How often do you seek ways to increase the number of new and repeat customers to your restaurant, hotel, or fast food chain? It might be quite a lot, given that the pandemic changed how the foodservice industry serves and markets food and beverages to the public. Many of the food presentation and table station changes implemented beginning in 2019 remain in place today. Pepper in an economy that continues to force Americans to lock down debit and credit cards more often, and foodservice businesses face a hungry audience with high expectations and a low budget.

So, what’s the secret ingredient to success with such a smörgåsbord of challenges facing commercial kitchens and restaurant owners?  

Al fresco dining programs may be the answer. According to recent surveys, 40 percent of people who grab a bite to eat away from home prefer an outdoor dining experience. It may pay off to ensure food and beverage facility spaces are fully optimized to attract a new customer base and increase repeat spending for your business. 

From coffee shops to clam shacks and steakhouses to local pubs, here are three reasons outdoor dining may be the solution to finance, labor, and efficiency issues. 

Increased Revenue

Foodservice operators should be compelled to examine the long-term financial benefits of implementing an outdoor dining strategy. Especially if there’s space available outside on the business property or a curbside dining license has been obtained.

Outdoor dining patios at restaurants, sports pubs, nightclubs, and even food truck locations increase seating capacity and bring in more dollars year over year. In fact, industry studies show revenue can increase by 30 percent after adding outdoor seating options for customers. 

In addition to preferring an al fresco experience, a growing number of patrons are choosing to pay a premium to choose where they want to be seated. In some cases, restaurants get between 30 and 100 dollars just to reserve a specific dining spot.

Improved Customer Experience

After working in the same foodservice facility for an extended period of time, it may be easy to forget about the ambiance and decor. However, aesthetics can differentiate between reaching targeted profit margins and falling short at the finish line.

When trying to encourage customers to stay for extended periods and spend more money, creating an inviting environment that leaves a positive impression is essential. Proper lighting, attractive decor, and comfortable seating create a restaurant environment that customers will enjoy and remember.

A unique and welcoming experience increases customer satisfaction and retention. Whether a foodservice business is looking for classic and timeless or trendy and modern, the overall goal should be to create an atmosphere that is comfortable and appealing to various people’s preferences. Focusing on making the right atmosphere inside and outside the establishment will naturally draw a wider variety of customers and expand the business. 

Additionally, fresh air is a magnet for health-conscious customers who prefer the lower chance of the spread of germs. For example, here are some health benefits that draw in people:

- Eating outside in the fresh air is good for mental health, providing higher oxygen levels and social interaction, even for people dining alone. 
Outdoor dining reduces the number of indoor air pollutants like dust, smoke, and nitrogen dioxide.

- Al fresco experiences allow guests to eat up the sun’s natural source of Vitamin D, and more exposure to the sun has been known to improve blood pressure and sleep quality. 

Outdoor furniture allows restaurants to create a relaxed, healthy, and memorable customer visit. Positive customer experiences generate more respect for the brand and encourage guests to leave positive online reviews. 

Less Overhead

Food and beverage establishments offering outdoor dining programs tend to have fewer crowds backed up out the door and turn more tables expeditiously.

So for many restaurants, there is less need for waitstaff to manage crowd control or monitor customer seating.

​​Additionally, when setting up table stations outside, there is no cost for additional interior elements such as lighting, heating, and cooling costs. The reduced need for utilities like electricity and water quickly increases energy efficiencies and creates a sustainable outdoor dining program.

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