Outdoor Dining Done Right
Over the past year, COVID-19 has changed the sit-down dining experience. With so many businesses closing—then reopening, then closing again for an outbreak—the hospitality industry has realized the short- and long-term costs of taking ineffective measures to stop the spread of the virus. Thus came the boom in outdoor dining.
Last summer, many states passed laws to temporarily allow restaurants to expand seating to sidewalks, parking lots and cordoned-off streets. The onset of winter caused its own obstacles, but now as the weather begins to warm, outdoor dining is once again taking off. Restaurants are already applying to expand outside while they can.
5 Tips for Effective Outdoor Dining
As with any new venture, it’s best to start on a small scale until you get a handle on it. Take as much time to create a good outdoor dining experience as you did on off-premise ordering when you had to open delivery channels. Start with just a few tables open for sit-down service and expand it as more restrictions lift and vaccinations roll out.
1. Use your location
It’s better to optimize and transform your existing space than it is to create something entirely new from scratch. Your outdoor seating area should match the rest of your brand. If you have nice lights inside, add some outside to create a romantic ambience. Beautiful artwork from your service floor can expand to your outdoor area too.
As long as your seating area is optimized for social distance, use whatever tools you have to make a unique dining experience that sets you apart from competition and entices guests to come back again and again.
2. Keep customers informed
Let your guests know as soon as something changes, whether or good or bad; be honest and upfront about your expectations as well. Transparency matters, especially with COVID-19 still a significant threat to customers. Post signs and have the host inform them of your policies regarding masks, social distance and the ordering process as soon as they arrive. Upfront honesty helps create a safe and smooth experience for all.
Although the changing weather necessitates protection against wind, rain and snow doesn’t mean that the colors and lights can’t create a more pleasant atmosphere for guests to enjoy. As you set up your outdoor seating area, make sure that all of the lights, art, plants and music align with your brand. The shift to outdoor seating should feel seamless and sensible.
4. New menus
Along with changes to your physical space, take this time to create new menus, like delivery-only or seasonal options. You might find that this pandemic has resulted in unexpected shortages or surplus; use this to formulate new ideas that cater to your changing needs and your customers’ shifting preferences over time.
A global pandemic isn’t enough to stymy the ever-changing nature of consumer trends. Especially with limited staff and considering the importance of online ordering channels, new items may be just what your restaurant needs.
Now that you’ve invested all of this time and effort into revitalizing your outdoor dining experience, you need to come up with new marketing strategies to maximize your audience and profitability. Take pictures of your set-up, announce these changes across social media and utilize all of the usual channels like print and digital ads. With an advanced Point of Sale system and strong customer relationships, you should have a good idea how to meet your customers where they’re at—online and in person.
Optimize your space for outdoor dining and let your best customers know how you’re guaranteeing their safety and comfort when they’re dining in, outside. When you invest in cutting-edge restaurant technology, you invest in your future. With superior reporting and analytics, workforce management, loyalty programs and aggregation of customer data, you’ll be able to make marketing campaigns more successful than ever before.
Schedule a demo with eatOS to learn how we’re ushering in the future of food service, today.