to winter this year, demand for outdoor heating equipment in the US alone is up 75% on 2019. France has declared a moratorium on the patio heater ban which was set to affect businesses countrywide from early 2021. And in September, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio lifted restrictions on outdoor heating for restaurants throughout New York.  

Understandably tall, freestanding heat lamps are still the go-to this winter. But many businesses are supplying diners with individual heat sources like gas-fuelled tabletop firepits. And chiminea, fire bowls or even outside fireplaces are the heating of choice for restaurants lucky enough to have large gardens or courtyards.

Tents are tremendous, even in bad weather

When Mediamatic ETEN built personal greenhouses for diners at their waterfront restaurant in Amsterdam, the world was wowed. Despite seeming gimmicky at first, the innovative idea is likely to stay in place long after the current global health crisis has diminished, simply because it allows customers to eat outdoors comfortably in all weathers.


A much smaller investment in mini-marquees, tenting and windbreaks can work just as well for restaurant patios, terraces or even very limited pavement space. And, apart from offering shelter, variations on tents are also another way to subtly enforce social distancing regulations.



How’s your restaurant, bar or café beating the great outdoors this winter? Leave a comment on our ideas or share some of your own.

About Livecookintable

100% Genuine. Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come and whose value lies in its use. That’s what MEC2 intends to do with livecookintable®.


MEC2 is a design and engineering company.


The design methodology ensures that each part functions perfectly without impinging on another. We see simplicity as the ultimate sophistication whilst ensuring each and every product is long-lasting, sustainable and future-oriented. Future trends are what inspires MEC2. Our design inspiration ensures that our clients are always one step ahead.

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