How to Boost Revenue with Your Restaurant or Bar Patio
Success in the hospitality industry depends on a restaurateur's ability to create opportunity, and an outdoor space - like a patio - is the perfect opportunity to both attract new customers and boost your revenue. From suggestions on building an eye-catching space to statistics that help prove profitability, here is some insight into how a patio can work for you.
Space + Seats = Sales
There are a lot of complicated equations involved in running a successful restaurant, but one reigns supreme: create more space, add more seats, and you'll end up with more sales. A full restaurant is exciting, but if you're running at capacity on a regular basis you've likely all but capped out revenue-wise, too. Sure, you can work on incremental sales, but a few extra cappuccinos and appetizers here and there won't get you where you want to go. By building a patio, you're essentially adding another dining room that holds untold potential. Use it for day-to-day dining, offer it for special events, or start up a weekly happy hour event that draws in a whole new demographic. One expert analysis showed that investing in a patio returned a gross profit of 65 percent. What that in mind: While you can't necessarily make more money from the customers you already have, if you can make space for new customers, why wouldn't you?
Setting Up the Space
Thematically, you want your outdoor space to echo the look and feel of the rest of your restaurant, but there is still plenty of room for creativity:
- DO play off the al fresco setting by incorporating plants, flowers, wood, stone and even trees into your décor.
- DO use white linens outside if you're using them inside. After all, you're charging the same prices, so you should be giving the same service.
- DO think through your design - it's probably a longer run to the bar and kitchen; and there might not be as many places to hide bus tubs or plug in POS systems unless you accommodate those places when you create the patio itself.
- DO select furniture with the same care you gave to the indoor furnishings. Plastic chairs and paper place settings only work for extremely casual venues, but you'll still want upholstery that's weather and fade-resistant, as well as easy to clean.
- DO allow the natural surroundings to shine. No amount of votive candles or twinkly lights can compete with a starry sky.
- DO think beyond patios. Sidewalk dining is popular in some cities and a roof terrace could be phenomenally fun.
- DON'T forget to staff accordingly and train those staff members to anticipate problems unique to the outdoor setting.
- DON'T place tables too close together. Have a seating chart that's closely adhered to so staff has room to navigate the space and guests can eat without feeling crammed.
- DON'T shy away from designing an interesting focal point like a sculpture, fountain or fire pit.
Though your patio space should in many ways act as an extension of your indoor dining area, serving customers in the great wide open requires some additional considerations. Your primary concern should be the guests' comfort, and that means putting a plan into place to accommodate Mother Nature. The most important addition is a shade, awning or series of umbrellas that will protect customers - and their food - from rain, wind or a glaring sun.
The type of coverage you choose depends on the size of your space and specific needs. For instance, large sail-like shades add contemporary flair, while some umbrellas can easily be put up or stowed away, depending on the weather. People can't order off a menu they can't read, so provide adequate lighting as well. If you live in an area that's prone to particularly hot summers or cold winters and you plan on offering year-round patio service, consider adding commercial patio heaters or cooling misters.
Experts recommend giving your restaurant a facelift every five to seven years, and a patio is the perfect way to re-invigorate a tired space - or re-interest a flagging clientele. When it comes to patios, if you build it, they really will come.
Brent Derbecker is National Sales Manager of Superior Skyspan, a shade division of Superior Recreational Products. Using precision engineering, the company designs umbrellas and shade structures for restaurants, hospitality businesses and more.