Restaurant Industry Insights

The Challenges and Solutions: Seasonal Outdoor Seating in the Restaurant Industry

While many restaurants look forward to extending their footprint and opening their outdoor seating as the weather warms, there are some challenges. Sudden or significant changes in the weather, from rain to heat waves, are a barrier to comfort. Wind can take the toughest guest indoors. Mosquitoes and flies love to partake in your guests and the delicious food you’re serving.

While it looks beautiful and inviting from the outside looking in, the operational aspect can be anything but. So, operators wonder, is it really worth it? A recent survey may have the answer.

Is Outdoor Seating Worth the Headaches? 

Toast recently asked 850 restaurant-goers some enlightening questions regarding their preferences in outdoor seating as the weather starts to warm. They found that 54% of respondents were more likely to choose a restaurant that offered outdoor seating, and 70% would wait longer to sit outdoors. Over 40% specifically chose a restaurant with outdoor seating. Men, in particular, are looking to enjoy the great outdoors when dining. About 48% avoid restaurants if they have to sit inside.

These statistics undoubtedly represent a thumbs-up for outdoor dining at your establishment. 

What Are Guests Mentioning?

Tastewise also looked at the trends and statistics in this area and found that mentions of outdoor dining increased by over 35% on social media in 2023. Interestingly, the top three mentions concerning outdoor dining were coffee, beer, and chicken. The top trending dishes were cucumber salad, ladyfinger, fired shrimp, smoked turkey, and salmon sandwiches. Vegan was also a popular mention.

Younger diners are more apt to request outdoor seating, which makes social media a great place to share your offerings.

What Type of Seating Areas Are Customers Looking For?

The Toast survey also found that almost 50% of respondents considered umbrellas or another form of shade important when selecting a restaurant with outdoor seating, with over 60% preferring a screened-in patio. Over 50% of women believed this was the most important factor in their selection, while only 44% of men listed it as their number one, followed by a scenic view.

Fortunately, numerous companies are catering to screening patios for restaurants. You may also consider the latest motorized shades that retain your views while offering one-touch control. They can be raised and lowered based on the weather, time of day, and insect population. Some of these screens are designed to block UV rays and sustained winds, while others cater to keeping insects out.

Can I Bring Fido?

Another big guest draw is the ability to bring their dogs. In a survey by HiJunior, 62% of respondents said they would rather sit near dogs than children. While that may seem a little harsh to the human race, we’ve all been enjoying a meal, only to have a wayward crayon make its way to our forehead or sympathize with the parent who’s getting up to carry their squirming child out of the restaurant for the fifth time. 

Let’s face it: some children are not designed for closed-in quarters, no matter how alluring and entertaining the establishment is. Of course, the same goes with dogs. For some reason, people seem to understand this a bit better and leave their unsocial fur babies at home. 

According to Datassential, 66% of customers consider themselves dog people, and over 50% believe their presence makes restaurants more fun and welcoming. Before integrating doggy water bowls and menus, make sure your area allows pets on restaurant patios. More and more states and cities are loosening these regulations. 

What’s the Busiest Time for Outdoor Dining?

More guests are drawn to the outdoors in the late afternoon, with 40% preferring this time of day. Only 21% preferred dining outside for dinner. That percentage went to an all-time low for breakfast, with only 6% preferring this time of day. The prominent age group selecting late afternoon to dine on your patio was 35-44. 

So, how can you entice this group at that time of day? Happy hour specials are a great place to start. In fact, you’ll find numerous online publications touting the “Best Outdoor Happy Hours” in their area.

The Washingtonian gave a shoutout to All Purpose Riverfront, a restaurant offering happy hour deals that include $10 Aperol spritzes and negronis, $8 wines, and $6 beers. 

The Gazette highlighted 101 Reserve, a hot spot in Teller County, Colorado. Not only do they have the “coolest patio,” they’ve also incorporated fire pits, games, live music, and dog-friendly amenities. Sounds like they’ve hit all the appropriate and in-demand targets. 

Are you ready to make this your best outdoor season yet? All it takes is a little planning and thinking outside the box. And, of course, eatertainment and negroni specials don’t hurt. 

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