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Creating an outstanding outdoor dining experience

Creating a memorable experience in a restaurant or cafe can be quite the challenge as the market becomes increasingly saturated with competition in all corners. Making your hospitality space stand out has become an exciting challenge, with outdoor spaces now playing a critical role in customer dining. The fresh air is the perfect way to create an enjoyable and exciting environment with a more natural ambience. As the UK has seen warmer weather, customers are actively searching for those restaurants that have an outdoor option – whether this is undercover, exposed to the elements, big or small. So don’t shy away from perfecting outdoor dining and use this an opportunity to get a real edge over competitors. Here are some top ways to perfect your outdoor dining space.

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Ensure there are enough servers to cover the space

This might seem like an obvious factor, but if you are opting for an outdoor dining area, be sure to have extra covers to serve outdoor customers during busier warmer months. There is nothing worse than serving cold food because it has been waiting too long before being bought to diners, or dirty tables because they haven’t been cleared; this will be sure to ruin the natural outdoorsy setting. So keep your eyes on the forecast and plan to have outdoor spaces fully covered during the busy summer months – this will keep customers happy and will be sure to earn you a fantastic reputation.

Outdoor bars

If you are really seeking to create a buzzing outdoor dining experience that also saves customers going inside to replenish their drinks, then consider including an outdoor bar! Whilst this might require additional alcohol serving permits, it will certainly give you an edge over competitors and will cement that relaxed summery vibe as customers kick back with a beverage in the sun. Outdoor bars are also the perfect opportunity to get creative with the exteriors of a space with bamboo bars, quirky aluminium shelves and unique spotlighting all distinguishing the hospitality space as ‘the place to go’.

Get creative with colour

Although the colour of outdoor furniture may seem like a simple aspect of design, it entails much more than the aesthetics and should not be overlooked. In the hospitality industry, it is crucial to consider the deeper psychological meaning behind the colour and the outcome this might have on guests. Outdoor furniture can often represent a sense of serenity, nature and calmness, so if the goal of your outdoor space is to construct an aura of relaxation and comfort, it is important that your colour palette mirrors this. Using muted blue and green tones (such as aqua) can cement a feeling of relaxation which can have a positive effect on the guest’s state of mind. Conversely, if your aim is to establish a lively and energetic atmosphere with a theme, use the colour of the furniture to reflect this. Deep pinks and oranges can create an energetic, Caribbean-style vibe which is particularly suitable for establishments aiming to reinforce an energetic atmosphere.

Go natural

Minimalist metals and man-made materials have dominated the outdoor landscape for years, but 2017 is paving the way for a return of natural furniture and less geometric styles. Clean and modern furniture is subsiding in demand and more establishments are seeking furniture that blends in with nature and has a more rustic ambience. Capturing an organic outside space with raw woods, stone, shrubs and swinging seats can construct a relaxed outdoorsy feel that compliments the naturalistic setting. The DIY style can encourage customers to feel comfortable, tranquil and stress-free whilst giving the hospitality setting an ‘at-one-with-nature’ look. This can make customers feel as though they are really dining in a tranquil outdoor setting, encouraging positive feelings towards the restaurant.

Bringing the indoors outdoors

Removing the boundaries between the inside and the outside can be a great way to mix up a space and create a synergy that runs through the restaurant establishment. Bringing cushion-style furniture to an outdoor environment can mirror the comfort of the indoor space and encourage guests to relax. Outdoor furniture can now be purchased with a range of durable upholstery that is both practical and comfy and can be covered with throws and cushions to further mimic an indoor space. Hospitality establishments can tailor this to the needs of guests by getting creative with upholstery materials, choosing from a range of exciting colours and textures.


by Liam O’Donnell, the director of Valdivian Furniture, a British furniture manufacturer that specialises in bespoke, hand crafted contract furniture

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