The Great Outdoors
Drinking and dining alfresco offers a great opportunity to attract new customers and increase revenue, so it’s important that you make the most of whatever outdoor space you have. With a late Easter on the horizon, now is the time to get your outdoor areas summer ready.
On your marks…
This year, the Easter weekend falls from Friday 19 April to Monday 22 April and, fingers crossed, we’ll have some warmer weather to enjoy. Hot on its heels just two weeks later is the first May bank holiday weekend (4-6 May), with the second following not too far behind (25-27 May). A busy few weeks in the out of home calendar, so establishments with outdoor spaces should think about how they can put them to best use to attract customers in search of excellent food and a lovely external environment in which to soak up the British springtime. And, if we’re treated to another summer as good as last year’s, your outdoor space could be in demand for months to come.
Take some time to plan ahead of Easter weekend to get your outdoors ready:
•Make sure the lawn is cut neatly, the paving is power washed and outdoor furniture is clean
•Plan your staff rota early and have sufficient staff available for the busy holiday weekends
•Advertise any events you are hosting on social media and at your entrances to publicise your beer garden or outdoor seating area
Make it special
Enjoying the outside while having a drink or eating good food is one of the real treats of a British spring or summer time. To attract a high volume of customers – and encourage them to stay as long as possible – your outdoor space should offer something really special. Think outside the box to make the most of whatever space you have.
•Offer blankets for guests to use to keep them warm as the sun goes down and, for when the temperature falls, consider investing in patio heaters. The Little Fable, tucked behind City Thameslink in Fleet Place, London, has a comforting collection of fluffy cushions and blankets to keep customers warm while they enjoy cocktails and snacks.
•Create a beautiful environment where customers will want to linger – hanging fairy lights is an inexpensive, effective way to bring a little magic to your outdoor space. Other ideas include table lanterns, beanbags and quirky mismatched furniture – or even an alfresco Burger Shack like The Eagle in Shepherd’s Bush, London.
Something for everyone
As well as having a great children’s menu, it’s worthwhile sourcing something that can keep little ones entertained.
Games like giant Jenga and chess are an affordable option or, if you have the space, then play equipment will keep them entertained while the adults enjoy a leisurely dessert or hot drinks, once the kids have eaten.
Live entertainment will help to attract crowds so why not invite local bands to take part in a battle of the bands, or hold an outdoor karaoke competition? As an example, the Tom Treddlehoyle Inn in Barnsley has a large beer garden which includes a children’s play area and a stage. Their team plans a full calendar of events during the summer including performances from local bands and the screening of live sporting events.
The burning question…
Smoking outside venues is a touchy subject and it’s very difficult to please everyone. It is important that smokers have a designated area outside in which to smoke – some outlets go out of their way to make it a welcoming environment for those who use it. The Hotel du Vin chain, for example, has created ‘Cigar Shacks’ – wooden structures with underfloor heating, warm air curtains and plasma gas fires designed to continue the feel of the hotel outside. Any designated area shouldn’t be too close to outdoor eating areas as the smell of smoke will put diners off their food.
As it stands, it’s legal to smoke in a beer garden. However, some licensees have taken the decision to ban smoking from their premises – Scott Westlake hit the national headlines back in 2017 when he banned smoking in the beer garden of the Myrtle Tavern in Leeds – one of the first landlords to take this decision in the UK. There had been a huge increase in families with young children using their outdoor area so they wanted to make sure the beer garden was a safe and smoke-free environment for children and parents alike. It’s a decision, he said, that wasn’t made lightly, but is a step in the right direction.
Remember to check who owns the land outside your premises before putting tables and chairs out on it – if it’s a public highway you’ll need to apply for a pavement licence and you may need to ask for planning permission to change the area’s use. Take a look at your premises licence to make sure the outside serving area is within the licensed area shown on your licence plans.