Does your current restaurant design offer plentiful outdoor dining space? According to a recent OpenTable survey, Americans are back to dining out. And we literally mean OUT. Diners are enthusiastically embracing eating al fresco. In fact, the vast majority of diners – 82% – want restaurants to increase available outdoor seating. Those not embracing this new normal may be left behind. How can you revamp your restaurant real estate to take advantage of this opportunity?

Take Advantage of New Outdoor Patio Permitting Opportunities

Denver’s temporary outdoor dining program to help restaurants and bars stay afloat and safely accommodate guests through the COVID pandemic in 2020 has been made permanent. The program will continue to allow restaurants to apply for permits to use private and public spaces for outdoor dining in settings adjacent to their businesses.

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Capitalize On Existing & Adjacent Patio Dining Real Estate

Take full advantage of available space on the property you own or lease, as well as nearby public plaza space and adjacent natural or wooded areas:

  • Go big, extending your existing patio dining space beneath the versatile shelter of a large, permanent Pivot 6 XL commercial pergola from StruXure.
  • Build up with a second-story deck. Adjustable aluminum pergolas from Denver Pergolas are the perfect shelter solution for upper-level decks and rooftop dining additions.
  • Start small and expand with StruXure Cabanas. These portable 10×10 cabanas are perfect for temporary additions and meeting social distancing guidelines, allowing your restaurant to start slow, then easily add on to accommodate guest demand.

Set the Stage for a Good Time

Deck out your pergola or cabana-covered space with private tables, built-in color-changing LED lighting, and twinkling lights, creating a luxurious, resort-like atmosphere. Incorporate infrared patio heaters and ceiling fans for comfort and year-round use. Consider gas fire pit tables to generate warmth and a buzz for your newly renovated outdoor seating area. Creature comforts and stunning features keep guests happy and engaged, ensuring a longer stay, higher tabs, and positive word of mouth. No matter what size patio dining space you add, you’re sure to see an overwhelmingly positive response. Al fresco dining isn’t going anywhere – so start cashing in.

Don’t Neglect Social Distancing Guidelines

Create a layout and service plan that protects patrons and ensures repeat business, keeping local COVID safety measures including distancing and sanitation protocols center stage. Over 70% of dining patrons rate these as extremely important, even in outdoor areas perceived as lower risk (compared to indoor dining). Use 10×10 StruXure cabanas to delineate space for each party or zone your larger, commercial pergola-covered patio dining space, incorporating motorized screens to create zones or seating “bubbles” that reduce contact while still facilitating fresh airflow.

Don’t Assume You’re Guests Know the Process

COVID best practices are constantly changing, and every business supports different measures. Educating guests on what to expect at your establishment is essential. Inform diners on rules you’ve implemented for their safety with highly visible signage, developing a script for your staff to explain how your COVID safety protocols work. Overcommunication beats leaving these details to chance, reduces confusion and frustration, and increases compliance and safety.

Don’t Skimp on Seating and Comfort

As we’ve previously stated, uncomfortable guests aren’t going to stick around – or return. Long wait times likewise equate to lost sales. Investing in plentiful seating and outdoor comfort will pay off in additional sales. Make it an experience. Teach your staff how to make a show of catering to outdoor guests. Light a fire, turn on nearby patio heaters, pass out cozy throw blankets, and adjust your louvered roof pergola to seal out rain or snow or let in the sun’s warmth– guests will eat it up, savoring the unique experience. Your success will pay off in a rapid return on your pergola investment – in some cases, as little as a day.

Uphold Your Brand Image

Make sure your restaurant patio seating area reflects your brand. Successful designs typically reflect the feel of interior dining spaces. Deliver the whole package. Make your outdoor seating area a special destination people want to frequent – not just a cheap substitute to replace indoor seating for guests looking for a safer dining experience. 

Adjust Your Menu for the Season

Seasonal dishes are easier to execute and more enjoyable outdoors, such as cool, summer fare and warm, nourishing winter dishes. Limiting the menu to these seasonal selections is also a great way to reduce waste and scale down, controlling costs until your  COVID-weary regulars return in earnest.

Spread the Word & Boost Restaurant Patio Traffic

Post photos of your newly revamped space and exciting new menu items on social media, sending an email blast to regulars. Turn in a press release to the local paper or radio station about your new outdoor dining area, or get the word out with direct mail, offering discounts for your patio grand opening.

Adapt to al fresco. Refresh your restaurant patio design and capitalize on new trends in outdoor dining. Contact Denver Pergola Systems’ restaurant patio design experts at 303-505-6669  to schedule a consultation today.

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