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It's patio season – and that means big business for restaurants

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Spring in Minnesota means patio season.

Dozens of restaurants have taken advantage of the warmer-than-average temperatures we've had this spring and opened their patios to cater to winter-weary patrons.

That's because warm spring and summer days are often the most profitable period for restaurants that have outdoor space, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal reported, and not having them can actually slow business during warm weather.

In fact, international restaurant consulting group VSAG found restaurants with patios can expect to see a gross profit of 65 percent, noting if an establishment invests $200,000 in a patio, the forecast seasonal return is estimated at $500,000 in sales.

In the past decade or so the number of Twin Cities' establishments with patios has grown exponentially, reported, thanks in part to the statewide smoking ban that went into effect in 2007.

“The smoking ban led to a boom in the existence of patios– people making patios, upgrading patios, etc.” Minneapolis restauranteur Kim Bartmann told “It ended up being better for everyone, not just smokers.”

And now outdoor space is considered a "must-have feature" that contributes to a restaurant's bottom line, the Business Journal says.

That's why many restaurants are looking to add space for outdoor dining in the near future, pending approval from the city. Last week alone, there were two public hearings to discuss two Minneapolis businesses' applications to add or expand their outdoor space, according to the city's website.

Twin Cities best patios

With so many outdoor dining options in the area, how do you decide where to go?

The Pioneer Press and KARE 11 put together lists of restaurants that opened their patios last month, noting other eateries are expected to open their outdoor space in the next few weeks.

Several publications have published best patio lists over the years. Here are a few to narrow down your hunt.

  • Newscastic compiled a list of the 11 best patios in the Twin Cities. This list is unique because it didn't focus on outdoor eateries in Minneapolis of St. Paul, but looked at locations in the suburbs as well.
  • Meet Minneapolis has an entire outdoor dining section on its website that lets patrons search through different types of outdoor space to find the right place, and last May sponsored "outdoor patio week" in which establishments offered specials for outdoor diners.
  • The Pioneer Press puts out an annual list of the best patios in the Twin Cities. Click here for last year's winners.
  • Minnesota Daily has a list of the best patios and rooftops for the time of day, while has a list of best pre-game bars – some with patios – for the start of baseball season.
  • Looking for a spot that isn't jam packed? Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine lists the top 10 underrated patios in the Twin Cities.

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