Eaton Marketing - Aug 7, 2023

Savor the Outdoors - Making the Most of Al Fresco Dining

The COVID pandemic forced restaurants, hotels, and country clubs to redefine how they serve hungry customers. Many foodservice establishments around the country embraced al fresco dining as a temporary solution. But in Florida, having an excellent outdoor seating program is vital to creating new revenue streams and wider profit margins.

The Forbes Future of Restaurants report revealed that a staggering 82 percent of restaurant-goers seek more outdoor seating. Additionally, over one-fifth of hungry customers prefer outdoor dining because they believe it's important to their safety. Even when faced with chillier temperatures, 65 percent of foodservice customers will only dine outdoors.

Let’s take a look at key points to remember when considering outdoor dining for your luxury dining establishment.

Accessibility, Infrastructure, Safety

When setting up an outdoor dining space, it's essential to consider the needs of all guests and how easily they can navigate through your bar and dining spaces. Especially diners with mobility challenges. 

Ensure the outdoor eating areas are designed to be easily accessible from multiple points. Prioritize making restrooms handicap accessible, adding wheelchair ramps, and providing adequate parking with quick and easy access to your facility. 

Don't forget about essential infrastructure like power outlets, lighting, and sound systems to create a comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere. Safety should also be a priority, so it's vital that your outdoor dining area clearly marked emergency exits and has no trip hazards.

Permits and Regulations

Creating and organizing a profit-generating outdoor dining program requires a foodservice operator who is well-informed about local regulations and knows the most efficient ways to comply with them. This includes obtaining any necessary permits or licenses required. 

By staying on top of permits and regulations, foodservice establishments showcase their commitment to operating within the bounds of the law, build trust with customers and create a positive reputation in the foodservice industry.

Chefs and restaurant owners, such as Walter and Margarita Manzke of République in LA fully recognize the value of outdoor dining spaces and made serious investments to convert parking lots into inviting patios. 

Weather Contingency Plans

Having clear contingency plans for outdoor dining in the case of rain or excessive heat (both regular occurrences in Florida during the summer!) is essential to ensure the safety and comfort of guests. 

Adverse weather can significantly impact the dining experience, causing inconvenience, disappointment, and loss of sales. Well-defined protocols help foodservice teams to quickly and seamlessly transition guests to alternative indoor or covered areas. Be sure to consider and plan for any potential safety risks.

Comfort and Amenities

Foodservice operators adapted to the new reality of outdoor dining spaces, but it's time to level up. 

Diners aren't interested in umbrella acrobatics during sudden downpours or feeling like they're on a sizzling griddle in the scorching heat. Add motorized awnings, pergolas, screens, and large fans to keep bugs away. And even though we're in Florida, having heat lamps for those chilly nights in the Fall and Winter can entice regulars to sit outside when they think it's cold. 

Gain quick and easy control over your dining areas through remotes, apps, or even voice commands. Managing outdoor areas becomes a breeze when using smart shading products with sensors that act as shields against rough weather, improve air quality, and use less energy.

Menu and Catering

When planning an outdoor event, organizers must develop a menu that perfectly suits the outdoor setting while catering to the preferences and dietary restrictions of the attendees. This can be achieved by emphasizing the use of fresh and locally sourced ingredients

Providing various options is essential to delighting diverse tastes and ensuring a memorable dining experience. 

Prioritize food safety by implementing proper food handling and storage practices to ensure all food meets the required standards. By focusing on these critical aspects, caterers and event planners create memorable outdoor dining experiences that leave attendees salivating for more.

Outdoor Activities and Recreation

Capitalize on outdoor spaces by offering additional recreational activities and entertainment options. By expanding beyond traditional offerings, hotels, country clubs, and restaurants can attract a broader range of members and guests. 

Organize golf tournaments to allow members to showcase their skills while fostering a sense of healthy competition and camaraderie. Outdoor games such as tennis, pickleball, or bocce ball provide opportunities for social interaction and friendly matches.

Taking things a step further, guided nature walks and live music create a vibrant atmosphere and offer engaging entertainment that helps you rise above the competition.

By diversifying offerings, foodservice operators cater to various interests and preferences, ensuring that there's something for everyone to enjoy in your expansive outdoor spaces.

Is your Florida foodservice business ready for top-of-the-line commercial kitchen equipment? Eaton Marketing can help:

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Written by Eaton Marketing