The Advantages of Outdoor Spaces At Your Business

Liz Logan
Post by Liz Logan
September 27, 2021
The Advantages of Outdoor Spaces At Your Business

Outdoor seating gives a distinct advantage to your brewery space. Even in pre-COVID times, brewery patios and beer gardens were uber popular. Often magazines and newspapers put together lists of the best places to eat and drink outdoors in their respective cities.

While there is a lot to be said for a well-crafted indoor space, outdoor spaces at your brewery or restaurant can add personality and artistry—as well as more customers. Plus, during the global pandemic, outdoor spaces have been crucial for breweries to safely reopen and once again welcome people into their establishment.

“People want to be outside now more than ever,” says Frank Scott Krueger, Co-Owner of Humble Sea Brewing in Santa Cruz, CA. Scott Krueger and his team just opened a new taproom in Pacifica, CA, and their outdoor beer garden has been incredibly important for their business.

So what are some things to think about when you’re looking to design the perfect outdoor space? We’ve got some ideas to get the ball rolling.

Creating an Outdoor Vibe and Decor That Stays True to Your Brand

Outdoor seating and tents at Humble Sea Brewing Company
(Photography courtesy of Humble Sea Brewing Co.)

When designing your outdoor space, the first point you should think about is your vibe. Ask yourself: How can this space be consistent with the rest of my brand?

Scott Krueger says that, while Humble Sea went with a traditional beer garden theme, they made sure to add their signature seafoam green and coral colors throughout. For example, by painting the tables in their specific color palette, they were able to mesh the old world with their more modern scheme.

“We even did a huge illustration on our outdoor tent,” says Scott Krueger. For consistency throughout, Scott Krueger says they chose to elevate their tents by creating a bright and fluid look with icons and branding that mirror their interior and overall design scheme.

Similarly, at The Artisan Palate, a restaurant, art gallery, and gathering space in Charlotte, North Carolina, owner Christa Csoka stayed true to her theme of incorporating local artists by including murals from local artists throughout their garden and patios.

“We do a lot of work with young muralists,” says Csoka. “We like to focus specifically on women muralists and it gives our outdoor space a life that mirrors our indoor art gallery.”

And at Jack’s Abby Beer Hall & Kitchen in Farmington, MA, the satellite taproom adds accents of flora and art to achieve their vibe. “We chose plants with similar colors to our scheme and dressed up the outdoor space to fit with our brand,” says General Manager Mo Bentley. “The biggest thing was to have a local muralist do the whole side of our building, focusing on what we care about—community and diversity.”

Whether through color, plants, murals, or other pieces of art each piece of your outdoor space should make sure to reflect your vibe as a brand.

How to Plan Your Furniture and Layout

Guests enjoying beer and food outside at Humble Sea Brewing Company
(Photography courtesy of Humble Sea Brewing Co.)

Designing your layout and furniture is a crucial consideration. You can’t have an outdoor space without providing tables for your guests and a place to sit! There are a variety of aspects to consider when choosing seating, tables, and other furniture.

Both Humble Sea and Jack’s Abby chose a traditional beer garden approach, which features communal tables with long wooden benches. Dating back to Germany in the 16th century, this time-honored tradition is still used today because it invites customers to share space and build relationships over a beer.

Simultaneously a beer garden setup increases the amount of seats, which potentially increases your sales.

“When creating our outdoor space, we wanted to have as many tables as possible, and we really focused on different types of table layouts. This allowed us to maximize our space and have as many seats as possible,” says Bentley.

Plus, Jack’s Abby has the space to include extra touches. “We have anything from hammocks to high tops, making our space feel very comfortable and inviting,” says Bentley.

Other popular layouts include:

Picnic tables

Breweries like Legion Brewing in Charlotte, NC, have created an intimate patio and deck area with a few picnic tables, perfect for Sunday brunch or a game of cards.

Fire pits

Breckenridge Brewery’s Farm House Restaurant in Littleton, CO, features a large grassy outdoor space with picnic tables throughout as well as fire pits surrounded by Adirondack chairs. This layout is perfect for chilly nights with good beer and friends.

Outdoor bar tops

If you’ve got a small area to work with, like Salud Beer Shop in Charlotte, NC, having a high-top bar space with barstools allows you to maximize outdoor seating without sacrificing space.

How to Make Your Space Weather Friendly

Outdoor tent with string lights at VBGB Beer Hall and Garden
(Photography courtesy of VBGB Beer Hall & Garden)

While you may have the most elaborately planned, exquisitely designed outdoor space, unpredictable weather can always put a damper on things. For some, it is a “fair weather only” experience, while for others it is worth the additional awning on a building or permanent outdoor tents.

Because of their consistent outdoor crowds, Charlotte’s VBGB has large tents covering their outdoor bar year-round, with airflow in the warmer months and heaters in the winter, allowing for a crowd that is not relegated to their indoor eating area.

On warmer days, the addition of umbrellas or sun shades makes the outdoors more bearable, thus keeping your customers around longer, and providing a comfortable space despite the heat.

Pump Up Your Space with Plants

To add a bit of lusciousness to your outdoor seating, consider building in a garden with vegetables and herbs or even just plants. Both are practical and visually appealing.

