The advent of warmer weather means it’s time to get out. People start looking for outdoor dining spots to enjoy the sunshine and eat al Fresco. The demand for restaurant and cafe outside seating starts growing.
In some regions, people enjoy temperatures of 70°F (21°C) - 95°F (35°C) almost throughout the year and the patio season never ends. That said, while some places are seeing their guests fighting for the last table, other spots seem to be abandoned and boring.
If you plan to open a beer garden, rooftop bar, or sidewalk outside sitting, let’s see how you can make it an ideal summer hangout spot for your community.
People Love Eating and Drinking al Fresco
Everybody envies the happy owners of stand-alone houses with backyards. Those happy people can throw on a barbecue on any warm day.
However, urban citizens have to rely on cafes and restos to get themselves a place on the fresh air tucked away from the bustle of the city. Your job is to make your outside seating area people’s favorite place to spend time, eat and drink al Fresco.
Depending on trends, competition, and the peculiarities of your location you can build one of the most popular types of outside seating spaces.
Front Yard Patio
If your restaurant, cafe or bar is located in a tourist destination, stands riverfront, has a sea view, or faces a famous attraction, then you're bound to build a patio or a terrace and make the stunning view a 'top seller on your menu'.
Such breezy outdoor settings with gorgeous views are especially popular among tourists. To make your patio a success, you should take into account that travelers always strive to experience as much as they can per day. So, you should strive to speed up your service to turn tables quickly and hassle-free.
If your place gives tourists a relaxing 20-minute stop with tasty food and instagrammable view, they'll five-star your restaurant or cafe on Tripadvisor and guarantee you a crowd.
Back Yard Patio
If you have access to a rear backyard behind the building, consider turning it into a secret patio with a romantic atmosphere. Guests walking into the main room of your restaurant wouldn't notice the magical hideaway for outdoor dining unless they know it exists.
By opening a secret garden you create an exclusive dining opportunity for your patrons. Nothing is as enticing and attracting as having access to a secret place which is not for everyone.
Although there will be no signage, the ambiance of this place will attract people who want a table for two or are going to throw a private dining party. The word of mouth will do its job and can even turn your secret garden into an in-demand setting for celebrity guests who want to hide out from the crowd.
If there is a green area bordering your pub or bar, you can try to open a London-style beer garden there. It may soon become local’s go-to spot to grab a friend and a beer and stay a while enjoying a cheerful atmosphere.
To create a festive vibe you can invite local bands to play open-air music, arrange poetry evenings, or offer patrons engaging tabletop games to make every night special. During the daytime, you can host thematic events for local communities depending on what’s popular in your city.
Either you host a mini-golf tournament, plant swap and flower crown workshop or folk artists and their wares, people will come for entertainment even if they aren’t going to partake in drinking beers.
If the roof of your building stays empty still offers sweeping views of the city, consider opening a rooftop seating space with a dedicated bar. Rooftop bars have great potential to become people’s favorite outdoor spots for sipping cocktails.
There is no need to bother yourself with an extensive menu. Just serve cocktails, popsicles or frosé, sangria, wines, beers, and offer a small selection of sandwiches. It will be enough to attract young cocktail devotees who are always looking for fun and the next best drink that they can post to their Instagram.
Add a bit of special vibe and your rooftop bar will rock! If you manage to recreate the atmosphere of home-thrown parties your place will soon become the home of fun. Alternatively, you can create a relaxing vibe for those who want to gaze at the sunset or take in views of the night city with a drink in hand.
If you own a location next to a popular walking route, on a well-traveled street or within an outdoor mall, consider adding a sidewalk seating area in front of your building. Even if there is a small amount of square footage, you can still put a couple of umbrella-topped tables.
This type of outside seating would require minimal investment from you, still, they’ll become a welcome stop for people to rest their feet or sit and watch people in the city scene to catch the sense of time and place.
Looking for a dose of inspiration, check the pictures of lovely outdoor tables next to cafes at popular vantage points in Paris. If you catch the style and vibe, you’ll have yourself a small but attractive al Fresco spot.
