The warm weather has finally arrived, and with that comes patio season fever. A welcoming patio is a great way to attract customers as it acts as a giant billboard for your restaurant operation. A patio also increases the number of tables your restaurant can serve, thereby potentially increasing your sales.
Patio furnishings have come a long way over the past few years, so it’s likely that you will be able to furnish and decorate your patio with a relatively small budget.
If your restaurant has enough space to accommodate a patio, consider adding the outdoor dining area as it can definitely add that boost of business. You might also have a rooftop that would make an ideal patio. However, make sure you obtain the proper permits from your city before setting up.
Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, offers the following tips and ideas to make your restaurant’s patio the place to drink and eat this summer:
1. Give it a thorough cleaning
After a long, harsh winter, the patio area requires a thorough cleaning. If you have existing patio furniture, make sure you clean that as well. If you have to buy new patio furniture, consider spraying it with a sealant or protector to ensure that it lasts for several more years. If your existing patio furniture is looking a bit worn out, considering giving it a paint job.
Try to get as many seats into your patio as possible, but still keeping it comfortable for your guests. Consider the type of crowds you attract. If your restaurant caters to younger, larger groups of people, you might want to set up comfy couches and coffee tables for gatherings. If your restaurant turns its tables several times in an evening, small café tables might work better. Tables and chairs made of aluminum will last longer than wood, and are easier to maintain. Place colourful cushions on chairs to make the dining experience more comfortable for your guests.
While people enjoy sitting outside, most do not enjoy eating with the sun shining directly in their eyes. The shade will also help protect the integrity of your food. Make sure that you have proper umbrellas, tents or awnings set up on your patio. Many retailers today sell extra-large round or rectangular umbrellas with offset telescopic arms that are much easier to set up and move around, and do not need to be put directly into the table. If space is an issue, consider installing pole-less umbrellas that are much easier to store over the winter. You can also consider installing a retractable awning that you can adjust to keep the sunlight in a perfect position throughout the day.
4. Keep the insects at bay
Consider installing screens around your patio to keep mosquitos, bees and other insects from annoying your guests. Avoid decorating your patio with flowers that attract bees, and opt for hanging ferns or vines instead. You can also plant mosquito repellent plants around your patio like citronella grass or hang lanterns fitted with mosquito repellent.
5. Set-up for the twilight hours
Since days are longer in the summer, people tend to dine later into the evening. Consider extending your kitchen hours, and developing a special twilight menu featuring fun cocktails and bar snacks for the patio, or late-night deals. Make sure you light your patio properly to create a cozy atmosphere including the use of mini LED lights, hanging lanterns, flameless candles on tables or any other type of suitable lighting.
About the author:
Diane Chiasson, FSCI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., is recognized as the world’s best restaurant, foodservice, merchandising, hospitality and retail consultant based in Toronto. She has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years.Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing consulting services including restaurant and retail merchandising, interior design, marketing, brand identity, menu design and training.