outdoor dining

Extending outdoor dining season for year-round revenue generation

Restaurateurs are realizing additional year-round revenue opportunities by integrating outdoor dining spaces as a permanent part of their establishment.

By C. Esther De Wolde

Dining al fresco is one of the most cherished and simple pleasures in life and a well-designed outdoor dining space adds to the comfort and overall enjoyment of the experience. The restaurant sector is one of the hardest-hit industries by the pandemic, but Phantom Screens has watched some owners and operators creatively embrace the required changes to improve patron and employee health and safety.

Diners are looking to make the most of what little patio season remains while some restauranteurs are realizing additional year-round revenue opportunities by integrating outdoor dining spaces as a permanent part of their establishment.

Redesigning outdoor spaces

Since early spring, many of us have spent more time indoors at home than ever before, and we’re pining for more space and freedom. In the retractable screen industry — which specializes in insect, solar, and vinyl screens that roll out of sight until needed — there has been unprecedented growth in outdoor and blended indoor/outdoor spaces this year. This includes an uptick in the concept of biophilic design in both residential and commercial buildings. Customers are seeking healthier spaces with proven studies outlining the positive impact of the outdoors on our overall mental and physical well-being. Put it simply, people miss going out!

Finding solutions that are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing in ways that won’t detract from the look and feel of a space isn’t easy. Or is it?

As a result of the “new normal”, traditional indoor dining as a standalone option isn’t cutting it. Customers’ desire for healthier spaces is creating demands for more fresh air, natural light, and open outdoor spaces. While the obvious solution to extend the life of outdoor spaces in the cooler months are traditional heaters, these provide temporary relief and can be extremely costly when it comes to maintenance and energy consumption.

Dynamic systems such as motorized screens that allow for enclosing open spaces at the touch of a button offer great options that add functionality, comfort, and efficiency without compromising views and architecture. Not to mention their year-round potential use.

Leveraging technological innovation and capabilities

We are at an exciting time when it comes to the introduction of new technologies and innovations. There is a world of products at our fingertips that can cater to our unique environment, needs, and comfort.  

When it comes to outdoor spaces, new technologies like smart pergolas — which feature motorized roof louvres that can open and close depending on the weather — can create an all-season outdoor dining area quickly and cost-effectively.

These structures can also integrate a variety of options. Motorized screens can complete the enclosure with retractable screen or vinyl “walls”. Both the screens and louvres can be controlled by smart devices that leverage environmental sensors such as sun, rain and wind monitoring devices, or can even be connected to existing building automation systems. Additional comfort can be achieved with built-in heaters, ceiling fans, and LED lighting systems to create customizable environments. The possibilities are endless.

Creating year-round revenue generation

Extending outdoor spaces year-round can not only improve patron comfort but can be a significant revenue generator. Thinking outside the box of traditional patio spaces and envisioning them as a seamless extension of an indoor restaurant can bring substantial value to a business. These can help address seasonal highs and lows, not to mention buffering the present and future social distance restrictions. Having flexible and open spaces that can cater to serve more customers may be more easily achieved than initially thought.

Browns Social House, as one example, has integrated motorized vinyl screens to help retain heat in winter, allowing them to offer year-round outdoor dining. It is estimated that this 12-table outdoor space generates $2,000 to $3,000 in additional revenue each day. This amounts to approximately $300,000 in additional revenue per year by providing customers with an enclosable, temperature-controlled space that meets the demands of every season and weather condition.

Transforming outdoor spaces can bring a significant return on investment over many years and help buffer the present unpredictability of COVID-19 restrictions. These spaces can be made energy-efficient with the right solutions, leading to even greater savings.  

Delivering sustainable and healthier spaces

A study suggests 70% of North Americans believe it’s important for companies and brands to be sustainable and eco-friendly. With nearly half of all energy produced in the U.S. each year being consumed by the building sector, having expandable and energy-efficient spaces complements client values, experiences, and shifting needs.

Dynamic-operating patios with products like motorized solar shades can reduce heat gain in hot weather and retain heat in colder seasons, allowing real-time adjustability and control. Thus, providing a comfortable dining experience while reducing the time that mechanical cooling or heating systems need to run. This results in lower utility consumption, environmental friendliness, and more money in your pocket.

While COVID-19 continues to impact the restaurant world, the industry can take action to respond to restrictions, address shifts in customer demands, and preserve the bottom line. Creating dining areas that are sustainable, healthy, and open up more space may help businesses get through these challenging times, provide greater revenue in the long term, and continue to provide an exceptional customer experience.

C. Esther De Wolde is Chief Executive Officer of Phantom Screens, North America’s leading provider of retractable screens. Phantom Screens offers customers and restaurants a variety of retractable screen solutions for doors, windows and outdoor spaces. Phantom’s products provide customers with insect protection, solar shading, climate control, enhanced privacy and expand the functionality of outdoor spaces.