Whatever concept you choose, it's best that your outside seating area has an attractive design and a well-thought-out layout.
Thoughtfully and Beautifully Designed Patios Still the Show
The look of your outdoor dining area is a continuation of the indoor space of your internal design concept. Either it’s a swanky rooftop bar or a casual terrace tucked along the building’s side, you might want it to meet these criteria:
Create a cozy and inviting atmosphere
Provide maximum comfort for your guests
Facilitate your employees’ work.
The right choice of shades, outdoor furniture, and additional equipment would help people feel good at your place in all weathers.
Shade and shelter
The shade is the first thing people are looking for on hot days. Choose the suitable option to provide your guests with a shelter where they'd hide from the sun rays and passing rains.
Patio umbrellas to be put next to each table providing guests with their personal shade
Extra-large umbrellas to block more sun while covering multiple tables and to make your outdoor area look less crowded
Awnings and retractable canopies to block the sun for the whole dining area with the option of retracting them during stormy weather to prevent the damaging
Patio covers and free-standing shading systems to ensure durable and functional shelter that'll attract fans of outside dining even on rainy days.
When it comes to choosing equipment for sun and rain protection, you should consider all the available options. Buying the right shade is not something you can save on.
It’s best that you dive deeper into the peculiarities of constructions and canopy fabrics to get yourself the equipment that will work throughout the season.
You have to balance the look and level of comfort of your outdoor furniture with the amount of time and effort you are willing to put in keeping it lasting and looking good.
Bar and bar stools to place them in a dedicated outdoor bar area
Round tables for two with chairs to recreate a romantic atmosphere of a sidewalk cafe
Wooden shared tables and benches to maximize seating capacity and attract bigger companies and families
Sectional patio furniture, cushioned seats with pillows, love seats, chaises to create a comfortable and leisurely oasis people will refuse to leave.
Plastic, wood, teak or metal - every type of material you’ll consider has its advantages.
Plastic lasts in all sorts of weather and can appear in limitless designs, shapes, sizes, and colors.
Wood and Teak represents ‘green’, light, and quite weather-resistant material that helps to create a cozy atmosphere
Metal (powder-coated aluminum or steel) can be welded or cast to create any designs that will last lifelong.
Don’t let the endless variety of options to make your head spin. You should choose the furniture that best compliments your style, outdoor space dimensions and desired level of maintenance.
Consider investing in additional outdoor equipment and stuff that improves customers’ comfort in different ways.
Decorative lighting to create inviting and festive ambiance by having those soft glowing and twinkling string lights hanging overhead and along the fences
Misting fans and cooling systems to reduce the temperature on hot days or hours and to make a refreshing microclimate inside your patio
Fly traps and insect zappers to cut down on insects hovering around your outdoor dining area
Heaters and fleece blankets to extended the duration of the patio season and keep guests in on chilly nights
Curtains to separate space and add a little more privacy into the dining experience
Container plants to cause a park-like feel by adding colors, oxygen, and shade thanks to hanging flower baskets, container supersized trees, and climbing vines
Bicycle parking rack to provide a welcome stop for people after having a ride if cycling is popular in your area.
Each piece of the mentioned equipment makes a difference for customer comfort and can become a deciding point for people who choose between several options for al Fresco dining.
One more thing that'll influence your customer comfort significantly is your pet policy. While some people are looking for pet-friendly outdoor dining places, the others would prefer someone else's pets to stay away from the eatery they frequent.
If you have an extended outside dining area, try to resolve this dilemma by dividing it into pets vs. no pets spaces. This is not an option if your patio or garden is small. That said, you can still serve both audiences by introducing featured pet days or hours.
Whatever is your pet policy, make it easy for people to find it out. Start with instructing your employees, then use stickers and signs on site, and finally spread the information about your pet-friendly space, days or hours online.
Your Team and Customers Win from Optimized Operations
Opening an outdoor dining area not only changes the space and design of your place but also influences your employees and operations.
