interior designer melbourne

Hospitality Outdoor Dining

Australian’s love al fresco dining and not just in the summer either.  In Melbourne, many diners brave the cold weather and sit outside their favourite restaurants. Even during the winter months diners want to enjoy hospitality outdoor dining.

Restaurant and café owners supply heaters, blankets and barriers such as outdoor blinds to keep their customers comfortable.  It’s a win win for diners who get to eat at their favourite places all year around. And, for hospitality food business owners who don’t miss out on income just because the seasons change.

Hospitality outdoor dining dining also benefits the local streetscape and community by creating a convivial buzz in the neighbourhood. It contributes to supplementary spending on things like pre dinner drinks. Or last minute gifts, such as flowers if diners are heading to a birthday and so on.

In hospitality design, the outdoor space and furniture requires just as much attention and consideration as the indoor space.  Any piece that is installed outside needs to extend the design story. Be on brand, comfortable and cohesive.

For a successful hospitality outdoor dining area there are a few things to consider, here are the top five aspects to take into account –

Interior Design Strategy

For any project we work on, from the very beginning we develop a design strategy.  A design strategy confirms the style goal or overall look and feel the client wants to create.  To put it another way we define the client’s vision.  The second part of the design strategy is a colour scheme. 

Taking this step a bit further we also discuss materials.  What materials, if any, the client is interested in, for example; polished concrete flooring, or tile façade on the counter, timber wall panels and so on.

Having a design strategy ensures we keep on track. This means we can make decisions more easily and work through the design process efficiently. Sticking to a design strategy without constantly changing direction also saves the client time and money.  Once we specify all the fittings, fixtures, furnishings, and furniture for the interior we work on the exterior.

We find pieces that maintain the essence of the design strategy. But suit the external elements such as rain, wind and sun.  The durability of outdoor pieces is even more important than the indoor pieces. Although in a commercial setting durability is important inside as well.  Above all we create a striking introduction to the interior through the al fresco dining area. 

Photo by Greta Caird on Unsplash (Title image – Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash)


The comfort of your diners outside is equally as important as the comfort of diners inside.  With outside furniture having to be durable, you need to consider hard materials such as metal. 

Metal seats in direct sunlight can get hot and possibly burn your guests whey they sit down.  Therefore, you might want to consider seat pads and or shade.  Shade can take the form of umbrellas, sails, or pergola type structures.  The right option varies depending on your budget, the area you have to work with and possibly any council considerations.

With outdoor furniture make sure there are no harsh edges that might scratch clients. Especially if they’re wearing shorts or skirts or pull threads on clothing.

Comfort outside is also impacted by the noise factor, and the availability of service. Customer’s don’t want to be forgotten just because they’re outside. The ambience created by objects such as plants and anything shouldn’t obstruct the flow of movement between tables. This is true too for heaters and other objects.

Essentially in hospitality design the outdoor setting should not be an after thought.


Outdoor furniture, is exposed to unpredictable and harsh weather conditions, so it’s important the furniture is weatherproof.  For example, UV resistant, timber furniture should be mould proof, metal furniture should be powder coated and rust proof.

Outdoor furniture should also be stable when windy, especially if your café or restaurant is by the beach.  This is true for anything else that is light such as seat pads, plastic glasses and so on.

Careful consideration needs to be taken for everything placed outside your café or restaurant.

Packing Away

Many of our clients want light furniture that can be easily packed away by both male and female employees.  This is important for occupational health and safety and the speed and efficiency the outdoor area can be packed up.  The less time this takes, the less wages you have to pay.

What this means is that ideally, chairs need to be stackable.  Tables need to have a flip function so the top can be released and folded.  Plants should be on castors.  Umbrellas should come in two pieces, the umbrella and the base to allow for easy storage inside.  Barriers also need to be light and easy to carry.

Bear in mind storage as well, many of our clients don’t have ample storage inside their restaurant or café.  Which means even though they might have the space for outdoor dining, they may not be able to store this furniture.


The way we consider hospitality design for al fresco dining also includes how serviceable this area is, for example will there be a waiter’s station outside.  If guests don’t have to wait to be seated like they do inside, how will wait staff know new guests have arrived?

How far is the service pass to the outdoor area and is the pathway clear inside for wait staff to efficiently serve the food?

People outside don’t want their food cold, wait staff don’t want to encounter obstacles inside on their way to serve food outside.

Essentially the al fresco dining area needs to highly serviceable so that your guests don’t feel like they not as important as the guests inside.

Bottom Line for Hospitality Outdoor Dining

Now more than ever before as Melbourne’s hospitality industry is opening up after a long lock down due to COVID-19, our clients, and many other café and restaurant owners will be looking to take advantage of hospitality outdoor dining.

Especially as summer is on its way which could mean many in the hospitality industry staying in business.  We can help optimise your al fresco dining area, taking a holistic approach to ensure this part of your business is just as successful as other areas of your business such as take away, eat in and or retail. Let’s chat about your vision.

Trish Khoury
Founding Director
Grace Interior Designs