KEEP OPERATIONS TIGHT
Before expanding capacity, ensure BOH and FOH can keep up. Adding outdoor seating could double the amount of covers you have. So consider adding a new POS terminal outside, along with your host station. Will additional staff be needed? How can you ensure an efficient workflow between indoor and outdoor sections? Make sure you have answers to these questions as it’ll impact your budget and processes.
WORK WITH YOUR WEATHER — NOT AGAINST
Seasonality and weather fluctuations can impact how often your outdoor seating is used. If you know your weather patterns, you can estimate the percentage of time that outdoor space is expected to be occupied by customers, aka your utilization rate.
Increase your utilization rate by weatherizing your space as much as possible. Add as much shade as possible and winterize your outdoor service area to keep business rolling all year round — almost 50% of every incremental dollar you sell through outdoor seating goes to your bottom line¹.
And for those able to keep their outdoor seating active all year round, you may only need to worry about storing excess decorations or chairs. But if the snow puts a temporary end to your patio, you may need to invest in a small storage unit to house your furniture.
SET UP YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE
Now for your space: make sure your outdoor seating feels lively but not crowded. Find the balance between maximizing customer and server footpaths and creating an appealing ambiance.
Utilizing a smaller area? Try benches to take advantage of the length of your space and two-tops with chairs in front that won’t take up too much room.
On the sidewalk or curbside? Add round two-tops and a row of rectangular four-tops behind them. This will help make the most of your space’s length when constrained by width.
Lucky to have a larger space? Try traditional tables and chairs with benches and coffee tables for cocktails — maybe even a gaming area or some cabanas to add additional flare to your outdoor area.
And ensure accessibility. Your space should be safe and functional for everyone.
Ramps, plenty of room for wheelchairs to navigate through, handrails, and ample lighting are key.
BUILD THE RIGHT PATIO AMBIENCE
Keeping all of these in mind along with what’s permitted and makes financial sense for you will help guide thoughtful and careful decision-making and lead to success.