How to Make the Most of Patio Season in your Bar or Restaurant
Warm weather, blue skies, and plenty of thirst to quench—patio season is here! It’s a time when people are naturally encouraged to enjoy the great outdoors and, of course, lounge on the patio of their favorite bar or restaurant. There’s plenty of opportunity for increased revenue in the food and beverage industry when summer rolls around.
With this opportunity, however, comes a set of unique challenges. You’re not just competing with the bar/restaurant down the road, you’re competing with people’s backyards and BBQs, local festivals and concerts, seasonal sporting events—all the activities that come with summertime.
The good news is that people still need a spot to cool down after festivals, space to meet up with friends, a place to celebrate with team members, and so on. Ensuring your patio is their go-to spot means that summertime opportunity for revenue growth is just around the corner!
Here we’ll look at some of the summer strategies you can employ to fill your patio throughout this season.
1. Don’t Lose ‘Em, Use ‘Em!
Festivals, concerts, fairs, and recreational sporting events are abundant in the summer. As mentioned briefly before, this doesn’t mean that people taking part in these events won’t want to come to your patio before or after. A bit of effort in letting them know why they should be there goes a long way.
One of the best things you can do is research what’s happening in your area and cater to the attendees. Create special promotions based on the events and advertise them on your digital signage well before the dates. Promotions like “10% off signature cocktails after the festival” or “Show us your ticket and get ½ off any app” tie into what’s happening and insert your business into the fun!
There’s plenty of room for creativity here. Know of a popular musical act performing in your city? Invite guests to enjoy personalized playlists in your bar or restaurant that feature the artist(s) they’ll be seeing that night.
2. Provide the Best Entertainment
HD television screens are a great asset to patios. Ensuring they’re built for the outdoors, your screens have the power to both draw crowds and keep them around longer—but they have to be used strategically.
If there’s a big game on, you’ll probably want to broadcast it. But it’s also important to consider what’s being played before and after the game. Regular network TV, especially when muted for the sake of your background music, isn’t going to do much in the way of creating the fun vibe people seek out from patios.
Music videos, however, keep the entertainment lively and relevant. It’s maybe the easiest way to combine sights and sounds in a way that engages guests and differentiates your venue from your direct competitors. It’s the kind of upgrade that goes beyond what people expect from bars/restaurants and shapes your environment into a modern, entertaining space that’s definitely noteworthy.
3. Décor for the Outdoors
Speaking of crafting your space, the patio’s décor needs to be comfortable and consistent with your brand.
Be wary of metal tables that harness a lot of heat and old wood that stabs or splinters. Cool, comfortable furniture is a must—people shouldn’t feel “forced” to be outside because of the weather, they should enjoy every minute of it.
Give guests the option of blocking the sun with umbrellas or an awning, as well. Some people need the shade, others may want to soak in the rays. Have your servers ask the guests’ preferences as soon as they’re sat at the table.
If possible, fill your patio with décor that matches your brand’s colors and themes. You don’t want them asking “what was the name of that place with the great patio?” If possible, print your logos on the umbrellas, display your branding and promotions on digital signage, and even hang branded banners along the fence. Whatever ways you can think to achieve it, visual association implants your brand with the good time someone’s had on your patio.
4. Expect the Unexpected
We all know how unpredictable the weather can be. It’s important that you and your staff have a storm plan in case of rain or thunderstorms.
Will your awning or patio cover block the rain so guests can dine outside regardless of the weather? Will you replace meals that were rained on? Do you have an evacuation plan if a potentially dangerous storm approaches? All questions worth asking.
If you’re going to keep the patio open late, be mindful of temperature drops. Some venues, especially those by waterfronts, have found outdoor heat lamps to be a wise investment. If you’re offering a late-night patio experience, ensure that it’s as comfortable as possible while still making it worthwhile financially for your business.
As well as the weather, you should be prepared for pests. Keep juices and fruit dishes as covered as possible and equip your patio with bug zappers and possibly sprays. Of course, if you are using sprays, be sure not to envelop guests or food in the cloud. Clearing dishes and wiping tables as quick and efficiently as possible is a must!
5. Know and Set Your Policies
Some complications can arise from patio season as far as legality goes. Noise level, smoking bylaws, and pet policies should all be considered and defined clearly.
Be conscious of your neighbors, as noise complaints to the police can shut down a good time fast. Music levels should be kept at a moderate volume at all times—loud enough to hear and enjoy, but not so much that conversations need to be yelled to be heard. Noise bylaws differ by states and cities, so make sure yours are adhered to.
Similarly, smoking laws vary state to state. If you’re allowing smoking on the patio, be understanding of non-smokers and if it could potentially affect their experience negatively.
Pets have been welcomed on patios before, you might consider having them on yours. If you do, be conscious of people with allergies and inform guests that they may encounter these furry friends. You could also set up a specific event for pet owners to bring their companions if you don’t want them on the patio all summer—it could draw a fun crowd for the day!
Putting a little extra effort into making your patio the #1 spot to be this summer ensures that summertime is working for you and not against you. Strategic use of event promotions, music and entertainment, comfortable décor, and smart planning goes a long way in crafting a fantastic outdoor guest experience.
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Posted by Kevin Avram
Kevin Avram is a marketing communications specialist, creative writer, and is passionate about helping businesses grow to their fullest potential.