If your restaurant, café or bar has an outside seating area, patio or garden, good for you – but are you making the most of the extra floor space? Outdoor areas are often treated as a bit of an afterthought but is it really enough to just put out some extra tables and chairs to increase covers and hope for the best? Of course not.
In today’s competitive market, you need to make every conceivable effort to attract customers to your door. Kerb appeal is key – it can make all the difference between people coming to dine in your restaurant or someone else’s establishment. If you’re keen to make the most of the commercial opportunity offered by your outside space and turn it into a year-round welcoming and profitable addition to your café, bar or eaterie, here are four questions you should consider.
A space for wining, dining or entertaining?
Depending on your business model, the size and layout of the available outside areas, you first need to define your requirements. Are you looking to create a patio that’s perfect for alfresco dining? Is it an outdoor lounge room where smokers can chill out with a drink on comfy sofas or by a fire pit? Are you thinking of hosting live entertainment nights? What about an outdoor bar, poolside even?
While adding atmospheric elements may reduce the number of covers, it can create more memorable experiences that set your establishment apart from the competition. Before you know it, your bar or restaurant is the next big ‘go to’ destination.
How do you create the right ambience?
Creating the perfect atmosphere for your guests to enjoy an alfresco drink or dinner is not always an easy job. Just as you would employ an interior designer to help you create your unique style and stage the inside of your premises, the same attention to style and design should be paid to the outside areas.
Furniture and furnishings, lighting and shading all play an important part in defining the essence of outdoor ambience.
- Form smart city style to relaxed a relaxed country design, choose the right furniture to be consistent with your brand image and proposition.
- Brightly coloured flowers, lush green planting, canopies and other décor can give your premises a unique look that attracts footfall.
- When it comes to outdoor lighting, pretty garden lights or lighted signage are both practical and attractive in the dark. How about lanterns, candles or fairy light for some garden party appeal?
Are you prepared for all weathers?
The British weather is notorious for being unpredictable, even in the height of summer. If you want to ensure that your patio is usable through the year, it pays to be prepared:
- Keep your customers nice and toasty by installing patio heaters to extend your outdoor dining season from spring to autumn. For chilly nights sitting outside, many bars and restaurants now provide snuggly fleece blankets to cuddle into or put over your lap.
- To shield your customers from the summer heat, offer plenty of shade by strategically positioning sun umbrellas, shade sails or deck covers or take a look at this range of attractive canopies and awnings to really lift the aesthetic appearance of your premises.
- While air con is not a possibility in outdoor areas, you could place fans along the roofline of the building to encourage continuous airflow and keep your diners cool.
- Guard against outdoor pests that can spoil your paying guest’s experience and damage your reputation. Flying insects (wasps) and birds (pigeons, seagulls) during the day and mosquitos in the evening can be a particular nuisance.
How do you promote your patio and garden area?
Let’s face it, the extra floor space will only be profitable if people come and enjoy it If you have a gorgeous patio or seated outdoor dining area, particularly if it’s sheltered from the road, you need to shout about it.
Online marketing is a good idea to show off the venue both inside and out. As soon as the weather gets warmer, social media is a quick and efficient way to promote your outdoor facilities and any upcoming events. Post updates on Facebook, share photos on Instagram and remind people of outdoor events on Twitter.
Finally, don’t forget that sometimes the best way to advertise is simply to put a sign outside. This will catch the attention of diners passing trade who are actively looking for a drinking venue or eatery right now.
By Dakota Murphey