I think we can all agree that 2020 was a year like no other, and many hotels and restaurants found themselves hanging on by a thread. To keep their heads above water and remain in business, many establishments found themselves carving out outdoor seating wherever possible.
While the world seems to be slowly creeping toward some semblance of normalcy, many customers are hesitant to return to close quarters indoors and prefer the distance and ambiance of outdoor seating.
If you have decided to make your outdoor seating section a more permanent part of your establishment, consider the following tips and suggestions when creating an outdoor seating area at our hotel or restaurant.
Consider Your Budget
Given the tumult of last year, you may not have the budget for an extensive outdoor overhaul. Invest what you can afford in creating a relaxing and functional space that can be used throughout the year.
If you can afford nothing else, adding additional seating and tables will allow you to increase sales. But, before you make do with a bare bones approach, take time to calculate the potential return on your investment. You may find that, while the initial costs are significant, you will be able to recoup your investment within a couple of nights of outdoor service.
The same logic holds when considering making your outdoor area all-weather friendly. There’s no question adding outdoor heaters or retractable canopies will add to your costs—but having the ability to use your outdoor seating in less-than-ideal weather means the ROI just might make the expense a worthy investment.
Work with a Pro
If your budget will allow for it and you’re playing the long game, consider investing in the services of a professional hospitality designer. Doing so can save you money (yes, it’s true—we all know you get what you pay for) and ensure the outdoor seating you envision in your mind actually becomes a reality.
Designers often have connections within the industry, and it’s not uncommon for them to be able to negotiate furniture at a reduced cost…a perk you’d likely not receive were you to make the purchase yourself. They also have the vision to ensure the interior of your establishment blends seamlessly with the outdoor area, with each complimenting the other.
Designers also have years of experience that allows them to visualise seating arrangements you’d likely never consider. They have a gift for carving out seating in nooks and small spaces someone with an untrained eye would never see.
Work with Your Surroundings
Make the most of your outdoor space…and we mean any outdoor space. We’ve all seen restaurants squeezing a few two-top tables between their storefront and the sidewalk during the pandemic. While it may seem minor, the revenue generated from such seating can be lifesaving to businesses.
Other establishments set up outdoor seating venues in back and side yards only to discover guests absolutely loved the aesthetic. Many felt as if they were attending an exclusive garden party rather than grabbing dinner at their favorite restaurant. Tables tucked away in corners became highly sought after by guests who associated them with exclusivity
Consider the space you have and, as Tim Gunn famously announced, “Make it work!”.
Create Privacy Pockets
Given the need to stay distanced from other parties, consider adding unique partitions to keep guests separate from one another.
You may want to forgo couch seating which, while comfortable, encourages people to squeeze into close quarters. Instead, opt for comfortable armchairs and small tables.
Divide outdoor space by using tall planters to create living walls. If you have large canopies overhead, consider hanging sheer drapes around each table, creating visual interest and privacy at the same time.
Follow Guidelines & Inform Guests
Guidelines from health officials seem to change frequently and it can be challenging to stay informed on the latest information. Make it a priority to keep yourself and your staff informed of the latest requirements.
When guests arrive, be proactive and share with them any changes to guidelines or mask requirements. Such practices often vary from one business to the next, and customers will appreciate your letting them know what to expect in advance.
The turmoil of 2020 revealed the resiliency of those working in the restaurant and hospitality industries. While many outdoor seating areas were created out of necessity, many guests prefer having an outdoor seating option…and many business owners are embracing the revenue boost outdoor seating areas are providing.
Thanks for reading,
Have a Seat
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