Seven Tips to Improve Your Pub or Cafe’s Outdoor Seating

9 August 2021

The sun is out and lockdowns are lifting. The customers of your restaurant, cafe or bar want to take advantage of your outdoor seating area or beer garden. You’re more than happy to oblige: the more seats filled, the better. 

But arranging an outdoor setting for an ideal eating and drinking experience brings with it unique challenges. Is your approach bringing more customers in, or driving them away?

These are the seven things you must consider for your outdoor seating strategy:

1: Outdoor furniture gets messy quicker than indoor furniture

There are two reasons that outdoor seating accumulates mess faster than indoor seating. First, the outdoors is just messy! Bugs, wind, all manner of debris, and let’s not even think about what mess a bird can leave behind on a cafe table or patio beneath them. 

Second, cafe outdoor seating is further away from the bar or kitchen. While your serving staff are spending most of their time inside it is much easier for outdoor tables and chairs to get ignored.

Customers will quickly get turned off by dirty furniture, whether it is indoors or out. It is important that all staff are vigilant about cleaning all areas of your establishment. 

2: Be generous with the space between tables

Some hospitality managers will be tempted to squeeze as many tables into an area as possible. But nobody wants to dine seated back to back with strangers at another table. Consider the room needed for people to move their chairs to stand up from the table: don’t make them squeeze. 

Also remember that many diners will arrive with bags, pushchairs, or pets (if they are allowed). Don’t punish these guests for arriving with baggage. All guests deserve a great dining experience. Those with a pushchair have got enough to worry about without having to parallel park it between unnecessarily close together tables. 

Ideally, table size should be considered at the time you buy the furniture. When buying contract furniture table tops from Tabilo, you have a wide range of table top sizes available. 

3: Consider those who want to smoke and those who don’t want to be close to smokers

There is a long-standing tension in pub and cafe outdoor seating areas between smokers and non-smokers. You need to find the balance between accommodating people who want to smoke, without exposing others who want to avoid it. 

The most obvious solution is to designate smoking and non-smoking areas. This can be as simple as moving your commercial cafe furniture into two distinct areas. If you have chosen lightweight outdoor chairs, this shouldn’t take long.

Let’s assume you have an outdoor space big enough to make this work. Next, you will have to ask the question “How big should the smoking area be?” This will depend on your clientele and it may require some trial and error to come up with an ideal solution. 

What if you only have a small area for outdoor seating? This certainly leaves us with more of a dilemma. You will have to decide whether you can make the whole area a non-smoking one (meaning smokers will have to temporarily and inconveniently leave the premises to smoke), or whether you allow smoking in all outdoor areas. Again, it will depend on your particular circumstances and what your typical customers are willing to put up with. 

4: Manage the temperature/weather in your outdoor setting

When we picture outdoor dining, we think of the glorious July sun, but conditions vary a lot (even in July). Some commercial dining chairs and tables have space for an umbrella and that’s a great start. But what about when you’re open late in the evening and the temperature starts to drop? What about trying to take advantage of our outdoor areas even when the sun has retreated for the year?

Here are some pieces of equipment you may want to consider to make your outdoor space an all-weather, all-season dining experience:

  • tents
  • heaters
  • firepits
  • blankets

Not only will you create more happy customers, but you can also make more profit by extending the usable hours/months of your outdoor space. 

5: Check the lighting is sufficient for all key areas

What are the key areas that need to be well lit? The tables first of all, of course. Also, all paths from the tables to inside your building. Any areas that people may gather away from the tables (smoking areas, for example). Paths to the car park and the car park itself are also important. Finally, check areas with hazards, such as near fountains.  

6: Plan your outdoor furniture around event areas

Sometimes, an outdoor area will double as a venue for live music or a space to hold community events. If this applies to your restaurant, bar or cafe, consider how this will work. Will some of the seats or tables need to be moved to accommodate the event? Is there a stage that is assembled, and where is it kept when it is not in use?

When purchasing cafe furniture or pub furniture, consider furniture to suit your business needs, such as stackable chairs, to ensure you are able to rearrange event areas easily when required. 

7: Choose the right furniture

On an average day—mild temperature, warm sun, clear skies, low wind—what really determines how comfortable your outdoor guests are? It’s the furniture. It’s what they sit on and around for an hour, two hours, or even longer. They wait for their meal, eat it, and linger in the company of their friends, family or coworkers afterwards, all the while sitting on your chairs and around your table.

If your outdoor dining furniture isn’t right, it can put a damper on the whole experience. 

Have you ever sat at a cafe chair that you kept repositioning yourself in because you couldn’t get comfortable? Have you tried to sit at a pub table that was too high, too low, too small, too wobbly, or too close to the next table? It’s not a fun experience. 

Then you have the aesthetics to think about. Do the materials and colours of your chairs and tables match or complement their surroundings? 

Look at your outdoor furniture. Does it elevate the impression customers have of your establishment? Or does it lessen it? If the latter, maybe it is time to consider upgrading your pub or cafe outdoor furniture. 

If you are looking for quality contract furniture, Tabilo has you covered. With close to a decade of experience in the contract furniture industry, we know what makes a great chair and what makes a great table. Plus, we know how to provide them affordably. 

Interested? See our range of outdoor furniture today

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