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The Great Outdoors

There’s nothing like being out in the open air to encourage customers to build up an appetite or thirst and now the weather is heating up it’s time to make the most of the opportunities that eating or drinking outdoors can bring.

As well as giving your establishment extra capacity, you can create something really special and make it the talk of the town. Local press will often feature places with outdoor eating or drinking space in the build up to summer, so it’s a good chance to put yourself at the front of people’s minds. 

Be prepared 

Your garden furniture will not have seen the light of day for months, so it will need a really good scrub – perhaps even a lick of paint – before it is fit for customer use. Tatty or ill-fitting furniture will do nothing for your sales, so if you invest now – and keep it well looked after – it’ll be worth the investment. Your outdoor area maintenance; neatly cut lawns, power-washed paving stones and making the area free of litter and cigarette butts is vital too. Sort both well in advance of the date you’re planning on opening your beer garden in case replacements or repair work is needed. The last thing you want is to miss out on a random hot day because it isn’t ready! Make sure you have ordered plastic glasses – pints and halves – and made a rota for additional staff to cover the beer garden. And if you want to hire a parasol, marquee or heaters (if you don’t already own them) you need to sort this now before the summer season kicks off.

All in the planning

Make sure you have planned ahead for weekends, bank holidays and big sporting events as they are sure to pull in the punters. Draw up your rotas well in advance so you know you have enough staff outdoors to look after all the extra customers, collect empty glasses and keep the area tidy. In the run up to busy periods, make sure the outdoor area and any furniture is scrubbed clean and ready to welcome your customer. Order any extra supplies you might need like plastic glasses, disposable plates and scented candles to keep bugs away. Perhaps consider getting your locals involved – offer a drink and sandwich for them to come and help get your outdoor area ready for the summer months.

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Make the most of your space 

Not every establishment is blessed with a beautiful beer garden complete with stunning views and child’s play area but whatever space you have, you can still create a buzz around outdoor eating and drinking. More and more, we’re seeing tables and chairs springing up on the pavement outside cafes, giving customers the chance to people watch and soak in a bit of continental atmosphere. If you are lucky enough to have a beautiful view, make sure as many people as possible will be able to sit and take it in while they sip their drinks, but even if your outdoor space is situated in a car park you still can make it beautiful with a combination of potted and climbing plants and some twinkling lights.

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Whatever the weather 

Here in the UK we’re not blessed with a pleasant climate all year round and although sitting out enjoying a pint or a glass of cold white wine in the sunshine is hard to beat, there are plenty of ways you can keep the outdoor vibe going all year round. When the nights draw in, you can create an entirely new mood by putting out heat lamps, cosy chairs and warm blankets or to make the space really special, you could consider beanbags, sheepskin blankets and a firepit to keep everyone toasty warm and form a real social centre. Parasols, marquees and patio heaters can all be a worthwhile investment to encourage people to eat and drink outside all year round.

Have some fun 

Having some outdoor space away from your main eating or drinking area gives you the opportunity to show your customers a good time. You can install play equipment for the children, hire in a children’s entertainer or, for the big kids, host giant board games, a barbecue or a beach party complete with volleyball net and deckchairs. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not put on a music festival in a marquee, showcasing the best local musical talent?

Keeping everybody happy

Don’t forget to keep your smoking area in mind while you’re planning outdoor dining areas or activities. While diners won’t want cigarette smoke wafting over them during their dinner, it’s also important that smokers feel valued as customers and have a nice dedicated area – a garden shelter where they will enjoy spending time – and make sure you’re familiar with the latest legislation around smoking which you will be able to get from your local council.

Stay on top of hygiene

Beer gardens can be a potential health and safety hazard if not kept clean and tidy. Spills of food and drink can be potential slipping grounds, unfinished food left on tables can attract unwanted flies and wasps, and spills not cleaned on chairs and benches can annoy customers if their clothing gets stained. Therefore, appoint a member of staff to keep on top of this during opening times and once closed make sure the correct cleaning equipment is used to eliminate all stains and cleanliness and hygiene is kept to the highest standard – especially, if there is an outside toilet. Dirty surroundings do not attract returning customers.

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