Alfresco dining is popular among bars and restaurants throughout the world. However, as balmy summer evenings transition into chilly winter nights, restaurants are forced to decrease their seating capacity, as people are understandably unwilling to brave the elements.
With seating capacity decreasing by as much as 50 – 60%, depending on layout, having the ability to maintain a comfortable outdoor dining experience all year round has a sizable positive effect on profit.
The key to creating a profitable outdoor space is making the area just as comfortable for diners outdoors as it is for diners indoors. While this may seem like a costly endeavour, it is in fact quite simple, requiring only three key items – Shelter, lighting and heating.
Shelter – protecting diners from the elements
While overhead shelter such as awnings and pergolas are obvious solutions to protecting diners from rain, artificial walls and screens should also be implemented. These protect from wind and driving rain and can be purchased for a very reasonable price. Transparent PVC patio blinds can be easily rolled up and down when required and at a cost of only $80 – $120 per blind (depending on size), are a very cost effective solution.
Lighting your outdoor space
The atmosphere of a bar or restaurant should not end when you go outside. While you should maintain the atmosphere by not excessively illuminating your outdoor patrons, they should also be able to see what they are doing. Exterior lighting is also a great marketing tool which when done well can help attract new customers. The most cost effective lighting solution is LED. LED lighting conserves significantly more energy than halogen bulbs, because of this it has been fast embraced by major restaurant chains worldwide.
Heating your outdoor space is one of the best ways to attract more diners. However, not all outdoor heaters are created equal and it is important that you understand the differences between different types of outdoor heaters. In the past, gas powered heat lamps have been a popular choice for restaurants, however with improvements in electric heating technology, it is now much more cost-effective and energy efficient to implements overhead, electric heaters.
New Zealand based outdoor heating manufacturer, Kelray Heating produce a range of heaters which utilise infrared rays. These act similarly to the sun’s rays (but without harmful UV) passing through the air and only absorbed by solid objects. Unlike gas heaters which only heat the surrounding air, resulting in a large amount of wastage, infrared outdoor heaters give you a comfortable outdoor space, at a much lower energy cost.
“We recently installed infrared heaters for a function centre in Rotorua (NZ). Although it was an indoor space, the venue had no walls, meaning attendees were essentially dining outside. After installing our infrared heaters, diners commented that they felt very comfortable, despite a minus one degree Celsius evening. Without these heaters, this venue, and many like it would simply be unusable on these cold winter nights”, comment Kelvin Davis, director of Kelray Heating.