Why Your Coffee Shop Needs a Thoughtfully Designed Outdoor Space

25 November, 2021

Let’s start with the essential question - why does your coffee shop need an outdoor space at all? The reasons are many, and we will identify just a few: Outdoor seating space can significantly increase your cafe bar’s profit margins by over 60%. Most customers prefer sitting outside in the fresh breeze when the climate conditions are suitable. A visible, attractively designed patio is inviting and works better than a plain entrance. Offering outside seating makes the space more accessible in the era of ‘new normality”.

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Delightful weather attracts most people to spend as much time as possible outside in the fresh air, whether actively or just relaxing in the sun. The latter often implies comfortable lounging with a glass of beverage, preferably in an appealing environment. An organised area, cleverly designed for maximising its visual and tactile qualities, can draw the crowds to choose your place over other options.

In countries blessed with pleasant temperature ranges throughout the whole year, the outdoor season never ends, making the patio concepts even more important. Sidewalks are far from being an only option - backyard beer gardens, atriums, and rooftops create an experience of their own. A combination of different areas is also a bonus. By offering enough extra seats, you can cater to as many customers as possible while providing different tastes and lifestyles with the benefit of choice.

Where to Begin to create the perfect outdoor for your café

The location is essential, and it should be thoroughly analysed. The reason is simple - correctly identified flaws can be translated into advantages, while the utility of existing assets can be maximised. Think this way: exquisite views and attractive surroundings certainly are a magnet for customers - but a great design can produce equally effective results.

Fresh and cosy outdoor settings with extraordinary views attract tourists as well as the local population. Most travellers are looking for an experience and give advantage to places with photographic quality. However, a venue positioned in a touristic area but deficient in notable visual assets can still be turned competitive through thoughtfully tailored designed features.

Even the venues located in the middle of a bustling street can benefit from a narrow sidewalk outdoor seating area. A couple of umbrella-topped or awning-shaded tables require minimal investment but still add to the place’s diversity

A backyard, on the other hand, brings the benefit of privacy. It can also add an unexpected extra oomph to the visitor’s first impression as a secret surprise. This area is ideal for conveying a romantic atmosphere, creating a separate zone for informal business appointments, or offering exclusive services such as private parties.

If the location permits, the patio can be organised as a genuine extension of the indoor space. Installing retractable roofs will make it usable all year round, regardless of the season.

Many unused flat roofs can be transformed to become rooftop bars. This popular solution combines the viewing benefits of sidewalk seating with the privacy of a backyard patio. Rooftop bars feature a great potential as day-to-night outdoor spots, presenting a specific kind of design challenge at the same time.

An Efficient Layout - The Root of Success 

Once the essential properties have been identified, it’s time to determine design features. Provided that the outdoor space is an extension of an existing venue, you probably already know who your target audience is and what they expect. That means theming and storytelling concepts have also been established. If not, please refer to our articles tackling the The Importance Of Narrative And Storytelling In Interior Design and  coffee shop design fundamentals.

Regardless of the location and concept, the success of an outdoor seating area heavily depends on a meticulously composed layout.

When thinking about an outdoor space for a coffee shop, we need to focus on its specificities. What activities will take place there? Is it a quiet, private zone, or is it going to host live events, music bands, or even dancing? Planned activities directly impact the ideal table arrangement, different seating options, and traffic flow, consequently affecting the overall quality of the service. For that reason, determining the actual uses of the space is an important first step towards establishing a successful layout.

Maximal functionality is a working composition of all independent elements. Rather than just stuffing as many tables as possible, you can get creative with all design features and make the space more inviting and more accessible, along with setting up an impeccable service flow.

Speaking of the functionality, consider implementing a full-service patio bar. Apart from faster and more manageable service, a well-designed, inviting bar can trigger guests’ impulses, making them wish to stay longer and drink more. In addition, several bar stools will further increase available seating with minimal footprint, making up for the space taken by the bar.

Always remember that one of your essential goals should be fast and uninterrupted service. By securing sufficient space for foot traffic, you ensure a hassle-free experience for both your staff and your guests.

Proper Furnishing Will Maximise the Space Utility of your terrace

Patio style and furniture should continue the story started indoors, sharing the same visual narrative, ambience, and atmosphere. Of course, the nature of the outdoor seating requires some level of adaptation, starting from the adequately chosen, weather-resistant materials.

If your theming requires a rustic patio design loaded with rich wooden elements, be prepared for high maintenance and frequent refurbishing. Metal furniture, on the other hand, bears a modern flair and can be quite durable, depending on the alloy and its coating. Plastic compounds are lightweight and easy to manoeuvre/rearrange, coming in a broad spectrum of qualities. They are also typically the most affordable, making a good choice for trendy, changeable settings.