Downside of opening a patio
Serving people seating outdoors often requires extra effort from waiters. Outside diners are harder to track. It's more difficult for a waiter to memorize orders and bring food if they have to pass through the inconvenient doors when running back and forth with trays under the hot sun.
This all makes waiters tired and slow. They may start making more mistakes, which hardly can remain unnoticed by your guests. As a result, the overall customer satisfaction with your place may drop. But that is definitely not the outcome you expected from opening a patio.
Consider what you can do ease your employees' work and reduce the number of drawbacks by default. There are technologies and approaches that can help your team turn tables faster and focus on delighting guests rather than feeling frustrated with inconveniences. Let’s go through some tips on optimizing the workflow in your outside dining area.
Importance of an efficient workflow
Unlike the weather, your team, operations flow, and technologies depend on your decisions by one hundred percent. There are several key choices you make that can predefine the success or failure of your outdoor place.
Depending on the traffic inside and outside you can either assign a dedicated waiter to serve people in the outdoor space or give every waiter a couple of tables there.
By choosing a tablet POS system for your operations, you can ease the order taking process for your waiters. Instead of memorizing customers orders, they’ll just enter them in the system tableside. On a busy hour, a waiter can easily take several orders one after another without running back-and-forth to the register.
Shorter waiting time
Using a tablet POS system enables waiters to send orders to the kitchen in one tap, right after entering them in the system. With technology like kitchen kit, your chef will start cooking for the guests even before they let the waiter go. Download Poster POS on your tablet and start a free trial to see it working with your kitchen ticket printer or kitchen display as a single system.
If some foods or drinks served on your outside seating area should be prepared in the inside kitchen, think about building a takeout window. It may be more convenient for servers to receive trays with food through the window rather than carry them through the entrance door.
Attention to details
Right after your employees start serving guests outside they’ll start facing issues that are not typical for the indoors. It’s best if they pay extra attention to details. Ask them to clean spilled drinks before they attract pests and wipe wet tables and chairs right after it stops raining.
More seats for guests means more load on your waiters during busy peaks. Consider hiring college students as seasonal help to have a backup option for those hours. If you feel there’s no need to employ those people full-time, offer them on-call positions.
Summer Season Menu Items Drive Revenue
From the point of view of restaurant operations, adding a patio may increase workload on your kitchen. Address this issue when deciding what you should have on your outdoor menu. This may help you ensure your back-of-house staff will cope with the load without compromising food quality and extending preparation times.
Another thing to consider is how messy the food is to eat. It’s best if you make a small menu mainly including options that guests can consume easily while lounging. Snacks and sandwiches are the potential top selling items.
Add some variance on your outdoor menu by adding some specialties and rotate them depending on the weather. Why don’t you upsell something light and refreshing on the hottest part of the season or day? And there is no reason for not offering some drinks and foods that will help people get warm on a chilly or cloudy day.
Feature profitable items
To increase profit, steer your guests to the options with lover food cost and shorter preparation times. If your chef works a little more on the food design, even simple food will have a mouthwatering look.
Opening an outdoor seating area is a good reason to tap into the trendy eco-friendly disposable serving pieces. You can choose fun and practical designs for those serving pieces and they’ll become a great substitute to glass and ceramics that are never appropriate in, for example, a poolside patio.
Extended drink menu
They say that al Fresco drinking makes even the simplest wine in a glass taste better. It’s true, but consider that mixed drinks have high margins and are most in-demand in the hot weather. So, it’s in your best interest to bank on it and to offer your guests a variety of both alcohol-free and soft drinks to enjoy.
Depending on your concept you’ll offer a bunch of craft beers or a trendy selection of summer cocktails. A killer selection of drink specials can give rise to some buzz and make people recommend your place as an outdoor drinking destination to visit before you die.
No doubt your outdoor dining area can add value to your restaurant, increase the seating capacity and boost revenue. It will work as your brand ambassador and let people see the energy of your place and the hospitality they can count on when they stop by.
Prepare early, open among the first, and let the tables on your patio become the most sought-after seats in your city!