According to Google Trends, in the months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a huge increase in the amount of people searching for “restaurants with outdoor seating near me.” While restaurant patios have always had the potential to grow your restaurant business, outdoor restaurant seating, in addition to a strong takeout and delivery business, is practically essential in the time of COVID. Here’s how to create a profitable restaurant patio in 2020 and beyond.
Each state has its own regulations when it comes to restaurant patios and outdoor seating, so make sure you understand what is and isn’t allowed before you make any decisions. In general, you’ll want to know if you’re allowed to serve alcohol, if smoking is prohibited, if your restaurant patio can be dog-friendly, etc.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, outdoor dining rules and permits don’t necessarily look the same as they did a few months ago. In fact, many states are taking temporary steps to make outdoor dining a more plausible solution for restaurants. Not only are they offering expedited or waived outdoor dining permits and sidewalk licensing fees, but they’re also relaxing liquor laws and letting restaurants convert parking lots, sidewalks, and closed streets into socially-distanced dining spaces. If you do take advantage of these incentives, make sure you’re following proper safety protocols and that you’re accounting for the temporary nature of many of these agreements.
Restaurants with outdoor seating need to consider their patio layout and how it will affect their patrons, servers, and bartenders. While you can use the space strictly for dining, you might also consider other restaurant patio furniture like fire pits and couches to create a great lounge area. That said, lounge seating might be less appealing to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, which means your patio space may be better utilized by dedicating the entire space to tables spaced at least 6 ft. apart from one another, at least for the time being.
Whether you’re designing a proper restaurant patio or securing some makeshift outdoor seating in response to COVID-19, you’ll want to keep pest prevention top of mind. You’ll need to be especially vigilant about storage and cleaning as bugs are attracted to sugar. You’ll also want to be quick to remove uneaten food and follow strict cleaning protocols every night to prevent animals from scavenging crumbs from your outdoor dining area.
Some of our favorite restaurant patio ideas have to do with creating the perfect ambiance. You might, for example, surround your patio with beautiful landscaping or hang decorative lights around the fencing. Putting up decorative dividers can also give your diners peace of mind as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic, while also providing privacy that will be enjoyed even once things return to some semblance of normal. As an independently owned and operated wholesale food distributor, we work hard to help each and every one of our customers succeed. Keep an eye on our foodservice blog for more restaurant management tips, including our guide to no-contact curbside pickup and delivery,what you need to know about ghost kitchens, how to reduce labor costs in a restaurant, and other helpful tips and strategies for your restaurant’s success.