As we gear up for bigger post-covid crowds this summer, take a look at your outdoor cooking equipment and your grilling and cooking supplies to see how you can make more out of your outdoor dining space.
Yes, COVID-19 vaccinations are coming out, and some people are more comfortable with dining indoors. But outdoor dining is going to be a popular option for a while. Even before the coronavirus, dining outside was attractive for its own reasons, but now it also helps to protect diners and gives restaurants more flexibility in meeting public health requirements – that is a big incentive for people to find restaurants that offer outdoor eating and vote with their wallets!
As a restaurant manager or owner, you probably want to get involved. So how do you make the most of what you offer your visitors outdoors?
Think of it this way – the best restaurants and food service businesses create excellent branded environments for diners who choose to chow down in the great out-of-doors – elegant lagoons that add to the magic of what’s on the plate.
Other restaurants may simply set up some tables and chairs, and see what happens. Which approach do you think sees more success?
With that said, let’s go to some of the more specific tips that can help you to do more with outdoor dining this season.
Know Your Rules and Regs
One important tip is to keep ahead of any local laws or public health standards, or anything else that determines how you run your business. Know your rights on offering dog-friendly and smoking environments, allowing BYOB, and observing any remaining CDC requirements with spaced tables and PPE for your staff as well as extra sanitation.
A side tip here is to set your guests’ expectations well. Explain to them why you have set up a space a certain way, and with that kind of transparency, they’re more likely to participate with more enthusiasm and confidence.
Consider a Spring Menu
How many people will pay just to sit down and eat some soup or hotdogs, or some meat slapped between two slices of bread?
Inside or outside, your menu makes the critical difference. Restaurants that are experimenting with “plates primavera” or springtime recipes are grabbing up market share and getting the attention that they deserve. Go nuts with fresh herbs like mint, parsley or cilantro, or take a look at less conventional dishes like gazpacho (just one example) that will complement your spring menu.
As we mentioned, the visual environment is part of the attraction. So don’t just settle for setting up tables and chairs. Create eye-catching designs that will allow your diners to get more out of their table experience. If these seem like frilly extras to you, consider the power of word-of-mouth and reputation. People will be watching to see which restaurants open up most vibrantly, and with the best curb appeal for al fresco dining. As in the days before covid, creating something special gives you a whole different market, and helps your kitchen to compete.
Factor In the Elements
It’s also a good idea to plan for inclement weather, with appropriate canopies or other solutions. You may also want to think about whether insects are a problem at any time of the day, or in a particular outdoor environment – and act accordingly.
With this playbook securely in hand, you can stand out from your competitors as you get ready to host a whole new type of dining experience this summer. For more outdoor restaurant and outdoor cooking equipment and outdoor cooking supplies, check out Chefs’ Toys! We are “for chefs, by chefs,” which counts for a lot in this field. Our real restaurant and bar experience helps us to supply restaurants with the high-quality gear they need to conquer the competition and build long-term success.