Is your patio ready?

Food just tastes better outdoors. Your customers love nothing more than gathering with friends on your outdoor patio — sipping their favorite wine and enjoying a beautiful charcuterie board or sharing a slice of cheesecake. But as a business owner, it’s important to know the rules and regulations (and a few tips can’t hurt either) on making dining al fresco a win-win for both you and your patrons.

Food for thought

The most important thing to remember is to check your local municipal rules and regulations about extending your business outdoors. From street and sidewalk ordinances to various permits, your local city council will have the details on keeping your business on the right side of the law.

Beyond specific municipal rules, however, there are many other things to consider when your customers get spring fever.

  • Food safety is paramount. Cleanliness, food temperature, and cross-contamination are always imperative to the health and safety of your customers, but when the mercury rises, it’s more important than ever for your servers and kitchen staff to understand the ABCs of food safety. The Food and Drug Safety Administration (FDA) maintains that any food that’s in the “danger zone” — between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit — for more than two hours (or one hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90 degrees F), is a breeding ground for bacteria. Cold food should be refrigerated at 40 degrees F or lower and hot food should be kept hot — at or above 140 degrees F. The FDA offers a handy safe food temperature chart to help keep you out of the danger zone,.
  • Got a light? It’s a hot-button issue. More and more dining establishments are hopping on the no-smoking bandwagon, and that’s beginning to extend to outdoor spaces. Depending on your core clientele, it’s something to keep in mind for the comfort and health of your customers.
  • Consider the canines. According to the National Restaurant Association, the only animal you are legally allowed to have in your dining establishment, inside or outside, is a service animal. Lots of people love to have a cup of coffee with a well-behaved pooch nearby, but a variety of problems can arise from having Fido at the table: allergens, noise disturbances, odors, and cleanliness. Check your local ordinances about non-service animals and your outdoor space, and then proceed with caution. 
  • Be aware of the weather. Spring and summer can be unpredictable. When a beautiful day turns stormy, you need to have a good severe weather protocol in place for both customers and employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests that business emergency plans should include details on where to take shelter, policies to ensure all personnel are accounted for, and procedures for addressing any hazardous materials onsite. A comprehensive response/recovery plan should be in place before disaster strikes. And if it gets too hot, close your patio or make sure you have misters or fans to reduce heat-stroke risk in your customers and employees.
  • Bug off! Ah, summertime. Sunshine, dining on the patio, and…mosquitoes? Well, something had to ruin the fun. Consider investing in a commercial bug zapper or strategically placed bug lights, but never spray harmful insect killer near food or patrons.

For more information

Grinnell Mutual can be your business insurance port in a storm. Contact an agent today.