The size of tables and chairs should provide comfort and create an inviting atmosphere without requiring compromises on other features. At the same time, the selection of shading and accessories can promote the area utility in (almost) every type of weather. A great example of this, would our Notorious The Memorabilia Café project, in which we created the perfect spot for Abu Dhabi coffee lovers.

Adding heaters can greatly extend the outdoor season, and the right choice will provide multiple benefits. Fire pits, for instance, are a practical way to add some heat that also does wonders for the atmosphere. Paired with sectional seating, they can create a memorable experience, making the guests comfortable in your venue and eager to come again soon.

During hot summer days, proper shading is of the utmost importance. Dedicated patio umbrellas placed alongside tables are a standard, easily customised solution. Extra-large cantilever models are convenient and attractive options for covering substantial ranges. Similarly, retractable awnings and canopies can extend enough to block the sun even over the whole patio area without taking any valuable floor space. Wooden or metal pergolas and gazebos make an excellent choice for romantic backyard patios, providing functional shelter with exquisite visual quality.

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The Importance of Lighting properly your coffee shop outdoor space

Outdoor lighting requires at least the same level of attention as its indoor counterpart. It defines the atmosphere and mood while promoting the aesthetics of the place. Highlighting the facade features and architectural details, illuminating signage, and brightening seating areas can assemble a signature composition that distinguishes your venue from all others.

Supported by lanterns and string/fairy lights, fire pits, and candles, the lighting design creates a magical ambience. Even better, combining different lighting options will allow you to easily convey different vibes and effortlessly change the atmosphere per need.

When designing the lighting for your coffee shop outdoor seating areas, security should also be taken into consideration. Sufficient outdoor lighting can minimise the risks of injuries, promoting the safety of movement for both staff and visitors.

If you're looking to spruce up your outdoor space, consider drawing inspiration from popular designs in the market. One such trend is the use of neon signs. These signs, with their unique lighting effects and three-dimensional lines, can create a romantic and lively atmosphere, perfect for a rooftop bar setting.

Custom neon signs not only add a touch of personality to your space, but they also highlight your core offerings, enhancing the appeal and competitiveness of your establishment. For more product ideas and inspiration, check out BPS.com.

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Accessorising to Perfection the terrace of your café

Accessorising strongly affects the comfort and atmosphere, even when staying invisible. For instance, hidden insect traps or repellents will prevent annoying pests from spoiling the guests’ experience. Similarly, strategically arranged and/or concealed misting fans and heating/cooling systems can improve comfort without affecting style and aesthetics.

Textiles, cushions, throws and rugs need careful sourcing. Ideally, the materials should be resilient and at least moderately weather-resistant, with a high decorative value that communicates with the rest of the setting. Adding curtains can elevate the stylish element and, at the same time, provide space separation when necessary - this can come particularly handy during events. Another way to achieve the same results is tactical plant arrangement and installation of green walls.

A variety of plants provides multiple benefits. It creates natural shading, lowers the environmental temperature, and cleans the air. Simultaneously, it further defines the atmosphere by adding colours and enhancing visual dynamics.

In case your cafe features the unutilised garden plot with potential that you wish to exploit, you can turn it into a genuine paradise with abundant greenery, from trees and giant shrubs to flower beds, moss, and grass. Take it one step further with stone tiling, pebbles, and waterfalls or fountains. However, even if your outdoor space is limited and defined by concrete and other urban features, climbing vines such as wisteria, hanging flower baskets, and mini trees in pots can completely change the overall feeling.

Art in all forms adds a sophisticated feel that often calls for no other adorns. Occasional small sculptures, uniquely arranged paintings, statement installations, murals - everything works, as long as it correlates with the theming and the story established in the interior.

In Conclusion; why your coffee shop needs a thoughtfully designed outdoor space

It’s beyond doubt that your outdoor seating area can add a lot of value to your coffee shop from increased seating capacity and boosted revenue to achieving memorable uniqueness. With the skillfully arranged layout, adequate facilities, and creative detailing, you can create a magical day-to-night hideout that your guests will adore.

Treat the outdoor setting as a natural extension of the interior, and remember to maintain consistency throughout the entire establishment. The cohesive whole is the key to authoritative delivery that communicates with your clients on different levels, sending a message of a “place that knows what it’s doing.” A plethora of options is available to create a professional flair that keeps your customers intrigued, indulged, and happy. Start smart, engage the right designer services, invest in the right pieces, and use technology to ensure a modern and efficient service that will set you out from the competition further.


Yaiza Martinez

Founder and Lead Designer

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