Restaurants have been hit hard. COVID-19 turned the industry on its head, and even though restrictions are now beginning to loosen and people are dining out more, restaurant operators are still working hard to recoup some of the losses they experienced in the first two quarters of the year.
Right now, restaurants are relying heavily on outdoor patio seating for a large part of their dine-in revenue. If you have the available space, patio seating is a great way to boost your sales and keep customers safe during the pandemic. However, it’s essential that restauranteurs get their outdoor seating right:
Get Familiar with Restaurant Patio Laws and Regulations
Each locality is different in what it allows. Make sure you get familiar with the laws and regulations that your area has set. This can help you determine what kind of patio seating you’re able to offer.
Can you make your outdoor patio dog-friendly? Many customers bring their dogs everywhere, and trendy establishments allow pet owners to bring their four-legged friends along. They may even sell doggie dishes with dog-safe treats.
Consider how you will handle smoking. What are the local laws in your area, and would you turn more customers away by allowing smoking than you would bring in? Can you serve alcohol on your patio, or allow guests to bring their own beverages? Are you familiar with the noise ordinances in your area?
All of these questions are things you will need to answer if you plan on opening up a patio, so it’s wise to start researching beforehand.
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Consider Customer and Staff Safety
Even though restrictions are loosening in some areas, COVID-19 is still a concern, so act accordingly. Section off the area to separate the space from passing pedestrians, and make sure you have enough space (at least 6 feet) between your tables. Provide your staff with protective supplies like masks and gloves, and create a clear sanitization schedule.
Post clear directions in bathrooms and hand-washing stations to remind customers and employees to wash their hands thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds with soap. Also, be sure to sanitize tables between each and every diner. Following strict hygiene and sanitation efforts sends a message to your customers that you prioritize their safety.
Get Creative with Your Patio Layout
Depending on your circumstances, consider whether or not you will use the space strictly for seating and dining. Sure, there is an argument for maximizing your outdoor seating to turn profits, but if you have the space, it may be worth it to consider adding extra touches to bring in more customers. A cozy lounge is great for summer evenings. A space for live entertainment can bring in customers on the weekends. Maybe even implement a full-service patio bar if you have the space and ability.
Implement the Right Technology
When you’re implementing outdoor patio seating, you need to make sure you have the right tools in place for your operations to reach the level of productivity you’d normally expect with your regular table service. Tableside ordering with tablets helps streamline the process of taking orders. Orders can be entered as they are given and sent right to the POS and the kitchen to begin prep work. Pay-at-the-table functionality is also important for reducing the spread of the virus. When cleaned regularly, these can eliminate checks being passed back and forth from server to customer, keeping them safe.
Be Prepared for Inclement Weather
Weather is a major factor affecting your patio seating, so it’s important to plan effectively for it. Make sure there is adequate shade available. If your patio is in a sunny area, invest in large umbrellas or an awning. Keep customers cool with fans along the roof line to encourage airflow, or provide coverage for rainy days with a gazebo. Even a pergola with vining plants can shield customers from weather. For chilly summer nights, have some heaters available. These also allow you to extend your outdoor dining season past the warmest parts of the year. In the event that dangerous or extreme weather takes you by surprise, make sure you have an evacuation or shelter plan in place as well.
Think about Pest Control
Gnats, mosquitos, and other flying insects, squirrels, or stray wild animals are a possibility with outdoor dining spaces. Insects are attracted to sugar, so make sure you are diligent with your cleaning routine, especially with spilled drinks. Store fresh fruit away in sealed containers with secure lids. Cover juices whenever possible.
Strategically-placed bug zappers will keep wasps, mosquitos, and flies away from your customers. You can also invest in a few citronella candles or tiki torches. Avoid attracting animals or insects by clearing away uneaten food and falling debris quickly.
Select the Right Furniture for the Outdoors
Choose furniture that is sure to hold up in the outdoors. Choosing high-quality materials can help you minimize rust or other wear from being exposed to the elements. Make sure the furniture you choose is also relatively comfortable, and that the design matches your concept. Your furniture should add to the atmosphere of your outdoor dining space.
Create a secluded, private space by separating the patio from the public with fences, planters, or other dividers. Use outdoor-themed décor like hanging plants, flowers, canopies, and string lights. Just be sure to keep your outdoor patio furniture in good shape by storing cushions and decorations in a dry, secure place overnight.
Focus POS is here to help you implement the right technology for optimizing your outdoor patio. Contact Focus POS for more information.