Top tips for creating the perfect al fresco dining experience at your restaurant
Let’s face it – the great British weather isn’t always so great! Even at the height of summer, there is always the possibility of rain. It could come bucketing it down even after the weatherman predicts a straight week of sunshine. Perhaps it is this relative rarity that makes us Brits so fiercely happy when the sun does come out!
When the sun is shining, al fresco dining is always on the menu. You’ve seen it happen – the weather takes a turn for the better, and all of the sudden hundreds of people flock to the local park for an impromptu picnic. Pubs are surrounded by sun seekers who want to make every minute of Vitamin D count, and every eatery with a patio or pavement tables fills up with eager diners.
Does your restaurant offer outdoor seating? If you have the space for an outdoor dining area and you are not currently taking advantage of this, you are truly missing out on a potentially lucrative opportunity.
If you have the ability, setting up an al fresco dining area at your restaurant can bring in a lot of business. Just watch what happens when the sun peeks through the clouds – people love to sit in the sun with a drink or some food!
Setting up a defined al fresco dining area with café barriers
While you might think that setting up an al fresco seating area might be as simple as placing a few tables and chairs outside, there is a little bit more to a successful outdoor dining set up.
The most important thing to do is to create a defined space that is separated from the outside world. Sure, you could just line tables and chairs along the perimeter of your restaurant, but this certainly does not feel special or relaxing. Ideally, you want your outdoor dining area to be as chic and stylish as the inside of your premises.
One of the best ways to do this is to set up a distinct al fresco area that is separated from the world beyond by a physical barrier. Café barriers make this simple. Café barriers create a barricade between the outside world and the dining experiences of your guests.
Not only do they create a visible barrier between your diners and the road, café barriers can also diminish the noises from beyond. After all, how much can you really enjoy your meal when the rumbling engines of lorries and motorbikes are constantly interrupting your peace? A barrier, even a small and thin one, can really help to dampen the noise of the outside world.
Café barriers can do double duty and help with advertising
Café barriers can also be completely customised and printed for your business. You can select a look and feel that works for your restaurant, and even add text, graphics and photos that work with your branding scheme.
Think about it – you can get even more value for your money with custom printed café barriers. Keep them a solid colour facing inwards, allowing your guests to relax in a minimalist and tranquil environment. However, their external façade can be printed with your logo, name, design details, and other customised information.
Prefer things to be a touch more subtle? Keep them a solid colour on both sides, or add filigree and design. Café barriers are an affordable way to keep the outside world from infringing on your restaurant, and a great way to create the al fresco atmosphere you desire.
Keep things at a comfortable temperature for your guests
Now that you have a dedicated al fresco dining area separated from the pavement, you can focus on maintaining a comfortable temperature for your guests.
Of course, the most common weather concern in the UK is the potential for rain! Any successful outdoor seating area needs to include umbrellas. High quality, canvas umbrellas can make sure that your diners stay nice and dry when the skies open up and the drops start falling.
These umbrellas will serve more than one purpose. They can also shield and hide any ‘less than pretty’ nearby scenery, protect diners from pigeons and bird droppings, and provide much needed shade on sunny days.
When it gets hot in the UK, the sun can really beat down and temperatures can climb very high on the thermometer. The shade provided by large umbrellas is a welcoming invitation for any hot and sweaty passers-by. Who knows – they might even stop in for an impromptu drink or a snack!
Another important way that you can help your diners maintain a comfortable temperature is to install heaters. A good umbrella and an outdoor heater can transform even the most inclement weather into ‘patio season.’ Think about all of the extra covers that you could serve if you had a dining room that extended outdoors through all seasons? You can run heaters that operate continuously, or install models that turn on and off when diners press a button.
Finally, you can also provide a selection of cosy, finely knit blankets that your diners can use when they feel a chill. There is nothing better than dining or drinking al fresco, and feeling the warmth of soft blanket as the sun sets and the temperatures drop.
If you really want to ‘winterise’ your space, you can invest in a seasonal covering that places a canopy over your al fresco dining area in the colder months. While this is a costlier idea, it can truly make your patio a 4 seasons experience.
Don’t neglect the décor of your al fresco dining area!
When you are in the process of planning and implementing an outdoor dining area, it can be tempting to just grab whatever furniture, tables, chairs, and umbrellas that you have in storage, and place them outside.
Beware of this trap! While you might want to save a bit of money, if you neglect the atmosphere and ambiance of your al fresco dining area it will certainly be a flop. One of the reasons that people enjoy sitting outside is that it feels exclusive, relaxing, and rather fashionable, particularly in good weather. If their seating options are limited to some rusty old metal tables and chairs it will really defeat the object!
Start by selecting the furniture that works best for your overall décor scheme. You might have some of these furnishings already, but if not, try to buy the highest quality options that you can afford.
Place candles and potted plants throughout the space, and add pops of colour to bring out the beauty of the space and really tie everything together.
Break down your al fresco area into different ‘zones’
You can use café barriers, potted plants, planters, and furniture to create ‘pockets’ within your outdoor dining area. Breaking down a larger area into smaller zones makes them feel more exclusive, and creates visual interest.
By using café barriers and plants to create distinct pockets in your outdoor patio, you can also give your guests a heightened sense of privacy and exclusivity.
Consider placing furniture in different groupings and set-ups throughout the space. Perhaps you can have a lower seating area in one zone, with sofas, low tables, and padded chairs, while you can group a cluster of bar tables and bar stools in another area.
If you have the means and the right kind of space, you could also consider installing a gas fire pit. This is a wonderful way to bring people together to gather around the warming fire, and can create visual interest and a focal point for the entire space.
Are you looking for more tips and ideas for creating the perfect al fresco dining experience for your restaurant diners? Our experts are on hand to help. Send us an email or pick up the phone and call, and we can give you our expert advice.