Outdoor Dining Design: Creating Beautiful and Functional Alfresco Spaces

There is arguably nothing more British than the sight of diners enjoying alfresco seating options the moment the sun comes out and the weather starts to warm up. British summertime is characterised by the emergence of outdoor seating across bars, restaurants, pubs, and cafes – not only giving diners what they want but also maximising the amount of seating available for businesses big and small.

With that said, how do you design and bring to life an alfresco dining space which is both aesthetically pleasing and functional – and what design decisions need to be made to ensure that this space becomes an extension of your existing space rather than a simple outdoor add-on?


Before you start to consider things like seating arrangements and pathways for both guests and team members, it’s important to establish the boundaries of your outdoor seating area. While some eateries and restaurants simply create the illusion of their business spilling out onto the surrounding streets with seemingly sporadic tables and chairs, others create a barrier which separates their alfresco space from the street beyond.

Which option is best for you will depend on your location, but it is recommended to set some form of boundary to ensure that you maintain as much control as possible over the guest experience.

Once you’ve established boundaries, it’s time to consider seating arrangements and capacity – maximising the number of seats available while ensuring guest comfort and ensuring that both guests and team members can move between the tables with ease for service.

Furniture selection

We all know what British summertime means. It means that random rain showers can be just as likely as blazing sunshine, creating a high demand for durable and weather-resistant furnishings which are well suited to life outside.

Where possible, continue your restaurant theme outside to ensure a level of cohesion between the two spaces – using colour and subtle decorative accessories to bridge your inside and outside spaces.

Lighting and ambience

Lighting may not be much of a concern during the daytime, but when it comes to evening you will want to have a good amount of lighting sources which deliver the right ambience to guests. Some of the most popular solutions include lanterns, fairy lights, and LED accents around the base of parasols and outdoor features.

Shelter solutions

Outside restaurant area

We’ve already talked about the need for weather-resistant furnishings for rain, but how do you plan on protecting your guests from sudden downpours or an excess of direct sunshine? Offering parasols, table umbrellas, and a retractable awning are all good options for alfresco dining spaces, depending on the amount of space you have and the kind of atmosphere you want to create.

The more versatile your chosen solution, the better.

Heating and cooling

What happens when your guests get too cold, once the sun disappears?

What happens if your guests are too hot and need to cool down?

Integrating both heating and cooling systems into your outdoor alfresco space is crucial for optimising the guest experience, with patio heaters and fire pits both excellent solutions for cooler evenings while misting systems can offer an effective means of cooling a crowd.

Landscaping and aesthetics

There are both functional and aesthetic benefits of greenery and plants throughout your alfresco dining space. Not only do they provide natural shading and privacy to supplement both your shelter and cooling solutions, but they also breathe life into the aesthetic presentation of your outside dining space.

From hedges designed to separate your alfresco dining space from the world beyond, to smaller and more versatile plant pots which create the illusion of a greener and more rustic outdoor space, restaurant owners have a wide range of landscaping options to choose from.

Bring alfresco dining to the forefront of your business

This article is designed to make alfresco dining and outdoor dining spaces an integral part of your business plan, rather than simply a last minute decision to action on a sunny day. From investing in the correct and weather-resistant furnishings to considering the needs of guests sitting outside in various weather conditions and temperatures, there are a lot of things to think about.

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