Providing services in town and regional planning, traffic engineering, sustainable transportation planning, urban design and waste management.

On-Street Dining

Urban Design

On-Street Dining - How to Transform Our Streets

Melbourne, Australia
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  • Issue

    On-Street Dining

  • Analysis

    How to Transform Our Streets

  • Location

    Melbourne, Australia

  • Contact

    Colleen Peterson


The Victorian Government this week announced their Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package which will provide $87.5 million to councils and businesses outside of Melbourne’s CBD to make widespread outdoor dining "safe, practical and a reality this summer".

With the Victorian Government’s emphasis on outdoor dining for the economic survival of the hospitality trade, the ratio: team has been workshopping solutions for hospitality traders. Our analysis seeks to demonstrate how this approach might work in a manner that enables the highest number of tables/seats for cafes and restaurants and provides an equitable approach across activity centres.

Combining our urban design, transport and planning expertise, we focused on a segment of the vibrant Swan Street, Richmond corridor. There’s nothing like a real life example to demonstrate what does and does not work!

The current approach on outdoor dining focuses, in most instances, on individual venues seeking approval for footpath space directly outside their venue. However, in the context of the Covid19 restrictions, we consider that the best approach is to look at the longer lengths of shopping streets to provide a more effective and equitable outcome for all hospitality venues. 

We found that much higher seating numbers were achievable across the precinct and for individual traders if a whole of centre approach was taken. This approach would mean that a ‘map’ would be prepared for an entire precinct and then each hospitality venue would be allocated an equitable number of seats within that precinct, based on proximity and other relevant considerations.

With an uneven clustering of venues, which is commonplace in many strip shopping environments, this model provides an equal distribution of space to venues. 

When we apply the mandatory 1.5m distancing between tables, our model results in 5-6 tables per venue which, when based on 4 seats per table, accommodates 20-24 patrons. This is in addition to existing footpath trading, which for many venues would already sit at 8-10 people. With up to 20 patrons permitted inside and the potential to increase kerbside trading to extend in front of non-hospitality venues, there is the comfortable potential for each venue to have in excess of 50 seats per venue.

Our design process did trial the location of the entire footpath for seating to take advantage of the canopy cover for patrons with Melbourne's inclement weather and locating pedestrian traffic onto the on street parking space. However, our findings determined that navigating the numerous entrances to shopfronts meant fewer seating areas would be made available. 

Our Swan Street concept plan adopts a combination of sensible partial street closures and on-street car parking to lend street space to the 11 hospitality venues in the study area. Limiting impacts to the existing road infrastructure (including rear car park access, loading bays and no-stopping zones) were discussed in our decision process. 

So, what does this reveal?

A precinct wide approach to designing these spaces would be favourable in providing the most efficient and equitable provision of street space for on street dining. While, the fabric of each commercial corridor is invariably different, the application of this design approach is flexible. Non-traditional retail strips with larger frontages could accommodate dining on the footpath, whilst angled street parking could offer extended dining spaces into the street.

We’re excited at the potential for the transformation of our location high street shopping environments to better reflect local community needs, reduce car usage and encourage people to enjoy the culinary benefits of their local cafes, restaurants and bars.




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