Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top 10 Restaurant Outdoor Dining Trends

As American culture continues to embrace the Foodie movement, more restaurants are choosing to elevate their atmosphere for a more multidimensional dining experience. The modern diner is looking for an enjoyable environment, and often prefers an outside dining option when the weather is nice. Whether it is a first date, a Friday happy hour or Sunday brunch with the family, dining outdoors is a desirable and fun experience. For this reason, restaurateurs are finding new and interesting ways to incorporate exterior dining options into their restaurant.

The following are the top 10 trends for outdoor restaurant dining we have observed in North America. If you are looking to add or remodel an outdoor space at your restaurant, the key to success is finding the right atmosphere for your brand as well as your particular climate. In many cases, seasonality and climate will limit how often your clientele will be able to dine out of doors. No matter which type of dining area you establish, adding in a series of commercial-grade outdoor patio heaters is a worthwhile expense that will extend your patio dining areas usability into the chillier months and evenings.

1. The Beer Garden

Alongside the Gastro-Pub movement, we have observed a rise in the fun and fabulous beer garden. These dining / drinking gardens are typically an inexpensive, casual addition featuring picnic tables, large patio umbrellas, and garden accents such as hanging plants and cheerful flowerbeds. Add in fun international accents such as beer steins and foreign signage, and you are most certainly going to attract lucrative, repeat visitors especially during happy hour and the weekend.

2. The Lounge

A swanky outdoor lounge is the perfect complement to an up-market restaurant.  Create an atmosphere of urban sophistication with comfortable, luxurious furniture as well as en pointe aesthetics. If you are a design novice, it is worth hiring a professional designer as nothing destroys the lounge mystique faster than amateur design. These types of lounges are a perfect pairing with ultra sophisticated cuisine, small plates or tapas.

3. The Sidewalk Café

The sidewalk café mimics the common street dining found in France, Italy and Switzerland. The set up can be executed in two simple ways. The first is small café tables with plenty of garden patio umbrellas to provide shade. The second is pairing small café tables with a spacious awning. Red and red stripped awnings that feature the restaurant's name are a particularly charming and authentic.

4. The Hipster’s Paradise

If your target demographic is twenty-something’s, consider a slightly more urban-meets-antique aesthetic. Eclectic furniture pieces, a graffiti-art mural and wi-fi access will attract hipster clients in droves. Make sure tables have space for both food and laptops.

5. The Sublime View

Not so much a new trend, but certainly a powerful one. If your restaurant is located in beautiful locale – be it desert, mountain or waterfront scenery – consider creating a patio that allows for broad panoramic views. In some instances this will require an elevated dining area. This investment, however, will almost certainly pay for itself as gorgeous views are in high demand and word-of-mouth referrals are virtually guaranteed.

6. The Intimate Courtyard

There are currently two predominant versions of the courtyard experience – the English and the French provincial. The English approach is a bit more formal and manicured and will require more rigorous garden upkeep as well as more formal dishware. The French provincial approach is a bit more casual… think dressed-up wooden picnic tables and authentically rustic - even mismatched - tableware. It should feel as though you were having a relaxed lunch at a winery in the south of France. Whether English or French in nature, the courtyard experience is all about pairing exquisite gardens with refined, continental touches, for an charming and intimate dining experience.

7. The Rooftop Party

The rooftop party mimics the highly sought after NYC rooftop space. These dining areas tend to be relaxed and often transition into a more bar-type atmosphere as the night progresses. Add in colorful lanterns, sparkling lights, and modern urban accents. A rooftop dining area is a fabulous addition to laid back, casual restaurants. Safety can be an issue, so invest in proper railing and consult a lawyer about mitigating possible liabilities.

8. Life on the Farm – Only Better

Many restaurants are placing a greater emphasis on using organic, local produce... and some are even growing a portion of their own produce on site, including vegetables, fruit and even poultry. The farm patio experience seeks to extend the dining room into the garden area, so the diner is truly immersed into the locally-grown experience. Unfortunately, with nature also comes the elements and it’s not fun to dine where it’s muggy and buggy... so these restaurants must vigilantly police the area for critters and flies using non-toxic methods inline with their organic branding.

