Steal This Idea: Parking Lot Patios for Restaurants

Steal This Idea: Parking Lot Patios for Restaurants

The state of Virginia ABC announced that it would relax some restrictions on outside dining and drinking by allowing restaurants to set up expanded dining in their parking lots. The bad news:  I would like to see these restaurants create ambience in their new dining areas. Please inspire me to leave my house and make me feel special! I can help you do it on a low budget.


Parking Lot Patio Basic


This is my virtual version of more or less what I saw in the newspaper announcement about the new policy. It’s a fictitious restaurant with a simple patio set up quickly to enable outdoor dining. I’m sure you’ve seen some like it around town. It’s functional, but does not represent the lovely aesthetic of the restaurant’s interior. Here are some simple, inexpensive ways to spruce it up. 

Color Coordination

First, spray paint the traffic cones black so they blend instead of standing out like eye sores. 

Add Ivey

Next, wrap the rope in fake ivy.  I use this Greenery Garland on my own terrace. 


You can’t even tell it’s fake!

Create Height and Add Privacy with Stacked Pots

This is something I did on my own terrace.  I bought 2 inexpensive pots, turned them upside down and created height for my herbs. It adds more visual interest and leverages natural elements so guests feel some sense of separation. 


Mix Up the Cones

Pitch a few of the cones, maybe at corners, and stack terra cotta pots for height. Add flowers for visual interest.  I use these terra cotta pots on my terrace.

Stylish Restaurant Patio

This is my revised rendering using only the simple low budget suggestions above. Look at the difference in curb appeal!


Now one last request: Welcome your guests with a well-staged hostess/sanitizing station. 

Bring some extra tables to the front and add hurricane lanterns with candles. Not only does it add to the ambiance, it helps guests know the proper place to enter and exit, making it easier for staff to manage this new change in service.


These are some of my favorite lanterns. I like the variety of sizes that make it easy to create appealing vignettes around a restaurant patio.



These are outdoor battery operated candles that look so real it’s amazing. They also are a much safer option.


Ta Da! Restaurant Patio Reimagined


This restaurant has gone from simple and functional to a dining destination. Do you have a favorite patio around town? Leave it in the comments.

Kathy Corbet Interiors is thrilled to be featured in the upcoming book Inspired Interiors. Browse some of our most beautiful spaces alongside the work of other leading interior designers and start imagining your dream home.