Restaurants with outdoor seating have long been a fixture in countries with warmer climates, but even in the UK – and especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – al fresco dining is beginning to take off. While COVID restaurant rules are often subject to change, in this guide we highlight some general ideas for how dining establishments like pubs, restaurants and bars can introduce outdoor seating.
Why create an outdoor seating area?
Got an unloved garden, yard or side alley that could be transformed into a gastro paradise? Here are some of the reasons why restaurants with outdoor seating can often thrive.
- Attract more customers. By creating extra space outdoors, you can increase your footfall thanks to the larger capacity. But also, a pleasant outdoor environment simply gives people an extra incentive to drink or dine at your premises. Cocktails and sunshine – what’s not to like?
- Reach a new target market. Outdoor spaces may also help you target a different profile of customer, such as families who want extra space in case the children struggle to remain seated for the duration of a meal.
- Retain customers for longer. According to research by HGEM (formerly the Mystery Dining Company) 79% of restaurant diners would increase their ‘dwell time’ at an establishment that offered al fresco dining. More time spent at your restaurant or pub might translate to extra spending at the bar, or a round of cheeky after-dinner espressos.
- Host outdoor events. By making an outdoor space usable, you can create new revenue opportunities – from food festivals and open mic sessions to pizza parties with a fancy new oven.
- Pandemic-proof your business. No one knows what the future will bring, but if the experience of hospitality businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic is anything to go by, restaurants with outdoor seating can often remain open and comply with COVID rules by serving customers outside.
Outdoor seating ideas
Eating food outside is one of life’s great pleasures, and with a few creative ideas, you can enhance your outdoor seating area to create a space that customers love. Here are a few themes and ideas to jazz-up a restaurant with outdoor seating.
Outdoor heaters are one way to heat a restaurant area such as a terrace, garden or patio. Depending on your layout and space considerations, you could introduce freestanding outdoor heaters, stationary tabletop ones, or heaters that are mounted to outdoor walls or ceilings. Alternatively, another option is to introduce a firepit, which can create a warm and fuzzy glow in outdoor areas like decking, pergolas and restaurant tabletops. Perhaps a more affordable way to enhance your outdoor winter seating is to invest in a few blankets and cushions to make your dining areas a little cosier.
We can’t always rely on the famous British weather to keep us dry, but temporary solutions such as umbrellas and gazebos, or permanent structures such as patio roofs, could protect your customers from drizzle or a downpour. And when the sun does make an appearance, terrace awnings, parasols and shade sails could reduce the unwanted glare.
Tables and chairs are perhaps the most obvious element of a restaurant’s outdoor seating, but it may be easier than you think to get these decisions wrong. If you plan on storing the furniture indoors overnight, you may want to consider lightweight, easily stackable chairs, and foldable tables, that will fit within your storage space. You may also want to consider how weather-resistant the furniture is, and whether the design matches your restaurant’s overall brand.
If you wish to make your restaurant, pub or bar a family-friendly establishment, there are lots of ways your outdoor area can be enjoyed by parents and their children. Venues with a large amount of outdoor space could consider play areas – with tunnels, slides and swings galore – but smaller venues could simply offer a selection of toys, crayons and crafts that children can enjoy at the table. You could also consider whether to introduce a designated smokers’ area located a suitable distance from children.
It’s the little touches that can often make the difference to the look and feel of a restaurant’s outdoor seating area. Greenery, such as potted plants, vines and miniature trees, can create a relaxing mood for your customers to enjoy. And the careful use of lighting – from fairy lights to lanterns – can create a charming ambience at night-time.
Tyl Talks restaurant guides
Our Tyl Talks content hub is packed full of articles and tips to help anyone running a restaurant, pub or bar. Check out some of our latest blogs.
This has been prepared by Tyl by NatWest for informational purposes only and should not be treated as advice or a recommendation. There may be other considerations relevant to you and your business so you should undertake your own independent research.
Tyl by NatWest makes no representation, warranty, undertaking or assurance (express or implied) with respect to the adequacy, accuracy, completeness, or reasonableness of the information provided.
Tyl by NatWest accepts no liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential losses (in contract, tort or otherwise) arising from the use of the information contained herein. However, this shall not restrict, exclude, or limit any duty or liability to any person under any applicable laws or regulations of any jurisdiction which may not be lawfully disclaimed.