As you seek a location for your restaurant, you are likely to encounter some designs or existing buildings that include a patio, balcony, or other outdoor dining space.
It can be tempting to write these off as frivolous add-ons or, alternatively, cheap gimmicks. But the fact is that outdoor dining spaces can do a lot of things to help grow your restaurant, and if you have the opportunity to include one as you start out, you are well ahead of many competitors.
Cheaper Overflow Space
One of the greatest challenges in starting out with a restaurant is being able to accommodate unpredictable crowd sizes. The number of people you’ll serve can fluctuate wildly in your earliest months of operation, and it can be very bad for business if wait times get very long.
But at the same time, those extra tables cost money. Adding to the square footage of the restaurant just on the gamble that you’ll be busy is a very expensive proposition.
Outdoor seating can help. A patio, while not free, is certainly less expensive than indoor space. You can avoid the costs of heating and cooling the space, and daylight hours will illuminate the space with sunlight–an even greener option than high-efficiency light bulbs!
The best part is its flexibility and ease of separation. If the crowd is of a normal size, you can very easily isolate it and seat patrons only indoors, a process that’s far easier than talking customers out of requesting seating in an indoor section that you’re trying not to use.
An outdoor dining space can make your restaurant’s branding process much easier. The ways you utilize a patio or deck can line up perfectly with your overall theme, and you can do things outdoors that are impossible in an enclosed dining space.
Consider a steakhouse. People imagine the wild West, campfires, cattle drives, and all that stuff. With an outdoor space, you can utilize rough lumber flooring that actually weathers naturally. You can build a fire year-round with no additional air conditioning costs from trying to offset it. You can also capture great views of the surrounding area that evoke images of the range. You can utilize old lumber from fences or barns to decorate and even to make certain structural features.
You see the idea. With an outdoor eating space, you have a whole different tool set for building your theme. You have the flexibility to do things that would be too messy, bulky, or loud in an indoor space, and you can use nature to connect with your brand.
A Unique Offering To Customers
Everybody has a dining room, right? It’s standard, except for the cheap walk-up counters.
Of course, those places have their appeal. Why do people come to a place with no enclosed seating? They love the fresh air, the cool breeze, and the home-like feel of outdoor eating.
And while you can’t put 100% of your diners in an outdoor setting, you can capture those same positive vibes for your customers. Your menu may sync up very nicely with an outdoor eating space, particularly if you have some grilled offerings. Make the fire-cooked items a seasonal special and you’ll really bring in the customers, or offer the city’s best seats for watching a parade.
But don’t give up on the patio during cold weather. Properly done, you can capture fall and winter holiday tie-ins with your menu. Put in a fire pit and simulate the feel of a fall gathering with hot cider and a campfire, or even make it a snow-watching venue for enjoying hot chocolate.
In the flurry of activity of setting up a restaurant, it can be easy to opt for the simple, cheap solution. But a patio or other outdoor dining area carries advantages that will reap rewards for you right away. Don’t overlook this opportunity to enhance your restaurant’s appeal.
What do you love most about outdoor dining?
Do you have a favorite restaurant with outdoor dining?
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