How outdoor seating can increase your revenues by 30%
By Jeff Caldwell, Superior Shade
There are many ways to attract more customers to your restaurant, but during summer, spring and fall months, outdoor seating tops the list. No matter what kind of establishment you run, a simple deck or patio can increase revenue by up to 30 percent. Additional research by the Simons Advisory Group proved that a $200,000 investment increased overall sales by $500,000 — possibly more if your restaurant offers year-round outdoor seating.
What is it about outdoor seating that has such a large effect on your customer base? There are many factors involved, most of which revolve around comfort. Some guests say that an alfresco dining experience makes the food taste fresher and better. Others simply enjoy gazing at the view as they share a meal with friends or family.
If you’re interested in adding an outdoor space for your clientele, there are many ways to go about it. The following highlights some of the most popular — and successful — trends in outdoor seating today.
One of the easiest ways to offer your customers the joys of an open-air dining experience is to add a sidewalk dining area with a few comfortable sets of tables and chairs that match your restaurant’s theme. Add some patio umbrellas and you’ll have a charming space that draws diners by the drove — not only your regulars, but also passers-by who are attracted by the sight of happy customers.
Sidewalk seating gives you lots of flexibility, too. During lunchtime, diners will appreciate a casual dining experience as they watch pedestrians or sip a cold beverage while they enjoy the shade. At night, use candles or umbrella lighting to make the atmosphere more intimate and to create an attractive display for onlookers to enjoy. In addition, you can add your restaurant’s logo to your patio umbrellas, which is a great way to imprint your brand on both diners and bystanders.
What if you don’t have the space to expand outward? In these instances, many restaurateurs are instead choosing to expand upwards. From London to Los Angeles, diners everywhere are talking about rooftop eateries. Why? Because the bird’s-eye view allows them to take in beautiful city skylines or wide-open landscapes as they dine.
Of course, there’s more to rooftop dining than a few tables and an incredible view. In London, for instance, many of the most well-known rooftop restaurants go the extra mile with beautifully manicured gardens and light displays that enliven the atmosphere at night. Pergolas and awnings are also popular features because they offer shade during the day and protect diners from rain.
Dining in the garden
One of the industry’s hottest trends is farm-to-table food, and it’s a trend that is easily combined with outdoor dining. To take advantage of this trend, it’s less about the space — a sidewalk, deck, patio or rooftop — and more about what you grow in it. Some restaurants are landscaping their outdoor dining areas with the same fruits and vegetables that they’re serving their customers. With the addition of a few raised beds, you can create a wonderfully relaxing environment for your guests while growing some of the lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and other fruits and vegetables that you’ll be serving.
Fire and water
This next trend is another that works well for just about any outdoor space. According to Restaurant Development + Design, diners love the atmosphere that both fire and water create. Among the more popular water features, you’ll find reflecting pools, fountains and even simple table settings with floating tea-light candles or flowers. When it comes to fire, fire pits top the list, followed closely by candle lighting, lanterns and torches.
One of the reasons that this theme works so well is that these two elements convey everything that you want your guests to feel. Water adds a sense of cleanliness and freshness that enhances the environment and foods you serve. Fire, even in modest amounts conveys a warm, comfortable feeling that encourages guests to linger over drinks and dessert. Combine these elements, and you’ll have a recipe for an outstanding dining experience.
There’s no doubt that an outdoor dining area will enrich your customer’s experience in addition to providing you with a high return on your investment. Your available space — whether a sidewalk, rooftop or private patio — is important, but what matters more is what you do with it. To maximize your investment, offer an attractive blend of the elements listed above. A little bit of shade, some nice landscaping and a touch of atmosphere through the clever use of fire and water will ensure that your guests not only come back for more, but also bring their friends and family along, too.
Jeff Caldwell is Brand Manager of Superior Shade.