During the pandemic, outdoor dining helped keep many restaurants afloat. It has even changed the fabric of cities. In Seattle, Nate Riordan notes, “Those seats are never coming off the sidewalks; they make neighborhoods more interesting.” They’ve also been helping businesses thrive long after our return to “normal.”
Outdoor dining is a potential source of added revenue, but many franchisees overlook its possibilities. Most quick-serve restaurants have an outdoor seating option, but they usually place a few tables outside and call it a day. There’s much more to creating an inviting outdoor dining area, and how much you boost your profits is in the execution.
Upgrade the Dining Experience
But the existence of an outdoor dining area won’t make your customers want to use it. The seating options outside your establishment should be at least as comfortable and appealing as the ones indoors. You might even consider making them a bit nicer. After all, new customers and people driving by will see your patio before they see your dining room. The outdoor dining experience you create sets the tone and expectations for your entire restaurant.
Choose comfortable and durable seating options that will last and attract customers to your outdoor space. Furniture that looks cheap or easily breaks will have the opposite of the intended effect. Don’t forget to pay attention to the details. Have you ever tried sitting at a piping hot table on a sunny summer day? It’s extremely uninviting, so use umbrellas and other forms of shade to make the space usable for as many days of the year as possible.
Consider making your outdoor dining enticing in other ways. For a start, don’t crowd tables. Customers should be able to move freely, and the extra room will make the area more attractive to large groups or parents with children. You might also consider ways to make the outdoor space feel like a destination. A unique plant, piece of art, or other creative focal point will inspire selfie-seekers to stop by and help you promote the restaurant on social media.
Investing in outdoor dining has the potential to boost profits in many ways. An attractive patio will generate interest from new customers and encourage existing ones to stop by more often (and bring their friends). If you’ve been neglecting this area of your business, it’s time to give it another look.