As the days are getting longer and the weather’s getting warmer, patios are a key way restaurants can attract more customers and ensure they have a great dining experience. Many diners want to have a nice meal out with family or friends, and don’t want to be cooped up inside to eat. When the weather is so nice, offering patio seating brings a different ambiance to the meal that many patrons enjoy. If you’re looking for ways to improve the transition from indoor-only seating to indoor and outdoor seating this year (or even if you’ve just created a patio area and are opening it up for the first time), we’ve compiled a few helpful tips for making the process go smoothly for your staff, management, and your guests!
1. Check your local laws.
Before you open your patio, recheck your local laws – you might have to obtain specific permits or adhere to certain guidelines to use your outdoor space. For instance, some communities require restaurants to obtain a “dog-friendly permit” if said establishment wants to let guests leash their dogs on the patio. Other places will make a restaurant owner get a special permit to serve alcohol on their patio, even if the owner already has a liquor license.
In fact, even if you know your property was up to code last year, it’s still a good idea to check up on local laws and ordinances before you open it again. Make sure nothing has changed or been added to those laws in the past year. Do that research sooner rather than later so you have the time necessary to make those changes before your target date for opening a patio back up for business.
2. Staff up.
It’s highly advisable to increase your staff per shift proportionately to accommodate the amount of tables you’re adding with the patio. That could mean asking your current servers and bussers if they would like extra shifts or it could mean hiring on temporary help for the summer. No matter which you choose, it’s important that both new and current staff are properly trained on how to serve patio guests, including table set up and patio cleaning responsibilities. If you open your patio and find the kitchen staff is struggling to keep up with the added tables, you may also want to consider upping your line cooks per shift.
3. Thoroughly clean.
As you prepare to open your patio for the season, a crucial element is getting it cleaned up. A lot can happen during the fall and winter months, including wild winter storms. Harsh weather during the colder months can damage your patio’s wood, wearing away the paint or finish, or produce cracks in concrete that may be hazardous or leave tables feeling wobbly. Make sure your patio looks great before officially opening it up for the spring and summer, whether that’s picking up sticks or trash in the area, replacing any loose boards, or painting/staining wood rails or floorboards. If there are any shrubs or trees near your patio, it’s a good idea to have a tree service come out and trim them back. You don’t want falling leaves or dripping sap to interfere with your guests’ experience (especially from trees with branches that start to hang over your seating area).
4. Buy weather appropriate furniture and décor.
If you need to update your patio (or if your patio is brand new and you’re buying everything for the first time), make sure all tables, seating, and décor are weather appropriate. Furniture that’s meant to be used outside will say so in its description. Of course, you still want to make sure that the furniture you pick is appropriate to your brand and relates well to the furniture in the main part of your restaurant. If you have furniture that you think is perfect, but you’re worried about it being weather resistant, you may be able to apply a weatherproofing sealant.
5. Maintain your patio heaters.
Patio heaters are a fairly inexpensive way to help guests enjoy themselves on those sporadic, cooler summer nights. Perhaps they can experience the sunset during their meal without having to worry about jackets to keep them warm, or enjoy the night sky in later months alongside a great meal and drinks! Patio heaters are also a good investment simply because they’ll give you a chance to push your patio season into the fall — and therefore expanding your seating potential for a longer period of time — while still keeping your guests’ comfort in mind.
6. Raise your patio umbrellas.
These are a must for any outdoor restaurant space. Not only will umbrellas help keep your guests cool on the hotter days of the season, but they’ll also protect your guests’ eyes from the glare of the sun or reflections off silver and glassware. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to enjoy a meal with good company but getting distracted by the sun in your eyes! If umbrellas don’t go well with your décor, consider installing an awning (retractable or otherwise) instead to help create some shade.
Hanging signage by your front door to alert guests to the option of patio seating is important — especially if your patio is in the back or an area which a passerby might not see from the sidewalk. If your business is active on social media, considering taking some sunny photos of your patio on a busy afternoon and posting them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or anywhere you have a good following. Make sure to mention in your post how popular your patio seating has been during the summer and invite your followers to come dine with you.
Want more ideas about how to prepare for summer?