As more countries ease their pandemic restrictions, American diners are finally going back to restaurants. According to a 2021 survey by OpenTable, 31% of people have already returned to their usual dining behavior while 33% are expected to resume their regular dining between April and September 2021. But among over 21,000 survey participants, 74% are opting for outdoor dining and expect more restaurants to continue outdoor dining.
The figures above clearly show that diners are gradually embracing outdoor dining than ever before. With this renewed demand for safer dining experiences, restaurant owners should start to think of ways to redesign their outdoor restaurant culture post-pandemic. This is a perfect way to welcome old patrons and start recovering the lost revenue since the pandemic.
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With outdoor dining becoming more popular than ever, it’s important to establish a comfortable dining area where customers feel comfortable and safe at the same time. That said, let’s talk about how to redesign your restaurant’s outdoor space!
Create more room
The first step to maximize outdoor dining is to dedicate as much space as possible. This means restaurants should take advantage of their outdoor areas by going beyond traditional indoor dining.
Start by embracing the outdoors by preparing the physical outdoor space. If you have a spacious patio, transform it into a more attractive dining space by adding private tables, cabanas, twinkling lights, and other furniture pieces for a comfortable dining experience.
Some restaurants in the U.S. are applying for outdoor dining permits. This is very helpful for restaurants with a limited outdoor area. Local governments in major cities are helping restaurants by allowing them to expand their outdoor dining. In popular restaurant areas, some have closed down roads to allow food establishments to occupy the streets and sidewalks.
Outside the cities, food-service businesses have installed large tents in parking areas to make room for outdoor diners. Buildings with flat roofs with easy entrance access may consider rooftop dining while following proper safety standards. Apart from having extra outdoor space, this offers a unique ambiance and dining experience your customers will surely love. You’ll be surprised how many people love rooftop dining with an amazing view of the streets and the sky.
Make flexible arrangements
Flexibility is key to making the most of outdoor dining. A multifunctional outdoor seating allows you to make room for more spacing requirements. Consider movable furniture to rearrange the dining area for large groups, private events, small parties, live music, and other events your restaurant can organize.
Avoid attaching chairs and tables to the ground permanently because this will limit flexibility. Even adding chairs or pushing tables together poses space issues.
When picking outdoor furniture, look for something stackable, lightweight, and easy to move. This will maximize the outdoor space and optimize table arrangements for different occasions. You can gather tables together for big parties or separate tables for couples on Valentine’s Day. The patio can also be an ideal venue for buffet or banquet-style private events.
Making furniture arrangements more flexible will make way for a multifunctional layout. If the staff needs extra room to navigate the dining space, establish wider footpaths for smoother movement. For live entertainment, remove a few chairs and tables to set up a bar, lounge, or any physical attraction.
Consider seating capacity
Every minor change in the floor plan can significantly impact the seating availability. Even before, restaurants have been offering outdoor dining to minimize indoor capacity. Strategizing the seating capacity is a great way to consider your space options, especially if you have a limited area for an outdoor dining setup.
Start by setting the balance between tables and spacing to accommodate more diners as possible. Assign footpaths for the customers and staff so that they can easily move around. A great tip is to sketch possible floor layouts and compare each seating capacity.
A suitable option is to have smaller footprints for chairs and tables while maintaining proper distance. Bar stools and high-top round tables are perfect for couples while community tables and sectional seating are great for hosting large groups.
While the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is still not in sight, restaurant owners should think of creative ways to keep their businesses running amid a global crisis. Outdoor dining space offers a great chance to welcome patrons back and recover from the lost revenue. As long as safety measures are in place, your outdoor dining experience can be a successful opportunity for your business.