Great patio service needs the right patio supplies
Everyone wants to have the perfect patio. But while your designs and themes may be spot-on, your outdoor offering will fall short if you don’t have the proper restaurant patio supplies.
Here is the low-down on how to assemble the most functional supplies to keep your patio running smoothly.
Patio supplies for the table and the guest
Are you having separate menus for food, drinks and dessert, or is it all contained in one nice, tidy package?
You’ll want menus that are strong and durable (no thin paper here) and not too big or broad (to deal with wind gusts) and should have some water resistance for when it does rain.
Menu covers are certainly fine being leather, but opting for grasscloth or vinyl can add a nice touch while being functional outdoors.
Of course, you can also have digital menus available for guests to peruse on their own devices.
Both your guests and your staff are going to be sitting outside in the Sun all day—they’re going to require water, and rather than fill up individual water glasses every time (which can be a terrible timesuck if you have a large patio), utilizing pitchers can greatly increase efficiency.
For pitchers only your wait staff are handling for pouring water at the table, pitchers that are durable (especially in the handle area) such as plastic or metal, may be the better option. Consider more ergonomically designed handles that reduce hand fatigue, your staff will thank you.
If you plan to set pitchers on the tables, you can look at using glass pitchers, but try to have something a little more slender, so as to not take up too much table real estate.
Napkins are generally made of extremely light fabric; be careful of placing them on table tops by itself as the wind can have a field day launching them into orbit.
Whether you use cloth napkins (more durable, reusable and more versatile) or paper (cheaper and designed for single-uses), either have them weighted down by your silverware – or tightened in a roll up – and to avoid having dust and/or rain sully them. Wait to place napkins on the table as guests are seated.
You’ll notice a theme here, as your flatware needs to be durable, weighty and functional.
Let’s avoid using plastic for a sit-down restaurant and focus more on classic stainless steel. Using 18/8 or 18/10 (which means the items are either eight or 10 per cent nickel) provides better rust resistance and more durability for being exposed to the elements all day and night.
Read our Foodservice Flatware Buying Guide for more details on purchasing flatware for your operation.
Everyone wants to use fancy, high-end glassware with cool designs, but it’s imperative you think about what fits the theme of your business best.
If it’s ultra-high use and durability is paramount, there are plenty of visually-appealing plastic cups available to use.
If you do prefer going with proper glassware, aim for things that are bottom-heavy: They won’t topple over easily from wind and are easier for staff to transport, especially if drinks are being carried longer distances (such as from inside to your outdoor space).
Read our Restaurant Drinkware Buying Guide to learn what to consider and how much glassware and the types you should have on hand for your operation.
Dinnerware is the canvas for your culinary creations. You know that how your food is presented is critical, but so is how you transport it.
Melamine is often great for patio usage, as it is difficult to break or chip, as is Bone China, but some restaurants will opt for Stoneware, Earthenware or porcelain plates.
Just keep in mind that patios are often the furthest point away from your kitchen, so offering a lot of items on plates that are awkwardly shaped or difficult to carry (or just plain heavy) could cause a number of problems during service, from an efficiency standpoint.
Other tabletop items
Items such as salt and pepper shakers and condiment caddies should be sturdy and, ideally, not be containers that retain water and/or dust.
Candles are a lovely touch, but an open flame candle won’t likely last to your guests getting their appetizers in the outdoors—look for candle holders that can shelter them from the elements, while maintaining your desired outdoor dining aesthetic.
Patio supplies for serving
Do your staff a favour and opt for wider, balanced serving trays, preferably with a rubber or cork lining. That makes it easier for carrying glasses of all styles, and weaving in-and-out of the patio foot traffic.
Your other option is a fiberglass bar tray, which is slightly more durable and doesn’t show wear and tear as much.
Sizes range from 11” to 16” rounds but also in oval shape and rectangular: It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a few smaller and a few larger trays available. A well placed tray stand can take a load off your staff during a busy service.
Bar garnish caddies
If you have a portable patio bar, having a caddie to keep a number of cocktail garnishes available is a must.
Look for something that is segmented, to prevent different items from having cross-contact, has a sealable lid, so to protect the items from the elements and any bar splash back, and is also easy to open, for staff speed and efficiency purposes.
Patio supplies for stations and cleaning
Side station areas
Asking your staff to go inside for all their side-station needs is madness, so you’ll need to provide a functional server area on your patio.
Using stainless steel shelving is not only durable, but also very weather resistant and easier to maintain a clean appearance.
Either have a side station that can be locked up/closed at night, or have your items (condiments, cutlery, etc.) put into lightweight, easy-to-transport storage bins that can easily be moved inside when the restaurant closes.
Using a utility cart are also a great option for side-station that can be easily moved for replenishing before service and quickly putting away after service.
Cleaning the patio
Unfortunately, outdoor patios require more cleaning and upkeep. The wind will carry dust and dirt, and litter from outside the restaurant, into your business’ space and you’ll need to remove it.
Try to have durable brooms and dust pans for sweeping up garbage off harder surfaces, with some water resistance for cleaning damp or wet areas: A broom with polypropylene bristles is likely more efficient for regular use than a corn broom, but keep one or two corn brushes on hand for scrubbing rough surfaces or caked-on messes.
For the actual cleaning/wiping of your tables, opt for a cleaner that doesn’t have any odour, but is stronger than what you typically use inside the restaurant—in addition to cleaning food-related stains, you’re wiping surfaces that also have added layers of dirt and dust.
For your best options in selecting restaurant patio furniture, check out our patio furniture buying guide!
Written by Jared Hochman
Need some more tips and tricks for operating a profitable patio? Take a look at our article on Operating Profitable Restaurant and Bar Patios.