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5 Ways To Expand and Enhance Your Restaurant’s Outdoor Seating

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March 21, 2024

Did you know that customers in 2023 spent more dining out than at grocery stores? For restaurant owners rebounding from COVID-19, that’s excellent news! While more people are spending money on restaurants, patio dining, which took off during COVID-19, is still a growing trend. 

According to the National Restaurant Association, 72 percent of restaurant owners offered outdoor dining in 2021, and 35 percent stated patio dining accounted for nearly half of their average daily sales. Are you looking to start or expand your alfresco area and capture more sales?

5 Tips for a Perfect Restaurant Patio

Whether you have a sidewalk, a small strip of land, or ample outdoor space, these five tips will help you maximize your patio seating to enhance your restaurant.

1. Plan Gradually

Designing and building a patio doesn’t have to be static, or cut into profits. Start your outdoor dining space small, then expand as you need to. Consider your current space and plan your initial patio set-up accordingly. Popping up a few picnic benches or setting up a handful of sidewalk tables will bring in outdoor diners now, while you work on expansion down the road.

2. Secure Restaurant Permits

As a restaurant owner, you’re no stranger to operational licenses and permits. If open-air seating is part of your evolving restaurant concept, you’ll want to get all the necessary paperwork in order and check with city laws. 

Depending on where you live, you’ll likely encounter four types of outdoor seating, each of which could require special permitting.

  • Sidewalk Cafe
  • Seasonal Street Seating
  • Platform Street Seating
  • Platform and Covered Street Seating

Research your local laws to obtain the correct permit before you start building. 

3. Invest in Outdoor Decor

Repurposing existing indoor tables and chairs might seem like a money-saving solution to patio furniture. However, they are built for indoor use and likely won’t stand up against the elements. Instead, search for commercial furniture that can weather any storm to reduce wear and tear, and replacement costs. 

When choosing your patio furniture, keep your brand and restaurant aesthetic in mind. You want the outdoor space to feel like an extension of your concept and indoor ambiance. Consider using the surroundings as inspiration. Woodsy elements like tree-lined streets benefit from natural-looking furniture, whereas an urban space might lend itself to industrial touches like chrome and iron.

4. Prepare for Weather

Speaking of the elements, you want your diners to be comfortable in a variety of weather. Outdoor heaters, table umbrellas, and roof-top coverings can keep customers warm and dry during colder, wetter months. Fans and misters are great for helping customers cool off in the heat. Lighting is also essential to brighten cloudy days and keep tables open in the evenings.

Look into options geared to your climate and weather patterns.

5. Plan a Marketing Campaign

Once your alfresco space is ready for customers, it’s time to get the word out! Reach new customers by posting your outdoor seating on social media. A fun TikTok video showing off your new patio design is another excellent way to create buzz. For existing customers, try a newsletter with an outdoor dining coupon when they make a reservation. 

Don’t forget that the patio itself can be its own marketing tool. Create eye-catching signage and sandwich boards to entice people walking by. Use creative lighting and decor elements to attract attention.

When considering marketing strategies, it's essential to set a budget beforehand. Costs can vary widely depending on factors such as the scale of your campaign, the platforms you choose, and the materials used for signage and decor. Setting a clear budget will help you make informed decisions and ensure that your marketing efforts are cost-effective.

Maximize Restaurant Operations with Business Tools from US FOODS CHEF’STORE

CHEF’STORE is known for our exceptional products at competitive price points. Plus, we also serve our culinary community by offering helpful business resources, such as staff training, menu design help, and team management. 

Visit today and stop by one of our many convenient locations near you to learn more!

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The information materials and opinions contained in this blog/website are for general information purposes only, are not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances. We make no warranties, representations, or undertakings about any of the content of this blog/website (including, without limitation, as to the quality, accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose of such content).

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