Gymax patio set with table made.

During the summer months, if we have guests over when it’s warm, chances are we’ll be spending most of the time outdoors, enjoying the beautiful outdoor living set-up we have in our backyard. But even when we’re on our own, my family loves to eat dinner outside, or even breakfast and lunch, if the weather is favourable.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind when deciding to dine outside, however, if you want to ensure it’s a comfortable experience. Over the years, I have learned a few crucial tips.

1.Lighting and music helps you relax while you dine outside

Outdoor lighting

You want to ensure the ambiance is just right. And for outdoor dining, that means having the perfect soundtrack playing as well as ideal lighting. Outdoor smart lighting is the way to go. Smart lights are even better, since you can control them remotely from a phone, choose among various colors and even lighting effects, and set them on schedules. For example, you might want them to turn on automatically every night at 8 p.m. when the sun has gone down. Lighting makes it possible to still enjoy the outdoors even after sundown if you want to have a late-night meal or even a movie night with an outdoor TV or projector. If you’re dining outside, some patio table umbrellas come with built-in lighting on the underside, making the set up super simple and convenient.

2.Keep the temperature just right

Summer in Canada is always a delicate balance between super-hot and humid temperatures during the day followed by potentially much cooler nights. It’s a constant battle to decide what to wear: do I need a cardigan or can I do without one? There’s nothing more uncomfortable than trying to enjoy a good meal outside when the sun is blaring down on you, or conversely, when you’re shivering cold. Keeping the temperature perfect involves both ensuring the right amount of shade and having heat at the ready.

For shade, the obvious solution is a patio umbrella, which you can position over the eating area so everyone has a comfortable experience and can get up and walk around to enjoy the sun once they’re finished. Ideally, you’d find a patio umbrella that will fit within the pre-made hole of an outdoor table and chairs patio set so it provides sufficient cover for everyone. If you’re sitting on a conversational set, you could consider an offset umbrella.

People around a fire table
warm up your patio with a patio heater

For warmth when needed, outdoor heating is a must. You can choose from fire pits to fire tables and patio heaters, depending on where you’ll place it. For dining, if you’re having finger foods, hamburgers, or hot dogs around the fire, a fire table or fire pit makes sense. But if you’re having a more formal sit-down dinner, a patio heater or ideally two can be positioned at either side of the table, offering heat as needed. While we have a fire table on our lower deck for late-night drinks with friends, we use a patio heater on the top deck for warmth when it gets cool outside.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t discount the importance of keeping the inside of your home cool for maximizing your comfort while you dine outdoors. Why? Each time you pop inside to get cutlery, clear the table, or go for a quick bathroom break, a nice blast of cool air from air conditioning can be just the cool-down you needed to tough through the extreme heat.

3.Have the right patio furniture this summer

Outdoor patio set

Just as with eating indoors, comfortable seating can make all the difference when you want to dine outside. When it comes to outdoors, that means finding patio furniture with cushions that provide nice support for your bottom and back, but also that don’t make you sink right in such that it’s awkward to cut through items on a plated dish. A nice lounge chair is great for sharing drinks, but when it comes to dining, you want something that will serve as a kitchen or dining room table equivalent for outside. A sectional patio set can work provided you are serving food that can be eaten by hand without the need for utensils but for a single spoon or fork. If it’s just a few people, a sectional with a small table might suffice. But for larger groups of four or more, picnic table-style makes the most sense. This way, everyone has space to chow down, extra food dishes can be put in the middle for self-serving (or second helpings!) and the food is positioned at the right height so no one has to crouch down to eat.

4.Cook outside, too!

Man barbecuing and laughing with family around.

Chances are when you enjoy dinner indoors, other family members or guests congregate around the person cooking as they chat or just keep them company. You can accomplish this outdoors as well by actually making the dinner outside. During the summer, we cook the majority of our dinners on the barbecue or smoker with some side dishes done in the kitchen to accompany the main protein. This allows us to enjoy one another’s company before we sit down to eat versus one person being stuck inside while everyone else is having fun outside.

Complete the set-up with outdoor tableware, drinkware, and bar & cocktail accessories. I love wine tumblers that come with a lid to keep the fruit flies away and double-walled insulation to keep your wine chilled, even during the hottest of evenings.

5.Bugs, be gone this summer!

Greenstrike bug zapper hanging on the side of a deck outside.

One of the things I despise the most about eating outdoors is the inevitable bugs that love to invade as soon as you sit down and food is served, from bees and wasps to flies to mosquitos at night. You can eliminate or at least reduce the nuisance long enough for you to dine outside with a bug zapper. There are ones that hang near the table or at the side of the deck and can help protect the entire deck area from flying insects of all kinds. I also have special outdoor serve ware with covers (there are simple ones with perforations so the food can still breathe but insects don’t get inside). This allows you to keep items covered if you plan to leave them out for people to munch on. Don’t forget to clean up plates and any food scraps immediately to prevent these pests from infiltrating your dining experience. You can also light citronella candles to help deter them.

Don’t hesitate to dine outside!

There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy dinnertime outside during the summer months, or any time it’s comfortable enough to indulge in the great outdoors. As long as you follow these tips to ensure a comfortable and pleasurable experience, you’ll find that dining outside is a pretty cool experience. It’s a nice change of scenery from the usual.

Don’t wait, by the way, until you have guests over to fully enjoy your outdoor living set-up. Enjoy Sunday morning breakfasts with the family, Friday night dinners, or even the occasional solo work-from-home lunch on the deck, patio, or in the backyard. Dining outside this summer will do wonders for your mood and rejuvenate your spirits.

Christine Persaud
With 20+ years of experience in trade and consumer tech journalism, I have covered the tech space since before social media was a "thing" and the smartphone as we know it was even invented. Writing for various technology, lifestyle, and entertainment sites, I have covered and reviewed hundreds of tech products, from home appliances to wearables, fitness tech to headphones, TV entertainment products and services, and more. I'm also a passionate foodie who loves to cook and bake, a TV show fanatic (happy to give what to watch recommendations!), and proud mother to a 12-year-old son.