If you’re a restaurant owner, it’s only natural to want a patio for yourself. Outdoor patios tend to draw in a younger crowd, a crowd that dresses up and leaves the house for sunsets outside with friends.
It’s hard to deny patio season is in full swing in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Restaurants are advertising on facebook and twitter and posting photos of sun kissed patio lovers enjoying mojitos with stars lining the sky in the distance.
If you’re a restaurant owner, it’s only natural to want a patio for yourself. Outdoor patios tend to draw in a younger crowd, a crowd that dresses up and leaves the house for sunsets outside with friends. A crowd that tends to stay out late ordering martinis and mixed drinks as long as the bartender keeps them coming.
Outdoor venues attract wedding parties, grad parties, bachelorette parties and other events. Meaning more revenue and more space to allow for booking parties and still serving the regular dinner crowd.
And patios are great for overflow. Popular restaurant? Tight indoor seating? Expand to a patio! That way you don’t have to turn away paying guests at the door due to lack of seating.
Create an outdoor patio and you might be on your way to subtly altering the brand of your restaurant. But to get there, you’ll need to make a plan, because there are a few unfavorable items to consider and plan for when planning an outdoor patio.
Many restaurant owners consider an outdoor patio to be like playing a crazy game of Russian Roulette. And – surprise! – wind is the number one accused weather front. “People don’t eat in the wind any more than they eat in the rain,” one restaurant owner pointed out. Everyday is a new day for the weather to mess up perfect patio plans, which means you’ll get to know each of your weatherman’s ties pretty well.
One Minnesota restaurant owner kept track over a three year period how many days his patio was open. Any guesses on how many days on average his patio was open per year? It’s dismally comical: less than 30 days. Not even 1% of each year!!
Wind, rain, snow, sleet, humidity, intense sun – you name it and your patio will be exposed to it at some point or another. Without a solid way to manage the weather, other problems stem from this one issue: lack of weather management.
When you’re firing on all cylinders, you’ve got your whole troop staffing your indoor space and outdoor space. But what if you don’t call in your patio staff because of the percent of rain or the gusts of wind? And now, just before lunch, what do you do when the wind dies down and your guests request seating on your patio?
It’s challenging to go up against Mother Nature.
Booking Events Outdoors
Mother Nature is especially ruthless when you’re offering to book outdoor events. What bride doesn’t want her perfect day to include an “I Do” smooch under a cloudless sky? If you have a beautiful wedding spot in your backyard, you can capitalize on this tulle-and-white-lace market by encouraging wedding parties to book wedding events and catering to the outdoors.
But plan a back up venue because this game of Russian Roulette could include a thunderstorm That Day.
Outdoor Furniture and Security
Naturally you’ll want your restaurant’s decor to seamlessly flow from indoor furniture to outdoor patio furniture. Weatherproof furniture, preferably. Or, if you’re unable to find similar looking weatherproof furniture, you’ll need to consider the extra time your closing staff will need to take patio furniture in at night and bring it back out in the morning (as long as Mr. Weatherman announces the weather to your liking). And storage facilities for extra furniture if your patio is closed during a rainstorm or during the winter.
One other furniture related topic to consider is overnight theft on your patio. If you are successful in finding weatherproof furniture for your patio – congratulations! – now you have to realize that someone else might find them appealing too. How do you secure your patio at night?
City Fees, Parking & Restrooms
Once you’ve taken the leap to plan your patio space, now you’ll need to obtain permission from you city officials. Fees differ city to city, but if you’re talking about increasing your seating capabilities you’ll most likely need to plan for more parking spaces, including handicap, and additional restrooms. This just adds to the cost of your investment. But a patio can be just that: an investment to your patio.
Limited or Seasonal Use
One last item to consider is the limited season of a patio. Even if you have a very good year, say you’re able to seat people on your patio more than 30 days, that is a very short window of time to try recouping your investment dollars. And again, we’re back to talking about the weather.
An open-air outdoor patio is a short-term revenue-generating item. And, if you’re taking the time to invest in your restaurant, you want to increase your return on investment as fast as possible.
So the important question becomes: how can you control the weather on your patio for your guests? There is just one answer: provide a patio covering for guests.
Temporary Patio Covering Options
Some of the most common patio coverings are temporary, just meant to put a Band-Aid on gushing wound: tents, tarps, and wood-and-cloth structures. These will keep your patio open during light rains and perhaps offer some kind of protection from chilly weather.
Most of these options are unstable and vulnerable to the effects of weather still. Consider a strong gust of wind and the possibility of tents blowing over and servers trays overturning. A tarp – no matter how dressed up – is still a tarp and doesn’t generate warm fuzzies when looking back at old photos of a special event.
Retractable Patio Covering Option
What if you could have transparent walls and a roof when you wanted to, and still be able to have an open-air outdoor patio when you wanted to as well? Patio structures exist where you can open the walls all the way and open the roof all the way, and then the walls and roof retract closed.
So if it rains on your new patio, close the roof but keep the walls open.
If it gets windy on your new patio, close the walls but keep the roof open.
If it’s cold, use heat lamps. If it’s humid, use air conditioning. A retractable patio covering allows you to control the weather on your patio for your guests.
Now, with your additional seating outdoors, your ability to seat guests way more than 1% – closer to 100%! – of the year, to consistently keep your staff on the docket, the capability to book events all year round no matter what the weather forecast says (in fact, you won’t be memorizing Mr. Weatherman’s tie collection after all), and the capacity to chose weatherproof OR indoor furniture for your patio (a retractable structure offers security against theft!) … suddenly you’re looking at a patio that will pay for itself in just a few years.