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Making Waves in Waterside Dining: 7 Key Considerations

While dining al fresco has always been enjoyable, it became especially popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the only thing more appealing than regular outdoor seating is sharing a meal by the water.

Restaurateurs have the challenging task of continuously improving the dining experience, beating out their competitors and enticing customers to revisit time and again. When you have the luxury of a waterfront location, you want to seize the opportunity as best you can. Here are seven considerations restaurant owners should have when embracing waterside dining.

Maximize the View

When diners opt to dine outside, they do so to enjoy the scenery, sounds of the water and breathtaking sunsets. Therefore, restaurant owners want to ensure each table has a picturesque view. 

Tiered seating arrangements may be an option for a dock. A mix of high-top and lower tables is another possibility. If you sell yourself as a waterfront restaurant, you should also remember patrons who prefer to stay inside. Installing large windows allows indoor diners just as much of a waterside experience.

Manage Pests and Wildlife

Is there anything more annoying than eating a meal with bugs buzzing around? You must have a strategy to manage pests when offering waterside dining. Summer months are especially challenging with flies, bees and mosquitoes.

Check whether insects congregate in a specific area — a sign there could be a nest. Burning citronella candles, blowing fans and keeping the surrounding patio area dry are other ways to control unwanted critters. 

Your waterside dining space might also attract birds. Fortunately, you can add lightweight mesh netting to prevent them from ruining the outdoor experience. Immediately cleaning spills, putting lids on trash bins and clearing food scraps are additional protocols to implement among staff. 

Create the Right Ambiance

Enhance the waterfront dining experience by focusing on your restaurant’s outdoor ambiance. Are you located near the beach? Does your restaurant offer casual or upscale fare? 

Bright colors, natural elements and nautical decor are most appealing in laid-back eateries. However, even outside, a more sophisticated dining experience should include white tablecloths and candlelight.

If your restaurant is lakeside, string lighting is striking for casual and elegant dining, creating a relaxing mood for everyone. 

Prepare for Weather

Clear skies and sunshine are the perfect conditions to enjoy lunch beside the water. However, summer heat can make eating outdoors uncomfortable. Likewise, heavy precipitation and flooding may cause significant property damage and mold growth

Protect your waterside dining area from weather impacts by installing umbrellas and awnings — these help block strong ultraviolet rays and rain. You might also choose to winterize your patio so patrons can relish outdoor seating year-round. A clear vinyl tarp, space heaters, and unscented candles will keep diners warm when there’s snow and ice on the ground.

Invest in Outdoor Furniture

Waterside dining furniture should be as durable as it is comfortable. Tables and chairs must be weather-resistant, cozy and match your restaurant’s vibe. 

Avoid materials prone to rusting and opt for water-repelling or fast-drying pillows and cushions. The last thing you want is to waste money on replacing furniture. Likewise, wet fabric could lead to foul odors and mildew.  

Reduce Noise Pollution

You can’t help it if your restaurant is near a busy street or active marina. In fact, patrons might have chosen your eatery specifically to watch the boats come in and out. However, the noise could be distracting to diners. 

Soundproof the outdoor seating area to create a more relaxing and enjoyable environment. Some ideas could include the following:

  • Install soundproofing panels wherever possible on patio ceilings and walls, using materials like cork or fabric.
  • Arrange your outdoor seating as far away from the noise source as possible.
  • Add bushes, trees and hedges to absorb outdoor noise pollution. 
  • Consider outdoor rugs, tablecloths and other textiles to reduce noise.

While soundproofing your waterside dining space is necessary, you want to maintain aesthetics. Try tying your soundproofing methods to your restaurant’s decor. If your methods don’t work as well as you’d like, you may need to hire a consultant. 

Inspect the Outdoor Space

In January 2022, the popular Flip Flops Dockside Eatery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, collapsed, sending three people into the Intracoastal Waterway and two people with injuries to the hospital. Unfortunately, incidents like this happen all too often.

Restaurants need additional inspections to ensure diner safety and proper hygiene when offering waterside dining service. For instance, your state’s Department of Natural Resources may inspect how your restaurant disposes of food waste and whether it attracts wildlife or harms surrounding ecosystems.

Inspectors must check for structural integrity if your restaurant has dockside seating or a patio near a marina. Always inquire with your local health department and authorities to guarantee you meet compliance regulations.

You can also do your part by ensuring the outdoor seating area remains dry. Otherwise, you could be liable for slips, falls and injuries. 

Wine and Dine in a Waterside Oasis

Waterside dining provides an al fresco experience like no other. If your establishment is fortunate enough to have water views, you should take advantage of it as best you can. Create a standout dining atmosphere with exemplary service to keep customers coming back for more.

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