Top 10 tips for Al fresco dining

Summer is underway, and although the weather may vary throughout the weeks, it is imperative to make the most of your glorious outside areas to maximise your profits and draw in the customers on those beautiful summer days. Here are a few tips to help you provide an excellent Al fresco experience for your diners:


First impressions count


Your outside space is the area that guests see first when they first arrive at an establishment, so make sure yours is top notch. The space should be a priority during morning set up and make sure the team doesn't forget about it during the day; no one is going to be enticed into coming in by empty tables piled high with dirty dishes and empty glasses. 


Consider the audience of those using the outside area


Research shows that 42% of families with children will use an outdoor space. Al fresco dining is popular with families as children are able to move around more freely and make more noice than is normally accepted inside. Eating out with children can be a stressful time for parents, so make sure staff are understanding and friendly, engaging with the children and demonstrating that they're in a family friendly space. If you have a garden, it may be worth stocking games like giant Jenga to keep the children entertained while the parents relax. 


Maintaining your service standards


Make sure you have adequate numbers of team on shift and process in place to ensure your outside guests are not forgotten about at busy times and service continues as smoothly and efficiently as normal. It should immediately be clear to your guests whether its table service, or whether they need to order inside- and if they do need to order inside, staff still need to be on top of check backs in case of any problems. If most guests are eating al fresco, be careful not to ignore or overlook anyone sat inside. As English whether can be incredibly unpredictable, it might be worth investing in shade covers, or umbrellas. 


Keep the service consistent with your brand


Research demonstrates that people who eat outside have very similar expectations to those who sit inside. The outside area is not an afterthought but a key part of your brand- be sure to make this obvious to your guests. 


Make sure your furniture is up to scratch


You might not have thought it, but picnic benches are not the choice of table for diner eating outside- but if you believe it aligns with your brand that go for it! Just remember that furniture gets messy far easier when outside, so this calls for constant cleaning to keep the space appealing to incoming diners. Remove plates quickly, empty any ashtrays, and provide napkins for any accidental spills that may happen. 


Give guests space to relax and enjoy their meal


Arrange furniture with care, allowing more space than usual between the tables; al fresco diners are often accompanies by pets, pushchairs or buggies, which take up space around the tables. If you want your space to be considered pet friendly, demonstrate this by adding water bowls and keeping them topped up throughout the day. 


Make the most of the space you have available 


If it's large, consider breaking it up into different areas, perhaps one for drinking, one for eating, one for people with children with a play area, or one for smokers. If it's small, think about what you want to focus on and how the area looks - a seasonal mural and potted plants can really brighten up an area. 


Events 


Outside areas can reused for more than just eating from the menu. Why not open up options to hold BBQ's, an open mic night or even hold a local beer festival?


Look into the long term


Remember that outside areas are not just for the summer season. Research found that 48 % would eat outside once the temperature reaches 16-18 degrees. Think about investing in blankets, heaters and fire pits, which will help make the outdoor are more profitable throughout the year!