Your restaurant’s bathrooms are remodeled. Your seating looks great. The lighting sets the perfect ambiance. You’ve got a beautiful color of paint on the walls. You’ve covered everything, right? Well … maybe everything on the inside.
Despite the old adage, you can judge a book by its cover and guests can definitely judge your restaurant by its exterior. The outside of your establishment is the first thing new and potential customers will see of your business in person – you want to make a good first impression. Luckily, there are some easy ways to ensure your restaurant looks as great on the outside as your food tastes when they step through the doors and sit down.
Your Windows and Awning
Keeping the outside panes of your windows clean is just as important as the inside, no matter how much more work it can be. It’s crucial for both satisfying the guests actually eating inside your restaurant and bringing in guests walking by. After all, looking out a restaurant’s window at the view beyond and just seeing dirty glass could make a guest lose their appetite. Any potential guests walking by your restaurant could see dirty windows and assume your restaurant interior is dirty, too. The same mindset goes for awnings, especially they overhang outdoor seating. You don’t want guests to be worried about refuse from an unclean awning contaminating their food.
Plantlife and Lawn
Do you have flowers planted on your property’s lawn? Have you checked them lately? Generally you should water your potted plants once a day, but upping it to twice a day during the hotter summer months might be needed (start checking your plants towards the end of the day to see if the soil has dried out). Make sure all the flowers and plants in your exterior are healthy and properly trimmed … or replace as needed. Weed out any parasitic vegetation you didn’t plant as well. If you’re concerned about constant upkeep, watering, or replenishment, choose heartier perennial flowers like lavender or salvia that require less care and will likely come back every year.
And make sure to keep proper maintenance going on your lawn. If you have grass, keep it tightly mowed and dispose of the stray clippings. Do not just let them scatter across your sidewalks and parking lot. Watch for weeds like dandelions and treat against them if they start to appear. This maintenance should be done on your slowest day of the week (during off-peak hours) or on a closed day. After all, you don’t want to distract your customers during their meal with loud leaf blowers or bags of soil placed on the sidewalk as you re-pot your plants.
Even though sweeping is a regular part of any restaurant’s daily cleaning schedule, it can be easy to forget to sweep the exterior of your restaurant, too. Take your broom to the front steps and any walkway that leads to the sidewalk falling on your property. Sweep the sidewalk too if it needs it. Just because it’s not your legal responsibility doesn’t mean customers won’t judge you on it. If you have trees on your property, make sure to have your leaves raked as well, particularly off of footpaths.
If you are a no-smoking restaurant or bar (which most metropolitan American establishments are these days), it’s still important to keep properly labeled smoking areas along the exterior of your business. After all, you still want to give your smoking guests a way to stay comfortable while dining out without causing discomfort for your non-smoking guests. Just be sure to consult local laws regarding mandatory distance between entrances and designated smoking areas. Make sure all smoking areas are kept clean, swept regularly, and are well-supplied with cigarette butt stands that you attend to and empty as part of your daily routine.
Cleaning up the outside of your restaurant before opening up your patio for the summer is important, but it’s also important to clean up the patio or other outdoor seating area even in off-seasons. Sweeping, wiping down the chairs and tables, cleaning all patio lighting, and repairing or replacing any damaged furniture or umbrellas should all be on your list. Make sure cleaning the patio area is included in the official daily cleaning check-list throughout the time your patio is open during the year, and have check-ins throughout the rest of the year. Just because you’re not using a patio space doesn’t mean it can’t become an eyesore if neglected.
Walk around your building and ask yourself: do I have proper signage to my main entrance? To the drive-thru lane (if appropriate to your business)? To the smoking area? Make sure that all the signs are giving correct information and are easily read from a distance. Also check to see if any of your current outdoor signs need to be replaced or repaired due to general wear and tear throughout the year. They could literally be the first (and last) thing a potential customer sees of your business.
Your Parking Lot
Finally, don’t disregard your parking lot! Keep it swept, have the parking spot lines repainted when they start to fade, and pick up any discarded trash you might find in the lot. Examine all building agreements to make sure you know the specifics of your legal responsibility towards lot upkeep (plus what cleaning work you can expect from other businesses or your landlord if it’s a leased/shared property).
You should also know who would be responsible if someone gets hurt in the lot. This especially comes into play if your business is responsible for plowing when it snows. Be 100% clear about your legal responsibility to parking lot cleaning and maintenance. And make sure your landlord or the fellow businesses are holding up their responsibility, too. That way, your entire restaurant exterior can look great — and be safe.
Want more ideas about how to prepare for summer?