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The outdoor dining pivot

The outdoor dining pivot

Top trans-seasonal heating options that will entice patrons year-round

The biggest trend in dining out is dining outdoors! And while a casual, relaxed ambiance and great people watching have long attracted customers to dining and drinking alfresco, the pandemic has them preferring venues with plenty of fresh air more than ever. Which is why creating multi-seasonal spaces is vital.

“The increased appetite for outdoor dining is continuing, and what started as a temporary pivot to survive for many hospitality venues has turned into a permanent offering. And for many cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs it’s a boon, as having both indoor and outdoor dining spaces can help increase their takings and breathe new life into their venue,” says Stephane Thomas, Director of MAD Design, whose brands include EcoSmart Fire, HEATSCOPE® (electric radiant heaters), and Blinde Design furniture and accessories.

The founder of Houston’s B.B. Lemon restaurant, Benjamin Berg, recently told OpenTable that since he created an outdoor dining space “it’s almost like a garden party every night”, and he encourages others in hospitality to make their outdoor dining space desirable “where people really want to be – not just where they’re forced to be because they feel it’s safer”.

However, while courtyards, patios, balconies and terraces offer safer fresh air, they are more challenging to heat. “An outdoor space that is comfortably warm on cool days and evenings and during the colder months can attract more diners all year,” says Thomas. “As Dawn Allcott on real estate marketplace site Loopnet said, restaurant owners who go the extra mile to make their outdoor spaces more inviting can turn the “proverbial lemons” served up by the pandemic into lemonade.

“Creating an inviting look is as important as creating a warm environment when it comes to attracting customers year-round. Customers want their local outdoor dining establishments to have the comforts and warmth of indoors and a fun, even romantic, ambiance reminiscent of Greek tavernas, Spanish tapas bars, French cafes and Italian trattorias – and even picnics under the stars around a camp or bonfire. And the most effective way to achieve this is with a combination of effective but discrete heating and a real fire, within a stylish outdoor fireplace, fire pit or fire table.”

Stephane Thomas, director MAD Design Group

The benefits of ethanol-fuelled fire pits

The benefits of ethanol-fuelled fire pits

Fire pits are incredibly popular and it’s easy to see why: they instantly create a warm and inviting ambiance, give any outdoor space a stylish resort look, and they’re versatile and easy to install.

“Fire pits create a focal point and within seconds of lighting, they transform open-air spaces into inviting, cosy retreats. Their alluring flames draw people in, which is an attractive feature for restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs,” says Thomas.

As a busy restaurant, café or pub owner, you need a fire pit that’s simple to light and quick and easy to maintain. Unlike wood-burning fire pits which need a constant supply of appropriate wood, give off irritating, polluting smoke and create ash and soot, EcoSmart fire pits produce natural flames within their burners with eco-friendly, clean-burning ethanol fuel, propane or natural gas*. As they don’t emit any smoke or odours, your patrons enjoy a cleaner, fresher environment and your staff don’t have to spend time cleaning up ash and soot and restocking the wood supply.

The designers of the modern TFKB Skylounge in Turkey, Farmer’s Daughter restaurant in the US, and Australian restaurant Junction Moama all chose EcoSmart fire pits to give these venues a warm and inviting ambiance to entice diners outdoors.

At Junction Moama, the restaurant’s fire pit is surrounded by built-in seating that enables diners to congregate around the fire while they enjoy a drink. “The EcoSmart burners provide the warmth and ambient environment that hospitality projects are always looking to have,” says Victor Cheung from Altis Architecture, the firm behind the restaurant’s redesign.

In addition to creating an inviting ambiance and being easy to maintain, EcoSmart fire pits are easy and affordable to install, as the ethanol- and LP gas-fuelled fires don’t require a vent or chimney. Being vent free, they are also easier to relocate. It’s only the natural gas-powered models* that require a connection, enabling a built-in outdoor fireplace.

EcoSmart fire pit Kits make it easy to create a custom-made fire pit design that complements the look of your establishment. There’s a variety of stainless-steel burner sizes and shapes to choose from, including square, rectangular and round, which fit into different fire pit bowls crafted from strong yet lightweight eco-friendly Fluid™ Concrete, or you can even choose a sculptural Stix fire pit, a striking fireplace that comprises different-sized stainless-steel tubular ‘sticks’.

You can even create your own tailored fire pit surround from any non-combustible material like stone, cement and tiles. Kromer in Los Angeles gave their outdoor lounge area’s EcoSmart fire pit a metallic shield-like curved back, creating an eye-catching feature.

“As portable fire pits are easy to move, many establishments are using EcoSmart fire pits to direct diners to sections of their patio and courtyards, perhaps the bar at happy hour or the lounge for after dinner drinks, and to light dark corners to make their outdoor space more appealing and spacious,” says Stephane.