9. The Convertible Patio

There has been a conspicuous increase in convertible patios - indoor dining spaces that can transform into patios by removing walls or portions of the roof. Many restaurants have installed garage doors and electric awnings so that entire walls can open up on more beautiful days. This tends to be more appropriate for casual dining destinations, but – with the right architect / contractor and sliding glass walls - can also work for a more sophisticated experience.

10. Southern Hospitality

Southern cooking and comfort food are definitely on trend in the US right now… and many restaurants are extending the experience beyond the dish to the restaurant's atmosphere. Wrap around porches with southern charm are becoming very popular in the comfort food circle. Think flower boxes, pickle jars and large overhead fans that transport the restaurant-goers to a gentile Southern home.

About the Author: Derrick Riley is a Managing Partner at Patio Products USA, an online commercial and residential patio products store. Patio Products USA is one North America’s largest distributors of patio furniture covers, patio fire pits on sale and garden patio heaters.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Eco Friendly Patio

If you love nature and embrace a green lifestyle, chances are you also love spending time outdoors. The outdoor patio space is quickly becoming the primary "living room" for many green families. More and more of our clients are asking us how they can enhance their outdoor living space in a responsible, eco-friendly manner. Thanks to buying online, green living is easier and more affordable than ever. Here are a few easy tips for making your outdoor space a comfortable, eco-friendly retreat.

Build with the right materials

While concrete slabs are still, perhaps, the cheapest material for creating an outdoor patio space, concrete has a significant carbon footprint due to the manufacturing process. Some better options would be recycled or salvaged materials, bricks, hempcrete (a hemp based concrete alternative) or natural stone slabs. Poor drainage is the arch enemy of a healthy patio space. Be sure to space pavers or stone out so that water can drain, thus lengthening your patio material's life.

Choose the right patio furniture and décor pieces

Look for furniture made with natural materials that can withstand the elements – especially moisture. Teak, eucalyptus or recycled wine barrels are all popular and attractive choices. If you do choose wood furniture, be sure to purchase from patio furniture manufacturers that employ responsible forest management when harvesting timber. Other eco-friendly furniture options include recycled wicker and plastic furniture. Accent the space with recycled fabric pillows and an all-weather rug made from recycled plastic bottles – which are surprisingly beautiful and affordable. Gather the seating around a copper outdoor patio fire pit or rustic chiminea and stock your patio with high efficiency firelogs that burn clean, with fewer carbon emissions.

Protect your investment

The elements are not only hard on your patio, but they will also weather and age your patio furniture. Invest in quality patio furniture covers that will protect your furniture for the long-haul and keep them from the landfill. Look for garden furniture covers that fit snugly around the piece so that water does not seep through and puddle in crevices. There are specially crafted covers for all types of patio items, from BBQ covers to outdoor patio table and chair covers in a myriad of sizes.

Select energy efficient accents

If you want to use your outdoor patio space year round in an eco-friendly manner, it is important that you also invest in an eco-friendly patio heater or heating system. Solaira heaters are especially popular heaters that utilize cutting edge LED technologies to provide highly efficient heat. Solaria heaters utilize 92% of the available energy, making them a cost effective and eco-friendly alternative to propane and natural gas heating systems.

About the Author: Derrick Riley is a Managing Partner at Patio Products USA, an online commercial and residential patio products store. Patio Products USA is one North America’s largest distributors of patio furniture and BBQ covers, patio fire pits and gas, electric and propane patio heaters.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Backyard Patio Trends for 2012

Since the economic downturn in 2008, the home has become an increasingly popular entertainment venue. Families have replaced expensive vacations and outings to restaurants and bars, with more intimate and economical outdoor gatherings and barbecues. With this shift, the patio and backyard space has become increasingly important and many families choose to strategically invest in their outdoor space for maximum enjoyment and home value. Many families have been pleasantly surprised to find that an enhanced patio and yard space significantly improves overall quality of life.

