By Annie Button, Contributor
If your cafe, bar or restaurant has an outside seating area, you’re probably just grateful for the extra space… but, is it working as hard as it could be?
Simply adding a few chairs and tables to bump up the number of covers isn’t the most productive way to attract new guests and increase your income. Restaurant operators need to stop treating their patio or terrace like an afterthought. It’s time to transform it into a comfortable area for your guests to enjoy – and one that will give you a competitive edge over your competition.
Here are four questions to ask yourself if you’re serious about maximizing the commercial opportunity offered by your outside space.
#1. What’s the most practical purpose?
Look at your business model. Assess the size and layout of what you already have. Is there something you’re missing, or could capitalize on more? Creating a cosy space that’s suited to alfresco dining in cold weather might be a great way to expand tight quarters. Or, perhaps you could introduce a drinking terrace to make more room for diners indoors? Would it be a helpful to build a children’s play area to keep kids entertained? What about using it as a function area for live music and events?
The possibilities are only limited by the square-footage and your creativity. Take a look at these design tips and tricks to help you start thinking about your outdoor area in a new way.
#2. How can you define the right ambience?
Have a clear goal about the atmosphere you want to create in your outdoor space. Should it be playful, serene, or laid-back? If you can deliver a clear, consistent tone in your décor and amenities, it will help your guests have memorable experiences that will make them want to come back.
Again, design plays a big part in setting the mood. Think about:
The comfort, quality and visual effect of your furniture
Plants – minimal table pieces or overflowing planters? Real or fake?
Lighting; fairy lights are cute (but not very bright), firepits are edgy but not safe for children, bright outdoor lighting is practical but not necessarily inviting.
#3. Is it comfortable in all weathers?
If you’re investing in upgrading your patio, make sure you can spin profits from it all year-round. If the weather in your area is notoriously unpredictable, a little bit of preparation is necessary.
Shade and shelter are usually the most important consideration, both in warm weather to keep guests out of a hot sun, and during rainy seasons. You could also choose shade sails or awnings – bonus points for getting professionally branded ones like you can see here. Patio heaters and heat lamps are perfect for warming up tables beneath them – just make sure they’re safe to use with whatever canopy or parasols you choose. Lots of bars also offer fleecy blankets for guests to borrow when they go outside.
Don’t forget about pest-prevention, too. Finding a way to keep birds and insects away from your guests will keep them much more comfortable (and stop them from running for cover)!
#4. What are you going to do to promote your restaurant’s upgraded patio?
The final step is to get people through your doors to enjoy your new outdoor space. You won’t be making any profits if guests don’t know it’s there! Terraces to the front of a property will always benefit from being seen from the road outside, but you’ll need to shout a little louder to get a rear patio or roof garden noticed.
Start by bumping up your social media marketing – platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are perfect for showcasing the inside and outside of your cafe or restaurant in pictures. In warm weather, snap sunny photos of guests enjoying cool refreshments, then advertised sheltered, heated seating when the temperature drops. Don’t forget to promote new menu items, upcoming events and special offers.
Don’t underestimate the power of simple signage, either. Existing customers might not know about outdoor seating if it’s hidden through a hallway or up a flight of stairs. Advertise your outdoor space with appropriate signage at the front of your premises and include directions inside.
About the Author:
Annie Button is a Portsmouth-based writer and recent graduate. Annie likes to share her experiences and knowledge through her blog posts and has written for various online and print publications. When she’s not writing Annie likes trying out new recipes'. Twitter: Annie Button