the great outdoors
Patios, terraces and rooftops provide distinct dining spaces for
customers, and add revenue for operators. BY KATHRYN KJARSGAARD
atrons love to linger over brunch, appetizers and drinks on a restaurant’s
patio, and operators welcome the extra income they capture through outdoor dining spaces.
Whether opening up a large patio or balcony for the season or squeezing a few tables and chairs out
on a sidewalk on sunny days, restaurants can carve out a variety of al fresco spaces to delight guests.
Art Jackson, co-chef/owner with wife Chelsea of Pleasant House Bakery in Chicago’s Bridgeport
neighborhood, created a garden patio adjacent to his restaurant that features a variety of edible and
nonedible plants, comfy picnic tables, a shaded canopy and an outdoor prep area with a poured-
concrete countertop. “It’s really a lovely outdoor space with a nice high fence,” Jackson says. “We
like to think of it as a little oasis in an otherwise hectic part of the city.”
Mason Street Grill in Milwaukee also is located in an urban setting, and competes with nearby
restaurants that have patios. “We try to be a little nicer, with plants that partition our patio from the
street and people walking by to create seclusion,” says Edward Carrella, general manager. “The key
with a patio is it has to be desirable for people to want to sit there, given that there are cars going by.
“The patio has a big impact on our revenue, though, bringing in an extra $40,000 to $50,000 a
year. Even a smaller patio can make a difference in revenue.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP 1) Root
Down’s garden is completely integrated
with the patio, where vegetables and
herbs grow all along the perimeter on
two sides. 2) Quartino Ristorante &
Wine Bar packs guests into its multiple
outdoor spaces in warmer months, with
outdoor seating for 60 on the sidewalk
and an enclosed indoor/outdoor dining
space that seats about 40. 3) Linger’s
rooftop dining space can accommodate
up to 170. 4) Mason Street Grille’s
patio, adjacent to the restaurant’s
lounge, attracts a bar and lounge crowd.
Mason Street Grill’s patio, which is open from mid-April through early October, is adjacent to
the restaurant’s lounge. Carrella notes that it is a slender area only about 10 feet off the street, and
includes seven or eight tables.
“During the late afternoon in the summer, there’s a much higher demand for outside seating,” he
says. “The weather is so finicky in Milwaukee that when it is really nice out, people flock to the patio.”
The same menu is served on the patio as in the restaurant; however, guests tend to order mainly
appetizers and cocktails. “We get more of a bar and lounge crowd on the patio,” Carrella says.
He adds that it’s more difficult for servers to work the patio, as it’s not part of the normal routine
and the same equipment is not available. “It’s not the same systematic flow of business. And, you
have the weather factor, so that’s more of a challenge. In the Midwest, the weather doesn’t always
cooperate, so it can be hard to staff. It could be cold in the morning then get nice later in the day so
the patio gets busy.”
Another Midwest locale, Quartino Ristorante & Wine Bar in Chicago, packs guests into its
multiple outdoor spaces in warmer months. The restaurant, located at the bustling downtown
intersection of State and Ontario streets, has outdoor seating for 60 on the sidewalk. There also is
an enclosed indoor/outdoor dining space that seats about 40 and has doors that can be opened in
nicer weather to let in fresh air.
John Coletta, executive chef/managing partner, says the same regional Italian menu, featuring
pizzas, seafood, pastas and small plates, is offered inside the restaurant and in the outdoor dining
spaces. Planters are used as borders along the sidewalk seating area to separate tables from the street.