Did you know that adding patio seating could increase time spent at your restaurant? This is especially true for restaurants in temperate climates, where diners can’t resist fresh air while they eat. If you’re looking for a way to boost business, add dining al fresco to your list of offerings.
Whether you’re chasing a Michelin Star or planning your first small food business, we’ve got you covered. We’ll walk you through the benefits of dining alfresco and give tips on bringing this party-like atmosphere to your guests.
What Is Al Fresco Dining
What is al fresco dining? It’s another way to say eating outdoors
The term comes from the Italian phrase “al fresco,” which means in the cool or fresh air. Many restaurants incorporate some version of this into their business plan, especially if their location has excellent weather.
Other times, food establishments make their outdoor table offerings seasonal. As soon as the summer months roll in, they open their patios.
However, dining alfresco experienced a significant resurgence in popularity during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many regions didn’t allow indoor seating due to health regulations, eateries turned to the great outdoors to stay afloat.
Restaurants found creative ways to build table-setting options, and some local governments even shut down streets to offer more room. On top of saving many small businesses, it also helped friends and family share meals and gather together safely.
Years later, many folks still dine alfresco because they prefer the ambiance and time in the sun.
Pros of Dining Al Fresco
It isn’t just the pandemic that is raising everyone’s awareness of outdoor dining. Here are just a few of the pros of dining alfresco that you shouldn’t pass up:
- Trendiness. No matter your industry, staying updated on the latest trends in your sector is essential. But especially in the food industry, you should ensure a competitive edge.
- Extra space. Moving outdoors is a fantastic way to keep your guests comfortable if your venue is short on space.
- Increased profits. More seating equals more customers, and that means more revenue. Plus, people love spending time at establishments with a great atmosphere. Sitting at an outdoor table could be just what they’re looking for.
Cons of Dining Al Fresco
It’s not for every restaurant, granted. But here are a few factors you should keep in mind on the “con” side of dining alfresco:
- Weather. If you live somewhere with unpredictable weather, it may be challenging to maintain outdoor seating.
- Upkeep. An outdoor table ages faster than one indoors. The same goes for all your chairs and other furniture. You’ll need time and money to keep everything in good condition.
- Noise ordinances. Double-check your city curfews and sound laws so you don’t have to deal with complaints and angry neighbors.
- Additional cost. You’ll need to invest in more furniture for a patio, garden, or backyard seating area. Additionally, you’ll have to think about things like outdoor lighting, decorations, flowers, and keeping with the style you’ve established indoors.
Types of Al Fresco Dining (Yes, There’s More Than One)
Good news: you have several options for setting up your restaurant for dining outdoors.
Your choice depends on your chosen style of table management. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the different types of al-fresco dining available.
1. Sidewalk Seating
This refers to offering comfortable chairs directly outside your venue. This encourages passers-by to stop and have a meal.
2. Patio Dining
This is arguably the most traditional form of Dining al fresco. If you’ve got space out back for seating away from the bustle of the street, invest in this option. Your customers will love the more peaceful atmosphere.
3. Rooftop Dining
Lucky enough to have a roof terrace? Use it! This is becoming a common form of dining in city center hotels, thanks to the fantastic views and cool scenery.
4. Garden Dining
Like patio dining, gardens are a perfect way to make guests feel like a little oasis while dining alfresco. Just ensure you water your plants, invest in fresh flowers, and find a safe way to repel insects.
6 Al Fresco Dining Ideas To Take Your Restaurant to the Next Level
Are your wheels starting to turn? Let’s keep that momentum going with six al fresco dining ideas to inspire you.
We’ve thought of ways to:
- Make your food stand out.
- Keep your guests and staff happy.
- Tips and tricks for that X-factor appeal.
1. Focus on the First Impression
We all know that sinking feeling when you enter an alfresco dining space only to have an underwhelming experience.
Like everything in the restaurant sector, first impressions count. So, ensure the team’s priority is tidying your outdoor space each morning. They should wipe down each table and chair, sweep away debris, and check fans or heaters.
If you have a firepit, give it a regular clean and refill before each shift. Do that, and you’ll have an irresistibly inviting spot for food and drinks.
2. Don’t Let Standards Dip for Al Fresco Dining
So, you’ve created a beautiful outdoor space.
Now what about the actual alfresco dining experience? Since this is a new addition to your business, you want to verify that your service stays intact.
Your outdoor dining area might be harder for your staff to see. Or slightly cut off from the regular flow of dishes out from the kitchen. This might lead the team to forget to check on a table outdoors as they would for an indoor table.
To avoid this, train your team to treat the area as an extension of your indoor operation. Whether your guests eat inside or outside, they should experience the same level of service.
If this means additional staff or shifts, make the investment.
3. Publicize Your Dining Al Fresco Offerings
Dining al fresco often advertises itself, especially if you have sidewalk dining.
Passersby get to see your meal offerings and happy customers firsthand. But that can’t be the only way you expand your user base.
You can’t just open an al-fresco spot and expect people to turn up. That means you need to add it to your marketing plan and budget. You can buy out print ads in local papers or put a chalk sign outdoors advertising your establishment.
Or, lean into your digital marketing chops. Try email marketing, social media posts, and even collaborating with local influencers.
Create a buzz, and you’ll have a bustling business in no time.
4. Make the Most of the Space You Have Available
You don’t have to worry about overcrowding if you have ample space outside.
Instead, you can focus on creating enough room between tabletops to maximize covers and diners’ privacy.
However, if—like most restaurants—your alfresco dining area isn’t huge, you’ll need to be a little more creative.
Don’t solely focus on packing in as many people as possible. After all, most folks dining alfresco want a relaxing, entertaining evening. They don’t want to sit too close to strangers or feel like they’re eating on top of someone else.
Instead, be realistic about how many people you can comfortably seat and serve.
Remember that you can also use plants, lights, candles, and other garden ornaments to liven up the space. These small details make it feel as large and welcoming as possible.
5. Consider Events
Your patio doesn’t have to only be about eating. If anything, you want your space to become a community staple. That way, they’ll tell all their friends and family about you.
One of the best things about Dining Al Fresco is the option to offer occasional events.
From outdoor music to dinner demonstrations, wine tastings, and picnic parties, the world’s your oyster. Sure, this will eat up some of your seating options. But events are an important element of your marketing effort.
They’ll increase your visitor numbers and local reputation in the long run.
6. Think About the Dining Al-Fresco Audience
It’s important to note that those who love dining alfresco may be a customer segment in their own right. For instance, research shows that 42% of families with kids prefer an outside dining space. Can you confidently say you’re targeting that market with your al-fresco marketing efforts?
This is another reason to spend plenty of time assessing your audience and placing them into “buckets.” That way, you can send them personalized and specific news and offers via email or text.
Bringing Al Fresco Dining to Your Restaurant: Closing Thoughts
You can make the most of dining outdoors if you’re a savvy restaurateur.
All you have to do is follow these tips, keep your ear to the ground, and stay committed to quality. And, of course, stay open to new ways to entice your guests to dine outdoors with you.
One way to do this is by offering free guest WiFi. After all, what could be better than al fresco dining with a speedy and complimentary internet connection by your side?
If you’re looking for a WiFi tool that can offer key customer insights, try Beambox. This WiFi marketing software gives your customers the free WiFi they love while delivering the consumer data you need.
Start your Beambox free trial today to grow your business.