The easy appeal of fire tables

The easy appeal of fire tables

Multi-functional fire tables are an eye-catching and convenient addition to any bar or dining establishment’s patio, courtyard, terrace or garden area, as they showcase the alluring natural flames while providing a handy place to rest drinks and snacks.

EcoSmart fire pit tables also boast Triple Fuel Technology*, meaning their natural flames are fuelled by a choice of clean-burning ethanol, propane or natural gas*. They don’t produce smoke or emission, nor do they require a chimney or vent, which makes installation affordable and easy. And while EcoSmart’s ethanol and LP gas-fuelled fire pit tables* don’t require costly connection to gas or electricity and are thus easy to relocate, the natural gas fire tables don’t require refuelling and are perfect for built-in fireplaces.

All EcoSmart fire tables feature a stainless-steel burner at their core, boast attractive, clean-line styling and come in a wide choice of shapes, sizes and heights, including coffee table, dining and bar heights, which cater to a variety of outdoor dining space sizes, decors and requirements. They also come in a choice of two strong and weather-resistant materials: Fluid™ Concrete, a lightweight eco-friendly concrete in three hues – natural, graphite and bone – and a beautiful golden, natural oiled teak.

“EcoSmart fire tables create a convenient centrepiece for any lounge or casual dining setting – and versatility is paramount. For example, the bar-height fire table paired with sturdy teak upholstered Blinde Design bar stools creates an inviting and comfortable resort-style bar area,” says Thomas.

In addition to being strong, durable and weather-resistant, EcoSmart fire pit tables are fitted with height-adjustable articulating feet to create a level and stable position in your outdoor environment, and you can choose from handy accessories that include everything you need to operate and look after your fire table, including protective toughened glass fire screens, attractive black glass charcoal media, an all-season cover, and lighting tools for the ethanol-fuelled models.

Low-maintenance outdoor fireplaces

Low-maintenance outdoor fireplaces

Today’s built-in outdoor fireplaces combine the visual and sensory appeal of traditional indoor hearths with design freedom and versatility. And restaurant, café and bar owners and their designers, architects and builders are not only specifying and installing them to give outdoor dining spaces a warm inviting ambiance, but to also create an eye-catching feature and focal point. Additionally, they’re using a variety of materials and surround designs that take inspiration from luxury resorts and homes; popular décor styles including modern minimalist, coastal, mid-century, country; and the countries of their cuisines such as Mexican, Italian and Greek.

EcoSmart Fire’s range of stainless steel ethanol burners and the ever-versatile Flex fireplace inserts give venue owners both design freedom and ease of installation, as they don’t require a vent or chimney nor connection to gas or electricity. Not being connected to a fixed power source also means EcoSmart’s ethanol-fuelled Flex Fireplaces can be installed almost anywhere in your outdoor space, in both full and partial walls.

The fireplace inserts are constructed from durable and rust-proof powder-coated steel, making them perfect for outdoor spaces. There are eight, versatile models to choose from in a choice of lengths and styles, including single-sided, double-sided and bench-style, as well as models with three and four open sides.

“Two or more open sides enable more customers to enjoy the flickering flames,” says Thomas. “A double-sided Flex Fireplace installed into an external wall adds warmth and an inviting ambience to both an indoor room and an outdoor space. A great example is the Tocca Madera restaurant in Los Angeles, which chose a double-sided insert for a wall that divides their interior and outdoor dining spaces. And they finished it with a natural stone surround to complement their venue’s modern Mexican-style décor.”

The clean-lined Flex Fireplace inserts fit flush to the wall, giving you the freedom to create a surround of your choice – perhaps to complement your outdoor dining space’s décor or your type of cuisine – or no surround at all for a sleek minimalist look. Popular surround styles for the modern, custom fireplaces include slimline stone and timber mantels, roughly-hewn timber slab-style mantels and hearths, oversize granite hearths that double as a ledge, and smooth and natural-finish stack-stone and stone facing that covers a section or the entire fireplace wall.

Radiant heaters: entice patrons with sun-like warmth

Radiant heaters: entice patrons with sun-like warmth

Radiant heaters, also known as electric infrared radiant heaters, are the perfect solution for heating hospitality outdoor dining spaces, because they’re quiet, effective, emission-free, flexible and cost-efficient. They transfer a gentle heat directly to people and surfaces instead of heating the air in between. This makes them highly efficient and cost effective, as you don’t waste money heating the air, which blows away.

For outdoor spaces in restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs, the award-winning HEATSCOPE® is the brand of choice, as they:

  • spread a soft sun-like warmth across a large area
  • have an attractive sleek and low-profile design in a choice of black or white
  • are easy to relocate (simply lift off the wall mount bracket)
  • come ready to be mounted high on the wall or set into the ceiling, which keeps them out of the way of customers and service staff
  • don’t compromise the look of your outdoor space as they are positioned above-eye level

HEATSCOPE® radiant heaters are also superior performance-wise, as they have sophisticated technology that enables them to efficiently and quickly transform electricity into ambiant heat, reducing power bills and creating a noticeable warmth within seconds. They are also affordable and easy to install. And as a clean-heating solution, HEATSCOPE heaters ensure your outdoor dining space is more pleasant, cleaner and eco-friendly.

