Bakers Journal

Concepts for Success: Five easy ways to make the most of your outdoor space

May 30, 2022
By Diane Chiasson

A welcoming patio is a great way to attract customers as it serves as a giant billboard for your bakery operation

The best outdoor patio lighting is done in layers. Each different type of light creates a specific, targeted effect. PHOTO: © Jade / adobe stock

The warmer weather is finally here, and I cannot remember a patio season that will be more important than this summer. Everyone by now is extremely tired of masked waiters, plexiglass shields and tables spaced six feet apart. Hence the demand to sit outside in the fresh air for outdoor dining will skyrocket. With the COVID-19 pandemic still in the air, outdoor eating is still a better, safer option than serving customers in an enclosed area. To survive coronavirus summer, restaurant, bakery, and café operators are rushing to claim space for outdoor seating. A welcoming patio is a great way to attract customers as it serves as a giant billboard for your bakery operation. 

Adding outdoor dining space to your bakery shop will allow your bakery to maximize revenue, and it will potentially increase your profits by as much as 65 per cent. So, I suggest you pick up a few tables and invite customers to sip and dine on your sidewalk – or even build a patio or deck if you have the space. Depending on your circumstances, your options may fall into one of six categories: front porch, back yard, sidewalk, curb lane, parking lot or rooftop.

Here are five easy ways to make the most of your outdoor space this summer. 

1. Get your sidewalk café permit
Before you start planning your dream patio, you must consider any local, provincial or federal regulations regarding patios at restaurants, bakery facilities and cafés. Based on the area where you operate your bakery shop, the rules and regulations for retrofitting a patio, sidewalk, curb lane, parking lot, or even installing or expanding decks on private property into a dining area for your bakery operation may differ. Contact your local authorities about the licences or permits you may need to get and discuss the regulations for running outdoor eating.


Here are a few regulatory issues you should know about when opening your patio:

  • Can you make your outdoor patio dog-friendly?
  • Can you serve alcoholic drinks or offer guests BYOB service (depending on each province) in your bakery restaurant?
  • What kind of permits will you need to add electricity and plumbing to your outdoor patio?
  • Are there noise ordinances in your area? 

2. Design your dining area to provide the best experience
I want you to think about your bakery patio just as you would your home patio. Think of your outdoor setting as a natural extension of your bakery’s interior. Stick to the same colour schemes and use similar patterns and furniture as your interior. While you may be tempted to fit as many tables into the patio as possible to maximize the number of customers, overcrowding the space will negatively affect customers and employees at your bakery. Try to limit the number of tables, so you have room to space them appropriately.

Before you can design a patio and start buying some furniture, you need to take a step back and take the time to evaluate how you want to use the space. The idea is to create a design that will best serve your customers. It’s no longer enough to put up a fence and throw out a bunch of tables and chairs. Instead, think about your appliances, equipment, electrical work, plumbing, food serving stations, potted plants and flowers, strings of lights, space heaters, furniture, dividers, permanent or portable fence, and shade to protect your customers from the sun and rain.  

3. Choose proper patio furniture and decor
When it comes to furniture materials, you will most likely want to keep these in line with the concept and style of your bakery and stay consistent across all of your patio furniture. For example, it would be best to place a mixture of small and large tables on your patio, as this will attract parties of varying sizes. I also suggest mixing styles and qualities of furniture. Furniture material comes in many different options, such as wood, metal and plastic. Tables and chairs made of aluminum will last longer than wood and are easier to maintain. Place colourful cushions on chairs to make your guests’ eating experience more comfortable and exciting. Decide which material is suitable for your space, and assess your budget, brand and the weather patterns in your area. 

Do you want to use picnic tables and benches? What about combining your picnic tables with some traditional tables and chairs. If using plastic chairs, try to pair them with some metal and wood furniture. 

 Perhaps you may consider adding dividing walls or creating unique zones between seats to make your customers feel safe. Consider using shrubs, flowers, planters, garden boxes, hanging plants, screens, umbrellas and furniture to separate tables.

4. Create colourful and elegant outdoor lighting
Customers should not have to squint to read your menu. It’s a big mistake to pay more attention to your indoor lighting than your outdoor lighting. Lighting has always played a huge part in the overall dining experience. The best outdoor patio lighting is done in layers. Each different type of light creates a specific, targeted effect. Use your patio lighting to set the mood for your customers. Make your patio noticeable at night with stringed lights or lighted signage. Walk the path your customers take, from the parking lot, walkways to your bakery, and their way to the outdoor patio area and then back inside to the restrooms.

Use smart and trendy energy-saving LED strings of bistro lights, and overhead soft ambient lighting can be strategically placed on exterior walls and expertly hidden in the overhead beams of a patio cover or pergola. You can also install twinkling starlight lights within trees, foliage, fences or roof soffits that will add great ambience to your outdoor space. Consider adding flameless tea light candles or battery-operated candles to every table to enhance your outdoor space.   

5. Incorporate shade
Eating outdoors will provide your customers with natural light and fresh air. Unfortunately, no location is immune to inclement weather. There can be some downsides to being outside, such as weather conditions that can change suddenly or days with too much sun or days when your customers may be drenched with rain. 

Make sure you have proper umbrellas, tents or awnings set up on your patio. Today, many retailers sell extra-large round or rectangular umbrellas with offset telescopic arms that are much easier to set up and move around and do not need to be put directly into the table. If space is an issue, consider installing pole-less umbrellas that are much easier to store over the winter. You can also consider installing a retractable awning that you can adjust to keep the sunlight in a perfect position throughout the day.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 35 years by providing innovative and revenue-increasing food service and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns. Contact her at 416-926-1338, send her an email at, or visit

Print this page


Stories continue below