HOW TO CREATE A PROFITABLE OUTDOOR DINING AREA

Could your outdoor space do with a makeover? Do you have redundant area that’s collecting weeds rather than customers? With the sunshine finally making an appearance and longer days making way for balmy evenings, maybe it’s time to start thinking of how you can make the most of your outside space to attract more customers and boost profits.

LAWS AND REGULATIONS

There are a few things you’ll need to check first, like planning permission, alcohol permits, and decibel limits. You will also need to decide whether it will be dog-friendly and if you’ll allow smoking.

DEFINE THE SPACE

The first step is to clearly define the space you have to work with. This will help you to plan and make the most efficient use of the available space. If you have a large outdoor patio, you could consider partitioning it off into different zones – perhaps a dining area, a lounge area and a children’s play area.

MAKE IT COMFORTABLE

Once you have defined the space, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make it more comfortable for your customers. This means considering things like comfortable outdoor furniture, parasols and heating. For patio furniture, you could opt for a traditional table and chairs or perhaps some more relaxed bean bags or floor cushions for patio seating. Parasols are a great way to provide shade on hot days, while heaters can extend the use of your outdoor dining area into the cooler months.

ADD SOME AMBIENCE

To really make your outdoor dining area special, it’s important to add some ambience. This could be in the form of lighting, music or even a water feature. Candles or fairy lights in jars are a great way to add some romantic lighting, while a Bluetooth speaker can provide the perfect soundtrack and an inviting restaurant patio. A small water feature can also help to create a relaxing patio dining experience.

MAKE IT SPECIAL

It’s important to make your outdoor dining area special. This means adding those all-important finishing touches that will really make it stand out from the crowd. Consider things like table decorations, bunting and flowers. You could also add some personalised touches, such as placemats with your restaurant’s logo or menus printed on them.

CREATE AN OUTDOOR-ONLY MENU

Summertime is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of your patio or outdoor space and please your guests with speciality themed menu items and an al fresco dining experience along with the usual dishes and light foods. When developing this menu, it’s important to consider a few things.

First, aim for quality over quantity. A small selection of well-executed dishes will leave a lasting impression and encourage guests to come back. Second, think about which items will make a profitable patio space. The outdoor-only menu is the perfect opportunity to promote food and drink pairings or special patio cocktails. By offering a selection of high-margin items, you can make outdoor dining more profitable while also providing an enjoyable experience for your guests. You could also open a takeout window close to the entrance and offer a to go service or even arrange to deliver food.

OUTDOOR COOKING

Not only will cooking outside add to the ambience, but it will also increase profitability. Cooking in front of guests encourages food transparency – they’re able to see what they’re about to eat. Plus, who can resist the smell of a freshly made pizza or a sizzling BBQ. This doesn’t have to be an everyday thing either. Make special occasions like pizza on Saturdays and Bank holiday BBQs etc.

SERVE COLOURFUL COCKTAILS

If you want to make the most of your outdoor dining area and encourage alcohol sales, then you need to serve up something special. Make sure your menu features colourful cocktails and canapés that will tempt customers, and create a luxurious feeling with plush outdoor furniture. Encourage customers to linger longer by offering discounts on drinks or food for those who stay for a certain amount of time.

PROMOTE IT

After you’ve fully planned, designed and revamped your outdoor dining space, attracting customers will be the next step in creating a profitable patio space. Below are some methods to help promote your new outdoor space:

Social media: In this day and age, social media advertising is essential for notifying the community of your outdoor dining. Get customers excited about your new restaurant patio using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any other social media profiles your business may have! Post some photos of your newly designed outdoor dining space to show customers what they can expect.

Signage: Place signs and sandwich boards in and around your restaurant to intrigue customers. Use attractive colours and designs on-brand with your restaurant to grab their attention and inform them of your new outdoor dining option.

Newsletters: If you have a database of past customers, send out a newsletter informing them of your new patio. Offer a discount for their first patio visit to entice them!

Flyers: Design flyers on vibrant paper and post them in busy areas near you. Be sure to include all the relevant information like address, website, patio hours and any specials you’ll be running.

Promotions: Run specials during peak patio hours to attract customers. For example, offer a happy hour with half-priced appetizers or discounted drinks. If you want to get really creative, consider running a contest with a patio prize pack that includes a gift certificate, sunglasses and sunscreen!

KEEP IT CLEAN

Regular cleaning and maintenance is essential to keeping outdoor diners coming back.  No one wants to dine on a patio space that’s dirty, so make sure you’re regularly sweeping and power washing the area. It’s also important to clean and maintain any furniture or decorations you have on the patio.

HOST EVENTS

The outdoor area is a great place to enjoy the company of others. You can bring people together by  hosting events like live music, trivia nights or wine tastings. This is a great way to draw attention to your patio and get people talking about you.

MAKE SURE THERE IS SHADED AREA

As any host knows, an outdoor patio can be the perfect spot for entertaining guests. However, if the patio is not properly shaded, it can quickly become uncomfortably hot and sunny.

To keep your customers comfortable, it’s important to provide adequate shade. There are a variety of ways to create shade on a patio, including umbrellas, covers, gazebos, pergolas, and retractable awnings or canopies. When choosing the type of shading for your patio, it’s important to consider both function and form. You’ll want to choose a shading option that is both effective at blocking sun and heat, and that also fits in with the overall aesthetic of your patio. Research different materials and options to find the best solution for your needs.

You may also be able to offer an indoor and outdoor dining experience to make use of the shaded indoors. You could also use your indoor dining room to offer a summer buffet.

HAVE AN OUTDOOR BAR

An outdoor bar is a perfect addition to any summer night. Not only does it offer full bar service to guests, but it also eliminates the need for them to break away from the ambience every time they want a drink. When customers are able to watch bartenders produce hand-crafted cocktails for other patrons, it can boost impulse sales and encourage guests to stay longer. The only downside of adding a patio bar is that it may take away from seating. However, cocktails can be a high-profit menu item, making a patio bar a worthwhile addition to any restaurant.

You should make your outdoor patio an extension of your restaurant. The more space you have, the more covers you’ll be able to take, and the more profitable your business will become. But it’s not just as easy as throwing a few tables and chairs outside, you need to make the space welcoming and create an ambience. 

There are so many options for restaurant owners to consider, so are you ready to transform your outdoor dining area and maximise the patio season?

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