There’s nothing the British like more than a little al fresco drinking and dining in the summer months, so a well-designed outdoor area has never been so important for restaurants and hotels. So how do you make the most of the space you have?
Firstly, prepare for all weathers and seasons. Make sure you create a space that can be enjoyed in all weathers as this will encourage customers to stay later into the evenings and increase your restaurant/bar capacity. Make sure there is plenty of shelter or an outdoor roofing system and add comfort and warmth with outdoor heating and lighting. This could even help to extend your outdoor season into the autumn and spring. Don’t forget to get your lighting right; create a cosy ambiance using some good quality outdoor lighting to encourage customers to stay late into the evening.
If you’re lucky enough to be located near natural landscapes, take full advantage of it; emphasize the view by creating natural frames with plants and other structures. If not, you’ll need to create an atmosphere of your own by adding various potted plants, or climbing vines which can produce beautiful spring and summer blooms.
Ensure you maximise your seating space. This might seem obvious, but the furniture style and shape, and the way you arrange them, is crucial. Some ways to maximise the space would be to line the perimeter with built in seating, use round pedestal tables (which are more space efficient than square or rectangular ones), using stackable chairs to accommodate large groups, or using long communal bench-style seating. Experiment with different layouts until you find what works best for you.
Fine-tune your outdoor service. Unfortunately, whilst dining outside can be one of the most enjoyable ways to eat, service can be lacking at times, with an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude. Whether or not you run an outdoor table service, try to fit in regular checks to remove glasses and crockery, empty ashtrays and clean up any rubbish. Similarly, make sure the area is as beautiful as it is functional; scruffy paintwork, discarded cigarette ends and weed infested flagstones can detract from the customer experience and deter return visits.
Finally, make your space event-friendly. How better to spend your summer service than with barbeques, beer festivals, gigs and themed nights, outdoor events attract lots of visitors new and old as well as pulling in passing trade.