The Best Heaters for Every Restaurant Patio

5 minute read | Heaters

It’s hard to overstate how much patio heating can do for a restaurant. Restaurant patio heaters mean more seating, more diner comfort and more of the evening and of the year for customers to linger and enjoy their food and drink. Patio heat is also an attractive amenity for resorts and vacation properties as well as for outdoor common areas in condominiums and apartments. It’s a difference-maker for gathering spots at golf clubs, boating clubs and, for that matter, any kind of al fresco space where folks gather to enjoy food and company.

But which kind of patio heating is right for your space? The choices are plentiful: there are handsome mushroom heaters and less visible mounted ones. Heaters can run on liquid propane (LP), natural gas (NG) or from your building’s electricity. The decision about which is best won’t be the same for every restaurateur. Here are some of the factors you should consider if you want to bring more warmth and more business to your patio.

Narrowing the Choice

To choose the patio heater that will please your restaurant customers and make your outdoor space as welcoming as it can be, consider the available options in terms of fuel source, mounting options, style and finish.

Fuel Source

Gas heaters are fueled by either natural gas or liquid propane. Propane heaters are operated from tanks similar to those that power backyard barbecue grills. Propane tanks are available anywhere, and when you expend a tank, you just hook up a new one. No matter how far your outdoor area is from your building, you can warm it with LP.

Natural gas patio heaters run on the same gas that operates furnaces and water heaters in many of our residential and commercial buildings. You run a gas line to wherever you choose to locate your patio heater, and when you want heat, you simply turn a valve. You must have a natural gas line within reach, but you never have to worry about running out of fuel and hassling up a fresh tank.

Then there are heaters that run on electricity. Some plug into AC outlets, and others are hard-wired into the building’s electrical system.

Mounting Options

Some heaters are mounted on a pole that stands on the floor. You can distribute them throughout your patio to effectively bring heat to every chair and table. LP portable heaters can be moved from one end of the patio to the other as the need arises or even off to a storage facility when they’re not in use. NG units are more restricted, based on the availability of a natural gas line.

If floor space is at a premium, you might be able to mount a heater or two overhead. There are also less conspicuous wall-mounted box heaters.


When you mention patio heaters, most people first think of the distinctive mushroom heaters that grace the floors of so many popular food and drink venues. They derive their name from the “mushroom cap” that sits atop the units. It’s not there just for style; it reflects the heat downward to where it does the most good. There are also mushroom heaters that hang from a ceiling mount. The heater and cap are enclosed in the hanging frame.

Wall-mounted heaters are usually rectangular and are referred to as box heaters. They take up less real estate than standing heaters, but they may not generate enough heat to warm a larger space.


Patio heaters are fashioned from stainless steel, cast aluminum or a combination of both. Stainless steel heaters are often left in their attractive natural finish, but sometimes heaters are finished with a coating. A black coating is popular and provides the modern ambiance that a lot of venue operators want. Others choose the more classic look of a brass finish.

Five Trusted Brands

AEI Corporation offers a variety of heaters from five major manufacturers. There are both standing mushroom models and mounted box units. LP, NG and electric are the power options.

Most significantly, the best patio heaters produce infrared heat. This is warmth similar to the warmth we receive from our sun. It doesn’t waste energy heating up air but instead directly heats objects – chairs, tables, customers – as the rays reach them. It’s an efficient form of heating that doesn’t require any warm up period. Infrared patio heaters make diners immediately comfortable as soon as you turn the switch.

  • Patio Comfort has been producing superior heaters for over 45 years. They’re famous for creating a “circle of heat” with outstanding design and materials. They offer mushroom heaters in both natural gas and liquid propane models. LP models are portable, and some of their natural gas patio heaters offer portability with a 12-foot hose that connects the heater to the fuel source. Several attractive designs are available in the Patio Comfort line, and finishes include stainless steel, jet-silver and an antique bronze powder coating.
  • Infratech provides box heaters powered by your building’s electricity. There is a huge selection of single-element and dual-element heaters in the Infratech line. They’re available in both stainless steel and black finishes. These heaters are unobtrusive with their low profile and thus can coordinate with the ambiance of your outdoor space, no matter what it is. They are over 90 percent energy efficient and can be used indoors as well as out.
  • Sunstar produces mountable heaters that can run either on LP or NG. Many come with adjustable mounting kits that support angles from 15 to 60 degrees. Others have a fixed mounting kit for horizontal zero degree installation. These are two-stage 24,000 to 35,000 BTU heaters with a three-position switch. Remote control is an available option. These Sunstar models come with a black high-temperature silicone powder-coated paint or in marine-grade stainless steel.
  • Sunpak heaters are also mountable box units. They run on natural gas or propane. There are single-stage 25,000 and 34,000 BTU models as well as two-stage heaters that offer both powers. They can be mounted on a ceiling as well as on your walls. Both black and stainless steel finishes are offered. Sunpak heaters have been manufactured in America by Infrared Dynamics since 1966.
  • The Sunglo name became synonymous with patio heaters in the 1960s, and it continues to be the leading brand in patio heaters. These are mushroom heaters available in both LP and NG versions. There are four basic models that maximize heating flexibility for your outdoor space. There are permanent mounts and self-contained portable units as well as manual, semi-automatic and automatic ignition. Sunglo also offers a suspended heater suitable for covered outdoor spaces.

A Patio Prepared To Welcome Guests

Outdoor gatherings and al fresco dining will always be popular, and venue operators will do well to offer as much of it as they possibly can. High-quality infrared patio heaters are the perfect amenity to attract guests later into the evening and longer into the cool season. With so many choices and styles, functionality and fuel sources, there’s a heater configuration that’s suitable for every restaurant and resort. Choose from our splendid variety of outdoor heaters to design a patio where everyone will want to spend more time in.


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