A recent study carried out by Finder found that 60% of the UK’s adult population is currently working from home, a figure that is likely to remain relatively high until at least the end of the year.
With consumers commuting far less into town centres, the expected footfall that the hospitality industry can expect to see will inevitably be far lower than previously hoped, especially in the summer season.
The government is implementing measures to boost the pub industry, such as the recent VAT cut from 20% to 5% until 12th January 2021 and the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. However, we in the industry must also adapt to this situation.
There is an opportunity for pubs across the country to create an ‘al fresco’ experience that will bring in business at this difficult time. The government has eased restrictions on using car parks and terraces for serving food and drink and pubs should act fast to make the most of the warmer months by transforming these places into pleasant dining areas.
But how do we create an ‘al fresco’ pub garden experience?
Provide great (socially-distanced) customer service
The UK population is working from home at an unprecedented level, meaning the culture of ‘after work drinks’ is no longer a guarantee in town centres across the country. Consumers need incentives to travel out of their homes and one incentive that pubs can provide in an outdoor setting is great customer service.
Pub staff can help make a customer’s time more enjoyable by maintaining high standards of table service. This includes being quick to respond to a customer’s request, making sure that they are satisfied with their purchase and generally being pleasant and friendly, no matter how busy the day may get.
Given that pubs are only being permitted to provide table service, each customer must be in view of waiting staff to ensure they aren’t kept waiting to order. Place your staff strategically around your outdoor space and give them radios to communicate with each other if one area is becoming particularly busy to keep table service standards high.
Plan for rain or shine
The UK is renowned for its unpredictable weather and pub owners must anticipate rainy or cold days by creating outdoor spaces that can cater to customers throughout the year. Not only will this secure business in the busy summer months, but it will also create the foundations for an outdoor space fit for winter.
With the government limiting the internal capacity of pubs for the foreseeable future, bringing in additional revenue in the winter months will be crucial to keeping our pubs profitable. Heaters, for example, will help make expanded outdoor areas more appealing to potential customers as temperatures cool.
Another recommendation is to create covered areas with seating and tables, making sure to space the seats out at least 1 metre apart. These areas can be covered with canopies or gazebos and printed in a colour that suits the style of your venue. Each shelter can also be personalised with the pub logo to further add to the cohesive atmosphere of your al fresco pub garden.
Create a winning pub beer garden atmosphere
Once you’ve guaranteed that visitors can enjoy your pub beer garden safely, it’s time to think about how you’re going to create the right atmosphere. When creating a new outdoor space, try to replicate the feel that you’ve gone for indoors. Existing customers who know and love your pub will expect to return to a similar venue to the one they remember, so give them what they want.
The way you decorate your outdoor space should reinforce the atmosphere you’re trying to create. Add some vibrancy and life to the space using hanging baskets and other plants. Think about furniture as well: worn-out old beer garden benches are unlikely to draw a lot of customers in, so consider upgrading to something more modern and trendy.
Consider hosting live music, if it is safe to do so at your venue. Music brings people together, which is more important now than ever. Providing entertainment in this way is value-added for your customers and will keep them coming back time and time again.
Protect the safety of staff and customers
As a pub owner opening an outdoor beer garden, the safety of staff and customers should be your top priority. The main priority in this respect is social distancing: the new one-metre-plus rule means tables and seating areas need to be separated as much as possible, leaving at least enough room for guests or waiters to walk between tables without coming too close.
Disinfecting surfaces thoroughly and often is another important step. For areas that will be touched by lots of customers each day (such as door handles and tabletops), you should use some form of anti-viral surface cleaner on a regular basis throughout the day. You should also look to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to your staff and install sanitising stations outside for guests to use.
Implementing appropriate safety procedures will also instil confidence in people visiting your premises. Communicate these measures via social media, emails, on the website and on posters around your venue. By showing customers that we fully understand the risks and are looking to minimise them as much as possible, we can make them feel reassured that our outdoor spaces are safe.
The pub industry is facing an unprecedented challenge and there are undoubtedly difficult times ahead. Nevertheless, by leveraging car parks, patios, terraces and garden spaces we can create outdoor experiences that bring customers through their doors once again.
Written by Craig Pannozzo, Sales Executive at event specialists Gazeboshop