“There is a HEATSCOPE® heater model for all types of outdoor dining spaces including completely open, partially exposed, and well covered, and all are crafted from durable, high-quality materials and offer resistance to dust, splash-water and wind. HEATSCOPE® heaters have a high Ingress Protection rating that far exceeds the standard rating of other brands, making it a cost-smart choice for outdoor dining venues,” explains Thomas.

“A popular choice is the HEATSCOPE® Pure electric radiant heater, which in 2018 won a Red Dot Design Award. The jury’s statement sums it up beautifully: ‘The Heatscope Pure infrared heater fascinates with its sophisticated interplay of design and functionality’.”

Better together: HEATSCOPE® heaters and EcoSmart Fires

Better together: HEATSCOPE® heaters and EcoSmart Fires

The most effective way to create a warm and inviting multi-seasonal outdoor dining space is by pairing a HEATSCOPE® electric radiant heater with an EcoSmart fire pit, fire table or built-in fireplace.

“The natural flames of an EcoSmart Fire draw patrons into your outdoor space and helps to make their meal or drinks a fun and enjoyable, even romantic, experience. However, not all your patrons can sit fireside, so you need a heater that warms everyone in your outdoor space. A HEATSCOPE® radiant heater positioned above eye level on one of your external walls makes your patrons feel comfortably warm without noticing where the heat is coming from,” explains Thomas.

While each of HEATSCOPE’s three electric-powered models warms a wide area, the size of your outdoor dining space will determine how many you need to create a comfortable environment.

“HEATSCOPE® radiant infrared heaters are so quiet and discrete they won’t interfere with the look and ambience of your outdoor dining space or bar – or take the focus away from the ‘stars’ of your establishment: the EcoSmart Fires, not to mention a venue’s cuisine and drinks!”

Stephane Thomas, director MAD Design Group

Further enhance your venue’s outdoor space with all-weather, on-trend furniture

Further enhance your venue’s outdoor space with all-weather, on-trend furniture

High quality, weather-resistant furniture and accessories with timeless clean lines and comfortable seating give any outdoor dining space enduring comfort and style.

“Furniture that is hard wearing, strong and durable as well as comfortable and stylish will save you money in the long run, because it will look good for longer and you won’t have to replace it as often. Every piece of Blinde Design outdoor furniture has all these qualities, to appeal to you and your patrons,” says Thomas.

Blinde Design’s indoor outdoor furniture range features:
  • generous and versatile modular sofas and teak chairs, bar stools and love seats, all with soft and supportive back and seat cushions covered in comfortable, weather-resistant Sunbrella® fabric
  • strong and lightweight Fluid™ Concrete coffee tables in a choice of square, rectangle, and round designs in three natural hues
  • sturdy and stylish teak bar carts
  • handy Fluid™ Concrete stools
  • sculptural Fluid™ Concrete planters with rope stitched embellishment, which accommodate real or artificial plants

Blinde Design’s modular sofas, chairs and bar stools have strong and sturdy frames and quick-dry cushions covered in Sunbrella®, a robust outdoor fabric that is resistant to stains, moisture, and UV rays. The lightweight sectional sofa modules can be easily relocated and reconfigured to create any size or shape lounge to suit your customers’ needs, including a single large lounge, multiple small couches, L-shape and U-shape sofas.

And as the modular sofas and chairs can be placed outdoors and indoors, they can be used to create a seamless transition between your indoor dining room and outdoor space, creating an attractive, harmonious look.

“Blinde Design modular sofas offer incredible flexibility and give you and your staff the convenience of creating a setting quickly and effortlessly to cater to your diners’ needs. For example, one or two modules can be added to any setting to accommodate extra diners – or removed if the booking changes at the last minute,” says Stephane.

Natural colours

Natural colours furniture

According to leading designers, natural hues are not only on-trend but complement any outdoor space, which makes creating an attractive look very easy. Blinde Design’s modular sofas and chairs are covered in a choice of three Sunbrella® fabric colours that complement each other and are all inspired by nature: Flanelle, a dark grey reminiscent of granite; Sooty, a charcoal-like black; and Canvas, which takes inspiration from linen and light-coloured stones. All three fabric colours complement each other and the Fluid™ concrete coffee table hues Natural, Graphite and Bone. They also contrast beautifully with other colours, including soft gelatos and vibrant bright hues.

“It’s not always feasible to change your outdoor furniture every year to keep up with changing tends, however, Blinde Design furniture’s enduring quality and style ensures your outdoor dining area looks good for year and years. And to update its look from time to time, all you need to do is simply change your plants, scatter cushions, throws, placemats, and outdoor rugs!” Thomas adds.

*fuel options vary depending on country regulations.