One of the biggest draws during warm weather for any restaurant is having a welcoming patio. Most people are cooped up inside all day at work, so it's nice to unwind in an outdoor space. Your patrons probably love having their friends over on their own porches, but it's such a hassle to cook and clean up at the end of the night, making a restaurant’s patio a much better alternative. They still get to see their friends, enjoy great food, sip a cocktail, and at the end of a wonderful evening, someone else cleans up the mess.
If your restaurant has been considering adding a patio for outdoor dining, now is a great time to commit to your vision. With a well-equipped outdoor patio, you'll be able to house patrons even if the weather gets cold in your area. Before breaking ground or clearing space for your patio, however, there are a few aspects you should consider. Here's how you can make your patio comfortable, efficient, and exciting.
Extend your aesthetic
Your patio is simply an extension of the interior of your restaurant. In order to make a cohesive transition from indoors to outdoors, incorporate elements from your design into the outdoors. For example, if you add an outdoor bar area, use the same bar stools outside as you do inside. If you need bar stools that are more weather resistant than the ones indoors, find something that has common ground in terms of color, shapes, and textiles.
For example, if the bar stool seats are red inside, make them red outside as well. Sometimes customers are drawn in by the ambiance of what you've created inside. Make sure your outside matches, so your customers will be happy to sit in whichever great space has available tables.
A little comfort goes a long way
Outdoor restaurant furniture is very important when creating a comfortable environment. On a busy Friday night, you'll want to be able to send customers to a comfortable area to wait before a table opens up. Consider putting an outdoor couch or swing by a fireplace if the outdoor and indoor bars are full.
Your patrons will be grateful that they're not cramped on a wooden bench in your crowded lobby. The restaurant experience starts from the moment your customers walk through the door. An outdoor patio with comfortable furniture that has the same theme as inside can be the difference between a positive and negative review on Yelp.
Ready, Aim, Hire!
It doesn't matter if your restaurant has the best food in the city if your servers are so slammed that they aren't able to properly wait on your diners. In order for your restaurant to be an all-around great place, you need to provide great service both inside and outside. To make your kitchen and wait staff more efficient, it's not a bad idea to hire people specifically to man the patio. Yes, it'll initially be a bigger expense; however, the extra patio seating should mean that you're making more money anyway.
Offer exclusive patio options
It's always exciting to see how great food is made right in front of your own eyes. The interior of your eatery may be too tight to do tableside demonstrations, but with the patio, you might have greater freedom to move a cart around. For example, if you're a Tex Mex restaurant that serves Santa Fe style dishes, consider having a tableside guacamole dining experience for those of your guests on “el patio.”
Your patrons will be excited to choose their own adventure when it comes to the flavor profile of their dish. They'll have a say over how much onion, lime, and jalapeño is included in their guacamole. It'll also be the freshest food on the menu, using local ingredients and served directly after it's made. Move over queso; there's going to be a new favorite appetizer. Adventurous eaters will love this experience and you may inspire the kids at the table to become chefs with your excellent service.
If you need to keep an exclusive patio feature smaller, try to make a signature cocktail or margarita that's only served at the outdoor bar. The hope is to make all of the wine drinkers inside jealous, so they'll want to come back for dinner on the patio tomorrow.
Be prepared for rain and shine
When you're creating your patio, take into consideration the weather in your area when you're budgeting for construction. No matter where you're located, you'll definitely need umbrellas to keep your customers comfortable. At peak times, the sun will be blazing. Your guests probably don't want to be as pink as the shrimp they're dining on, so umbrellas are a must. Umbrellas will also keep your guests out of a light sprinkle in the case of rain.
Create a contingency plan.
Just like your customers can be fickle about what's on their salad, they can be equally so in regards to where they're seated. To keep your whole operation efficient and your customers comfortable, make sure you train your patio staff to handle customers who change their minds about being outside. Every customer deserves to have great service and a pleasurable dining experience. Come up with a contingency plan when customers want to swap dining areas. This will also come in handy if it begins to rain and you don't have a retractable awning.
Adding an outdoor space for dining can be a wonderful and lucrative addition to your restaurant. Before making any final decisions, it's important that you and your team really take the time to do essential prep work. If there's going to be a tight amount of space between tables, consider subtracting tables or coming up with a way for guests and servers to enter and exit in one direction, so the area doesn't get clogged. Plan ahead for cold weather and buy your heaters ahead of time, because they're sure to be popular this year with an
increase in outdoor seating. Be realistic while you’re budgeting and designing your space, and remember that ultimately the experience of your customers is the most important consideration.