If you are looking to upgrade your outdoor entertainment space this year, the following are the top 5 backyard patio trends for 2012.

1. The Backyard as Destination

Rather than sinking money into expensive vacations, many home owners are making their backyard space a destination in its own right, by installing water features, sculpted pools with water slides, outdoors kitchens and luxurious garden accents such as bridges and porticoes. When making your yard a destination, it is important to first decide what sort of environment is compatible with your climate and of course what sort of space appeals to you and your family. From Japanese Zen gardens to a Miami-circa-1960 retreat, there are a number of wonderful themes that you can utilize in your yard in stunning and surprisingly affordable ways. The trick is careful planning and resourcefulness.

2. Embracing the Natural World

Part of the recent cultural shift is a return to meaningful connectedness and simplification. This includes a conspicuous move towards embracing nature and environmentalism - a shift that is decidedly reflected in the modern American yard. Many American home owners are opting for a more natural looking outdoor space… a space that is less manicured and decidedly lush… perhaps even a little wild.

Patios are using more natural looking materials such as slate, rock and gravel. Likewise, more families are choosing to incorporate edible vegetation into their spaces, from garden herbs and vegetable patches to fruit or olive trees. Some particularly committed individuals have even started raising chickens, complete with decorative coops! The result is a charming space that has a comforting agricultural feel.

3. Strategic Patio Sculpting

Patios are taking on very unique shapes these days, with two extremes being the most popular: sharp mid-century lines ala Mad Men and more organic, gently curving spaces that blend into their natural environment. If you choose to do mid-century chic, choose patio furniture and features that complement that area. Remember that traveling to Miami and Cuba was all the rage in the 50’s and early 60’s, so these sorts of accents can be very fun additions. Check out local second hand stores for fun era-appropriate ceramics, which will add a lot of personality for a very small cash investment. If the ceramics appear a bit beat-up, feel free to spray paint them super bright or metallic colors, an easy trick that gives old pieces a new life for less than $3.

If you prefer a more curvaceous, organic layout, it is important to focus on ways to have the space spill into the natural space effortlessly. Use a variety of small potted plants to blend hard lines and add texture. Incorporate outdoor patio products that have an elemental feel, such as water features or outdoor fire pits and chimineas. Choose patio furniture in materials that jibe with the natural tone, such as teak.

A very easy and inexpensive third option blends the two before-mentioned styles. Instead of a solid patio area, use a number of large square pavers to define the patio space. These pavers will allow grass, moss or gravel to poke through, merging the very structured mid-century aesthetic with a more naturalistic feel, giving you the best of both worlds!

4. A Hidden Patio Location

Not long ago, the patio was always located immediately outside your back door. This is no longer the case. Many home owners are choosing to create "getaway patios" slightly removed from the house, creating a sort of escape destination from the home. These types of patios can exist as small islands in a shady nook of the garden, or be connected to the home with a charming pathway. In some cases, home owners actually screen the area or strategically place plants or water features so that the space is shielded from view and truly feels remote.

5. Incorporating Patio Shelters

Since we are spending more time outdoors it makes sense that we are also incorporating shelters into the space, including gazebos, pergolas, arbors, canopies and even cabanas or small cabins. A sheltered area will extend the use of your patio space, providing shade in the hot months and head cover in the cooler or wetter months. The structure you choose will depend on your climate, personal needs, outdoor space and overall budget. If you live in a cooler climate, and do not have the space for a cabana or cabin feature, consider outfitting your space with outdoor patio heaters that will keep everyone warm and comfortable in the cooler months.

About the Author: Derrick Riley is a Managing Partner at Patio Products USA, a subsidiary of Neighbors Marketing specializing in patio products and accessories for the home and commercial use. Patio Products USA is one North America’s largest distributors of products to improve outdoor entertaining, including a wide selection of patio furniture covers, patio fire pits and garden patio heaters