Safely re-opening restaurants has been difficult for many owners this past summer but having the ability to seat guests outside has helped immensely. So as winter approaches and temperatures drop, many restaurant owners are dreading the loss of useable outdoor seating. But there are ways to make outdoor dining spaces comfortable, even inviting, to diners without having to invest in something overly extravagant (like this). Here are a few simple ways to embrace the changing seasons and create a cozy dining experience:
Bring the Heat
Consider different products to provide warmth outdoors. Simple standalone patio heaters can be an easy way to handle the occasional chilly day. But for space and energy efficiency, consider more permanent, wall-mounted options (or ceiling mounted if you happen to have an over-head structure). Remember, not all heat sources have to be clunky eye-sores either. Gas fireplaces can be an excellent way to create pleasant spaces for guests to gather around and enjoy cocktails or appetizers.
Make it Cozy
Once you have enough heat sources, look at other ways to make your outdoor dining experience as comfortable as possible. Is your patio furniture metal? Consider switching over to a warmer material like wood or adding cushions to better retain heat. While completely enclosing an outdoor space would undermine the safety benefits of fresh air, you can still utilize materials like vinyl sheets as a windbreak and to retain a bit of heat. For an extra cozy ambiance, you could even consider offering blankets to diners (washed between uses of course).
Warm Up the Menu
Even if the patio is kept warm enough for comfort, the lower temperatures and drafts will still require some alteration to your menu. Add a variety of dishes that maintain their heat well, like soups and stews. Create a fun and functional presentation that guests will enjoy by serving items like warm dips over tea-lights or Sterno cans. Feature warm cocktails, toddies, and dessert drinks on your beverage menu that guests can sip on while they enjoy a warm fire.
Even with heat sources and barriers, your outdoor space is still exposed to the elements. Moisture can gather and quickly freeze on the ground. Have plenty of mats strategically placed to reduce slipping hazards. If uniforms are vital to your restaurant branding, be sure to provide staff with proper accessories to keep warm as they tend to guests outside.
Find the Right Management
Having management that can think creatively will help your restaurant adapt to seasonal challenges. The restaurant recruiters at Horizon Hospitality can help you find the management and culinary professionals who can do just that. Contact us today to learn how.