With spring here, that means longer days, warmer weather, and people eager to dine outdoors. Is your restaurant ready for the season change? This could be more traffic in general, or maybe just an increase in guests wanting to leverage your outdoor space. Or if you have restaurants in destinations, this could also mean more out-of-town customers. One thing for sure is that when there is warmer weather, guests want to soak it in. Here are a few tips for setting up your outdoor space for the spring and summer seasons:
Organize your patio space. Transform the layout of your outdoor space with the right tables and chairs. Restaurants typically need 60% of the space dedicated to dining for efficient flow. Keep this in mind when staging your outside patio to make sure enough space is available for seating. Prepare for the weather as well. Incorporate umbrellas, comfortable seating, and overhangs. A portable heater is a good idea for cooler nights and industrial fans are great for hot weather. Look for umbrellas that last more than one season, such as commercial-grade instead of residential ones. You can also add some charm to your patio, no matter the size, by incorporating decorative lights and greenery. Another good idea would be forming a separate line for pickup and delivery, so they don’t cross into the patio areas and disrupt the dining experience.
Craft a seasonal menu. Consider adding seasonal items to your menu to promote spring. Think of incorporating seasonal ingredients that are blooming now to cut costs and promote sustainability. Analyze your menu and divide it based on profitability and popularity to think through each item. This will allow you to adjust your menu pricing strategy and make room for new, seasonal dishes. Fresh, local ingredients are great to signal to customers that you care about where your ingredients come from, but also a great way to keep profits in your community and cut down on fossil fuel emissions. Guests love indulging in a fun, creative dish - such as floral-inspired, spring/summer fruit flavors and colorful foods.
Think about pets. It’s a good idea to make a pet policy so you know how you’ll manage pets ahead of time. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, only service animals are allowed inside restaurants. If you choose to allow non-service animals, keep them outside on patios. Some good policies may include asking guests to keep all animals leashed, display current vaccination tags on collars, and prohibit pets from eating off restaurant dishes and glasses. Need a day to unveil your pet policy? How about March 23rd: National Puppy Day or May 20th: National Rescue Dog Day. These are great days to talk about your pet policy while bringing in guests and their furry friends in a safe way.
Strategize with touchless technology. Handhelds are a great technology that can be utilized for outdoor dining because it moves with you. Use handhelds and encourage customers to pay at the table. This can help speed up service, allowing you to turn tables quicker, and provide relief to your servers so they can focus on the guest experience, not running back and forth from patio to kitchen. And the best part? No additional training is required because like Aloha Cloud’s use the same user-interfaces as your fixed terminals.
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Consider fun holidays to encourage foot traffic to your patio. Some popular springtime holidays could be St. Patrick’s Day or Mother’s Day to offer specials or promotions. Or you could tap into the fun “national days” calendar that fit with your restaurant offerings – such as National Blueberry Pie Day on April 28th or National Hamburger Month in May. Live music can also draw people in. Just make sure it’s in a contained space and there are tables away from the music in case it is too loud for some demographics. Every generation has differences, so make sure to market effectively for each group.
Lean into loyalty. Loyalty Day, May 1st, is a great opportunity to dive into the list of your loyal customers and promote exclusive special offers. Your loyalty program should be personalized to each customer for a tailored experience. Make sure to evaluate your customers’ lifetime value, reward high-value customers, and lean into transactional data to optimize your loyalty programs. If you don’t have a loyalty program in place yet, but want to get the word out, use social media and your website as a tool by using hashtags, employee profiles, and respond to online reviews. Prioritizing social media can be a useful tool for managing your business, spreading the word on new deals, and appealing to customers of all ages.
Let’s get ready for a fun and festive spring and summer season this year.