The restaurant industry took a massive hit during the coronavirus pandemic. Small cafes that had already dealt mostly in take-out orders and outdoor dining had an easier time remaining open, while indoor dining venues scrambled to build outdoor seating.
6 Tips To Make The Transition To Outdoor Dining
As restrictions lift, many restaurants opt to keep or expand their outdoor dining abilities to increase their resilience against any health crisis. Thankfully, guests love the outdoor dining experience.
Since implementing outdoor seating, many restaurants are finding that up to 44% of their sales have come from outdoor dining. So, how can you transition to outdoor dining? Here are six tips to get you started:
1. Create Ambience
Your outdoor dining should feel like an extension of your indoor dining. Create an atmosphere that represents your brand. You can do this by using your environment.
If there are trees on your block, adding lights is a nice touch. Adding bushes and shrubbery is a great, inexpensive way to add charm to your space. Decorate accordingly so that your area feels unique and attractive to guests.
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Know Your Audience
Understand the crowd you attract. Are you a coffee shop where people tend to hang out for longer? Having cozy outdoor couches and tables may be ideal. Are you a fine dining restaurant adding seating outside?
Do you have a high turnover rate? More tables for two with candlelight will create a more romantic atmosphere. Are you a theme restaurant? Add decorations that fit your theme to your outdoor seating.
Many restaurants choose to add music to their outside seating; soft jazz, rock, and others. The music you choose will add to your atmosphere and attract guests.
2. Invest in Outdoor Furniture
Whether you’re a coffee shop, a luxury restaurant, or a hip bar moving your seating outside, you’ll need some weatherproof furniture. Recycled wood or plastic is a great option.
Your furniture should be easy to clean and easily stackable as you won’t want to leave your seating arrangements out overnight. Cushioned seats can provide your guests with more comfort as these don’t hold cold or heat like other materials.
Whatever furniture you invest in, you’ll want it to fit in with your restaurant’s overall ambiance.
3. Weatherise Your Environment
Outdoor dining is not exclusive to summer weather! Guests love enjoying a meal outside in any weather. You just need to keep them comfortable.
Weatherizing your outdoor space will generate more revenue for you throughout the year by allowing you to keep your extra outdoor seating open.
Sure, there’ll be days with extreme rain or snow when you may need to close, but overall, you can remain open most days.
Provide shade from the sun. Your guests will love to dine out with you on a beautiful sunny day, but no one enjoys it when the sun is glaring in their eyes.
Investing in some sturdy outdoor café umbrellas is crucial for your outdoor seating. Your café umbrellas can even have your logo or specific colors that help make your space unique.
Whatever umbrella you get, you want to ensure that it’s securely in place, so it doesn’t become a hazard. You can secure your café umbrellas with a strong base or a ground socket.
In the colder months, you’ll want heating for your guests to stay warm and comfortable. Heat lamps, outdoor fireplaces, and tent structures are all great options for warming your outdoor space.
Bugs / Pests
Be sure to regularly remove trash to avoid attracting pests. Although rodents and other mammals are unlikely to appear while people are present, maintaining a clean space will help keep flies and other insects away.
Having an exterminator come to spray for bugs before your outdoor dining opens is extremely helpful. Individual plants that repel insects are a great addition, as well as lanterns with mosquito repellents.
4. Have A Special Menu
Offering a different menu than your indoor menu can help attract people to your outdoor seating. It makes sitting outside feel exclusive and creates a unique experience for guests.
Promoting special dinner and drink deals for your outdoor dining area will also entice guests to dine out. Depending on your restaurant’s size, a different outside menu may make service more manageable as well.
5. Advertise with Smell
If your space allows for it, setting up an outdoor grill, barbeque, or drink station is an excellent way to attract guests. People are more motivated by the smell of your menu than the sight of it.
Giving them an aromatic “taste” of your menu will help pull guests in, particularly those who are already hungry. A drink station will make service easier for your staff while adding to the exotic ambiance as the smell of food will help to attract the guests. When people see and smell what you have to offer, they’re more inclined to come to try for themselves.
6. Support Your Staff
Outdoor dining is fantastic. Guests love to sit outside throughout the year; it feels unique and exclusive. However, your guests will not be pleased if your service standards are lacking on your outdoor patio.
Although it can be tempting to add as many tables as possible, you want to make sure your staff can handle the increased workload. Keeping enough spacing between tables will help you adhere to health guidelines and help your wait and bus staff safely move between tables to serve guests.
Depending on your space, you may want to add a wait and bus station outside. For example, if you have a rooftop where servers need to go upstairs to serve guests or your outdoor seating is far from your kitchen, additional service stations will help your staff maintain prompt and efficient service.
Outdoor dining spaces look beautiful and generate more revenue, but if it becomes a strain on your staff, it can make team members feel overworked, and customers feel neglected.
Investing in an outdoor dining space is a dream for many restaurants. It increases your dining space without increasing your rent and allows you to generate more revenue.
To successfully implement outdoor dining, make your space welcoming, give it a unique design to fit your brand, invest in weatherproof furniture for various climates, and support your staff.
Following these steps will help get you and your hospitality venue on the track to success.
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