Charlotte’s Legion Brewing incorporated a raised bed with seasonal vegetables they use in various dishes on their menu. For example, homegrown peppers make their way into hot sauce and even the occasional small-batch brew.

While this may be permissible in some areas, other states are not as welcoming to the idea of house-grown food.

For instance, Jack’s Abby is located in Framingham, which has certain planting regulations. “Where we are is pretty strict in terms of planting,” says Bentley. “While we have plants, we are not able to do any gardening that involves usable vegetables.”

Even if you can’t use edible plants, the flora still adds ornamentation to your outdoor area. And if you’re looking for an easy, trendy item, consider growing hops outside your taproom. It’s easily manageable greenery that one hundred percent makes sense in a beer garden. It all plays into the brewery experience.

Should You Focus on Food?

Beer and food on an outdoor table at Humble Sea Brewing Company
(Photography courtesy of Humble Sea Brewing Co.)

It all depends on your business model. Generally, outdoor spaces tend to be more informal, so you need to decide whether you’d like your beer garden to feature full-on table service versus something more casual like a pared-down menu.

Some establishments choose for outdoor seating to follow the same protocol as indoor table service while others choose a hybrid system.

At Pita Wheel in Gastonia, NC, “We have two distinct areas in our patio,” says Alyssa Moss, Social Media Manager for Pita Wheel. “On one side we have full table service, and on another we have a more open beer garden feel.”

Similarly, at Jack’s Abby they use a hybrid system.

“We have QR codes on tables for ordering and also send service staff to check on tables,” says Bentley. “Some people prefer bar service while others want full service, and we do our best to accommodate both.”

Pick a system that works best for you. Or just choose to forgo food service altogether.

Get Creative with Outdoor Games

(Photography courtesy of Shutterstock)

For many breweries, adding outdoor spaces creates a fun, laid-back atmosphere. An area where people are free to interact with their own parties and other guests, drawing your patrons together and keeping them in your taproom longer. It’s a win-win for everyone. Your consumers are enjoying themselves outdoors and you’re increasing your bottom line as folks stick around to buy more beers. Business owners can stoke this vibe even more by including outdoor games for their customers.

Recently, we wrote about the right games to include inside your tap rooms, but we also included a section just for outdoor games. And by far we found the best starting point to be cornhole, the iconic Midwestern game that has teams throwing bean bags at a tiny hole in a special board.

Cornhole boards are relatively inexpensive, easily branded, and inherently mobile. You can simply put away the boards at the end of the night and your cleanup is done. Furthermore, cornhole has almost become synonymous with drinking games. Some breweries, like Omaha’s Nebraska Brewing Company and nearby Lucky Bucket Brewing, have even set up their own tournaments.

When choosing the right games for your brewery or bar, keep your location in mind. If you're pressed for space, implementing something like giant Jenga may make more sense. Whereas if you have a full beer garden space, you could implement something like bocce ball, shuffleboard, or even a full-on disc golf course like at Anderson Valley Brewing.

Bottomline: Whether you choose to feature cornhole, bocce ball, or a giant-sized Connect Four, providing outdoor games is an easy way to engage your guests, keep them in your beer garden, and increase the chances that they’ll return in the future.

Should You Allow Kids in Your Outdoor Space?

Group of girlfriends enjoying beer at outdoor seating at Free Range Brewing with dog and baby
(Photography courtesy of Free Range Brewing)

Outdoor spaces can be great for kids because it gives them space to run around while your adult patrons relax and enjoy a drink. But overall you need to decide how (and if) children fit into your brewery model.

If you are a brewery who has chosen to be family friendly, it’s important to incorporate children into the planning process of your outdoor space for safety reasons.

“Kids are humans and need space, and sometimes it's a little bit bigger and a little bit louder,” says Sarah Alexander, Co-Owner of Free Range Brewing in Charlotte, NC.

...had a huge grassy area for our daughter to run around and we could sit nearby and feel safe letting her play ... We’ve been regulars ever since.
Lauren Herman | Charlotte, North Carolina

Alexander suggests leaning into this reality as opposed to fighting against it by creating a specific space just for children to play. Many parents are looking for this exact thing.

Lauren Herman and her husband, Zach, moved to Charlotte’s NoDa area from Austin, Texas, during the pandemic. “We were looking for something to do with our then four-year-old daughter and looked up breweries with outdoor space. We saw that NoDa Brewing had a huge grassy area for our daughter to run around and we could sit nearby and feel safe letting her play,” says Herman. “We’ve been regulars ever since.”

Keep in Mind Outdoor Laws and Regulations

Lastly, but not least, make sure that you are compliant with your local laws. Alcohol laws vary widely from state to state, with some being more lenient and some far more restrictive. Most states require establishments selling alcohol to ensure consumers stay within certain approved parameters while consuming alcohol. Others are more lenient. It is very important to consult your local laws prior to setting up outdoor space in order to stay in compliance with your local alcohol authority.

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Liz Logan
Post by Liz Logan
September 27, 2021
Liz Logan is a Charlotte-based freelance writer, editor and content manager working in both local and national publications. She holds a Certified Beer Server certification in the Cicerone hierarchy and spent eight years in craft beer bartending before turning the corner to write. Her free time is spent forcing her family to both sing and dance to Hamilton, compulsively stopping at thrift stores for things she doesn't need, and hugging her German Shepherd.