In many places, restrictions are finally loosening up a bit to allow some restaurants to open. While this is great news for many, some customers are still a little wary about venturing inside restaurant buildings.
Luckily, the weather is improving enough for restaurants to open up patio seating. When combined with curbside and delivery services, patio seating can be a great source of revenue that will greatly improve your bottom line while you wait for things to get back to normal.
Though patio seating is widely popular and very in-demand at this time, it’s important that you set your patio up correctly and optimize your space for success. Here are a few key tips to get you started:
1. Allow for the appropriate space between tables
In a traditional patio setting, you would typically need to set up your tables to accommodate for guests and servers. You’d need to give enough space for them to move around and sit comfortably, while still trying to maximize your outdoor seating so that you have enough space for the many customers looking to enjoy the fresh air while they dine.
However, due to COVID-19, it’s important that you practice extreme caution, and include extra space in between your tables to reduce the risk of spreading harmful pathogens. You want to make sure you have at least six feet of space in between tables, so that your customers are able to follow appropriate social distancing guidelines without having it interfere with their overall experience.
2. Put the right technology in place
It’s crucial that you have the right tools at your disposal to ensure success. Handwritten tickets take longer and can result in more errors, which could absolutely cut into your profits. While you always want to avoid errors as much as possible, it’s especially important in the current climate that you minimize these.
Mobile POS tablets are a great solution to this problem. They allow servers to take orders tableside, and then transmit them directly to the kitchen without having to re-enter them into the POS. You can also leverage near-field communication (NFC) technology for contactless payments, which ensures the safety of customers and employees. To take safety a step further, provide each server with their own tablet and have them sanitized after every shift.
3. Consider shade and shelter
Weather is always a factor that must be considered, but it needn’t make or break your situation. There are many things you can do to ensure patio seating is available even if the conditions aren’t perfect.
Large umbrellas at each table are a must. These can provide adequate shade on warm, sunny days, while also providing cover if the forecast calls for rain. Extra large umbrellas can block even more sunlight and potentially cover multiple tables if positioned correctly.
As an alternative, you may want to consider awnings or retractable canopies, which can be utilized rain or shine. Looking for something different and unique? Consider a pergola, which you can decorate with vining plants like morning glories or fresh grapes. Greenery can drastically improve the look of your outdoor seating. Adding a small gazebo can create an intimate space for special, private guests, and you can offer it at an upcharge for those looking for something romantic and exclusive.
4. Purchase outdoor furniture and equipment
Your outdoor patio seating area is a space you can personalize. Create your own cozy beer garden in the back, or set up bistro tables outside your front door for a quaint coffee shop vibe. The furniture and décor you use will be a large part of what draws your customers in.
There are many different options available, and it’s important to consider what type of atmosphere you are looking to create when selecting your outdoor furniture and equipment.
Here are some options to consider:
- An outdoor bar and bar stools for a backyard party feel
- Round bistro tables for two perfect for a romantic date night
- Wooden tables and benches for a family-style atmosphere
- Sectional patio furniture with cushioned seats and pillows, love seats, and lounges
- Torches and tropical-themed accents for an exotic tiki vibe
Pay close attention to the material of your furniture and ensure it is able to handle tough outdoor environments. Plastic holds up in almost all kinds of weather and it is inexpensive. Wood furniture made of bamboo or rattan is natural, light, and relatively weather-resistant when treated, plus it offers a more authentic outdoor feel. Metal is the most long-lasting and it holds up well to virtually all types of weather, but it can also get very hot when sitting out in the sun and can become uncomfortable for customers.
Beyond furniture, there are many other elements and accents that you will want to consider:
- Decorative lighting
- Misting fans and cooling systems
- Fly traps and insect zappers
- Heaters and fleece blankets
- Curtains to provide privacy
- Bicycle rack
5. Prepare a takeout window
If you have the means, it’s a great move to prepare a takeout window. This can increase convenience for servers and speed-of-service for customers. Rather than having to carry trays of food in and out of the restaurant, servers can easily pick up orders from the window and carry them to your customers sitting outside.
COVID-19 has made it very difficult for restaurant owners to continue operating profitably, but luckily, there are many workarounds. Outdoor patio seating is one of the best things you can do to boost your profits in these trying times. For more information on how to optimize your POS technology to efficiently manage outdoor patio seating successfully, contact the experts at Touch Dynamic today.