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In or Out: A Dining Question

Over the last few weeks, the UK has seen one of the biggest political changes, leaving most of the World in a sense of shock! The question “In or Out” has never been so prominent for anyone recently and with Summer finally here (ish) it is a question that will remain within the hospitality sector and I don’t mean the referendum!

Not wanting to go into anything too political (mainly because there are better blogs to read for these views, written by people who are certainly a lot more qualified than me) I am talking about whether to dine “al fresco” or not…! There is nothing better than taking a lovely seat outside on a sunny day, enjoying a few drinks, a lovely meal and taking in the view around you.

The choice for “Out” (I genuinely do mean sitting outside) is going to be more popular over the next few months with the weather getting better. So what could be done to ensure that customers are able to make the most of their “al fresco” experience at your café or restaurant?

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There are of course plenty of wonderful and helpful tips and ideas that can contribute to a lovely outside experience, but if I spoke about all of the ones that I have come across, we will be here all day! So I will keep this aimed at my favourites, short and sweet!

First impressions are everything

This is no different to the interior, really. Of course the things that your customers are going to see first will be the “decision maker” as to whether they are going to want to stay or not. It is the outside space that is often the area that “welcomes” your guest, so a key point would be to keep this area looking clean, tidy and enticing.

Making sure that your outside space reflects your service is crucial. An organised space that looks tidy will reflect that your establishment is clean and efficient. It will be worth noting that the outside space is going to get dirty, a lot quicker. It will therefore be important that you pay close attention to these areas, making sure that crockery is cleared as soon as possible and the tables are wiped down regularly, ready for the next customer. This will also deter flies and other insects, who are just unwanted guests anyway!

Set an atmosphere

Everyone loves a bit of ambience when dining and this can also be created around your outdoor space. Making use of the environment, you could introduce a few plants and flowers to add some colour to the area. Fairy lights can be added to trees and can be used in the light evenings and will complement candle lighting, which will in turn set the right mood for your guests to enjoy the sunset. Water features and wind chimes are a great addition to adding some “zen” for your guests, too.

If you are in an urban environment, but have a rooftop terrace as outside space, why not add a few parasols and plants to set the atmosphere? The use of “natural” style furniture will emphasise the outside space and will still create a great environment for your guests to enjoy.

“Outside areas can be used for more than just eating from the menu. Why not hold a barbecue, an open mic session or run a local beer festival.”

Why not hold a couple of barbecues if your outside space is big enough? Nothing says Summer like a good ol’ barby! These events will be great in getting the rest of the community involved and the different menu will be a welcoming change for your guests.

Keep your audience in mind

Steven Pike at HospitalityGEM has mentioned that researchers have shown “42% of families with children will use the outdoors”. There is more space outside for young children to run around and be a little noisier than what would be acceptable indoors. It is important that the staff are considerate, helpful and friendly to help out with the younger guests. Helping the parents out as much as they can will reduce their stress levels, making them feel more relaxed. This being said, it goes without saying that to achieve this you will have to make sure that there is enough staff in at the time to ensure that the outside is not “left out” or forgotten.

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If there is enough outside space, why not add a few activities for younger children? Games such as Giant Jenga and Oversized Chess are great for them to play whilst their parents enjoy their food and drinks, catching up with family and friends

Customers will often be bringing their pets to restaurants, pubs and cafes knowing that the outside space will be available for them to make use of. It is important that there is enough space between tables to ensure that bringing their dog is a possibility. It will also be a good idea to refrain from forgetting about the little guests- having a couple of watering bowls for “man’s best friend”, for instance will be a great gesture and one that the owners aren’t likely to forget. The lasting impression will be an excellent bonus and will entice them enough to want to keep coming back.

There is a lot that can be done to make the most of those sunny days. Fire heaters and blankets can even be used to carry the “al fresco experience” on during the colder evenings, which would be a lovely touch. Hopefully the weather will start to brighten up even more so we can all make the most of the outdoors this Summer… Cannot wait!

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