Winterizing Outdoor Dining Spaces

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many businesses to pivot and get creative with their services and production. From restaurants offering grocery items and cocktails to-go to hotels closing common areas and targeting stay-cationers, the service industry is evolving. Since navigating new cleaning protocols and implementing distancing measures, the food and beverage industry has embraced outdoor dining as a way to welcome their patrons back on site. Now that temperatures are dropping and daylight is waning, it’s time to think about winterizing outdoor dining spaces. Just as Covid is no match for the food and beverage industry, neither is unpredictable weather or colder temps. A little preparation and creativity can help you welcome guests all winter long.

Street Dining

Permits for Outdoor Dining 

In the peak of pandemic panic, many restaurants were forced to close completely or offer take-out only options. In an effort to serve their communities while supporting their staff, cities and small towns alike petitioned for street and parking closures and began offering outdoor dining. Summer diners welcomed the al fresco experience and are likely to continue to support their local food and beverage outlets, should they continue to offer comfortable experiences. If your restaurant, bar, or brewery is one that has embraced parking lot or street dining, reach out to your local government to extend your permits. You don’t want red tape threatening your mid-Covid momentum.

Local Business Grants 

A little research can reap big rewards, as different areas offer business grants for winterizing outdoor dining spaces. Washington, D.C., for example, has launched their Streatery Winter Ready Grant Program which “is open to food and non-food retail businesses that have an active permit for outdoor space, whether it’s a temporary “streatery,” sidewalk cafe, or private area with a liquor license. The funds can be used to cover the costs of new tents, heaters, propane, lighting, furniture, and advertising/marketing.” 

Turn Up The Heat 

Patio Heaters

Patio heaters are not a new idea. If your business offered outdoor dining pre-Covid, chances are you have already invested in patio heaters. If your outdoor seating is temporary, you may want to consider patio heater rentals. A little math can help you figure out how many heaters your space needs as well as if it is better to rent or buy.


In the same vein, tents with heaters are an option for larger spaces with the added benefit of mitigating other weather challenges like rain and snow. Investing in tents and heaters gives your business more control over the elements. Heaters also provide your patrons with more confidence and comfort when they choose to dine with you.


Not only do firepits provide heat, they also provide light and ambiance. A less mobile option, firepits are an Instagrammable amenity that can draw patrons from hibernation. While firepits provide additional benefits, they’re also a big financial and time commitment. Between deciding what type of fuel is best (wood, propane, or natural gas), installation, and maintenance, firepits are a hefty undertaking. Consider if the benefits outweigh the cost of this outdoor dining addition.

Light it Up

As the days grow shorter, your dinner guests will need alternative light sources to help them see what they’re eating. As with firepits, string lights and lamps provide light while also offering cozy ambiance. Some of our favorite lighting options include vintage bulb string lights and tiki torches

Host Events

Event Ideas

Branded blankets are a thing of the past so get creative with events like Bring Your Own Blanket. Additional events could revolve around guests dining in cozy onesies, Christmas sweaters, or PJs; anything that encourages patrons to show up bundled up. 

Marketing Your Events 

Hosting events gives your business one more thing to market across social media and email and gives your online fans something new to be excited about. Create events through Eventbrite and Facebook so that patrons are prompted to RSVP and receive reminders leading up to the event. Special events make RSVPs and reservations more admissible, which prepares your staff for a predictable flow of clientele. 

Hot Beverages 

What to Serve 

Consider offering seasonal hot beverages like cider, hot chocolate, or mulled wine. These limited time beverages are sure to warm up your guests and get them excited about a seasonal product. 

How to Serve It 

Sestra’s touchless hot beverage dispensers are the perfect option for offering your guests a seasonal winter beverage, sure to keep their spirits and their temperatures up! Depending on your outdoor dining space, you can easily add a touchless hot beverage station on a countertop or bar alongside other taps. Or, use our mobile bars to bring service directly to your guests. For more information and to find out if Touchless Hot Beverage Dispensers are a good fit for your business, fill out the form on the bottom of this page!

Something to Brag About 

Don’t let your winterized outdoor dining updates be a secret. Update your website and post photos across social media, letting locals know how you’ll be keeping them warm and fed all winter long. 

Do you have additional tips for winterizing outdoor dining spaces or want to know how Sestra can help your business? Contact us here.