6 Creative Uses for Your Restaurant’s Rooftop

The roof over your head can put more money in your pocket.
Find ways to transform your restaurant's rooftop into a customer destination. (Photo: Abby Mayer / KG Strong)

A restaurant’s profit margin is razor thin, so it makes sense to embrace new ways to bring in revenue. Need inspiration? Look up. No, not to heaven. To your rooftop.

Don’t let the space up there go to waste. Whether you add a rooftop bar or culinary garden or use the roof for special events or even fitness classes, there’s value to be had.

Add open air seating

Not all restaurants have patio space. As an alternative, turn your rooftop into an outdoor seating area. With a few tables and chairs and bit of landscaping, you can transform your roof into a new dining experience for your guests.

Edward Foy Jr., proprietor of The Chateau on the Lake in Bolton Landing, New York, said spaces like rooftops and patios that offer “dinner with a view” are great for adding a little character and excitement to the dining experience. Rooftop dining is also highly marketable.

Related: 8 Tips to Improve Your Restaurant’s Outdoor Seating Area

Open a rooftop bar

Similarly, adding an outdoor bar on your roof is a great way to create additional revenue. In recent years, rooftop bars have surged in popularity in the hotel industry. Restaurant owners, too, can leverage this trend.

As an added bonus, a rooftop bar can double as a waiting area for your restaurant to keep lines from getting too long.

Plant a garden

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In certain climates, rooftops can work well as herb or vegetable gardens. (Photo: phoelixDE/Shutterstock)

At Harvest, one of the restaurants in the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, hotel executive chef Frank Sanchez grows more than 15 herbs and vegetables in a rooftop garden and uses the fresh produce in his dishes.

Growing produce to use in your kitchen is not only a great use of your roof, it also provides a marketing opportunity. As more consumers get interested in the farm-to-table movement, you can target this market by highlighting the use of “homegrown” produce in your dishes. If your garden is attractive, you could even give “locavore” customers short tours to show it off.

Related: 5 Benefits of Growing a Culinary Garden at Your Restaurant

Keep a beehive

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If your restaurant uses honey, try adding a beehive to an already green rooftop. (Photo: Alison Hancock/Shutterstock)

In addition to a garden, Chef Sanchez also has an on-site beehive. The honey is incorporated into recipes for granola, honey-roasted nuts, salad dressings and more. It’s also used in the restaurant’s craft micro-brew, Harvest Roof Top Honey-Wheat Beer.

If you’re already growing herbs and veggies on your roof, beekeeping can be a natural addition. Bees help nearby gardens flourish. Of course, you’ll need to learn how to keep bees.

“Restaurant owners and others interested in keeping bees on rooftops in urban settings should first connect with their local beekeeping association,” suggested said Sarah Myers, Bayer Bee Team Apiarist and Outreach Coordinator. “In the spring, these associations offer classes on how to get started, so they’ll go through all the basics of beekeeping, the equipment you’ll need, and they can also recommend local suppliers for bees and equipment.”

Create an outdoor event space

The Chateau on the Lake’s Foy said another use of a restaurant’s roof is for hosting special events. Renting out the roof to private parties and catering the event is a great way to bring in some extra revenue.

The space can also be used for hosting your own special rooftop events. On Valentine’s Day, for example, you could use string lights and elegant decor to create the perfect spot for a romantic dinner. Add an outdoor atmosphere to a special prix fixe menu and you’ve set the tone for a lovely date night. Since rooftop seating would be limited for a special event like this, you could sell tickets in advance.

Offer fitness classes

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Use your rooftop as a fitness venue like Bok Bar in Philadelphia. (Photo: Abby Mayer / KG Strong)

For the past two summers, personal trainer and yoga instructor Katie Gould has partnered with Vietnamese restaurant Bok Bar in Philadelphia to offer Sunday morning yoga classes on their roof deck.

“It drew crowds of 50 to 100 students, who would then enjoy food and drinks at the restaurant after classes,” said Gould. The program was such a success for both her studio and Bok Bar that this year she’s expanded the class offerings to three days a week.

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