This article was written for QSR by Katie Fairchild, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Restaurant365.
Patios and creative outdoor dining spaces became a necessity to keep restaurants afloat during the pandemic; now, they’re being leveraged as additional revenue streams. Attracting and retaining patio guests could provide the additional boost in sales restaurant operators have been looking for to battle increased operating costs.
Whether a local café, fast-casual spot, or fine-dining restaurant, maintaining an inviting and well-serviced patio can be key to bringing in additional revenue in the warmer months. Here are eight low-cost strategies to get patrons to the patio this summer and beyond.
Provide attractive seating options
During busier dining times, additional patio seating can accommodate more customers, reduce wait times and boost sales through higher table turns. When arranging your outdoor space, pay extra attention to the seating design to make outdoor dining an attractive option for customers. Ensure the seats are comfortable and the tables are well-spaced to maintain the airy appeal customers crave when opting to dine outdoors.
Create a profitable al fresco menu
Seasonal ingredients taste fresher and cost less, which is the ideal base for a profitable menu. Consider separate menus, chalkboards, or table tents to promote these temporary specials. These elements are less expensive to create than a regular menu and can be quickly changed out to promote specials or removed should the kitchen run out of a seasonal product.
Attract new demographics
Adding a patio to a restaurant space allows you to cater to a wider audience, ensuring your restaurant doesn’t miss out on potential customers. Outdoor eating spaces often appeal to parents because their children can move about freely without disrupting others. Or perhaps a dog-friendly patio may be just the reason your establishment is chosen over the competition.
Host private events
Restaurants can attract new customers and add an additional revenue stream by renting out the patio for private events such as birthday parties, baby showers, or corporate dinners. Unlike indoor booth seating, patios are a great place to host events because the tables are often reconfigurable and can be easily moved to create the perfect space for almost any occasion.
Create your own events
In addition to hosting events, creating events is an excellent way to attract patio guests. Using a patio to run a Friday night live music series or host a fundraiser for a local charity is a great way to promote the space.
Make the patio a social media hotspot
Take advantage of social media as part of your restaurant’s marketing strategy. Posting pictures of a patio full of happy patrons enjoying various events across your social media channels is a great way to attract new business. Attracting a wide social audience with your #patioweather will drive more customers to experience it for themselves. Consider adding a backdrop wall with a beautiful outdoor mural or greenery for patrons to snap pics and promote your space via their personal networks.
Appeal to tourists
According to Travel + Leisure, there is a renewed emphasis on food-focused travel. Travelers say they want to shop at small businesses and spend more during a vacation if they know it supports the local community. Take advantage of tourist spots near your restaurant by emphasizing their proximity in your marketing efforts. What’s better than a visit to a museum exhibit followed by a glass of wine on a quaint patio?
To ensure repeat visitors, it’s vital restaurant staff extends the same hospitality to outdoor patrons as they do to those dining indoors. However, having to head inside the restaurant for every element can really add to a server’s workload. If an operator has been on the fence about investing in updated software and access to the point-of-sale or ordering system near the patio, now may be the perfect time to do so. Upgrading to a handheld POS device will save servers valuable time when taking guest orders.
As operators look for new ways to attract guests to the patio, measuring the effectiveness of your efforts is key. Is the al fresco menu a big hit? Extend these specials to indoor diners, as well. Are patio comps higher than indoor comps? Investigate what issues might be causing staff to underperform. Leveraging a restaurant’s data is the best way to understand what’s helping (and hindering) a patio’s financial performance.
If you’re trying to get ahead of increased operating costs and drive more customers to your space this season, outdoor dining may be the solution. By sprucing up your patio, you’re able to accommodate more diners, provide a beautiful backdrop for marketing and social media efforts, and increase revenue for your restaurant.