As COVID-19 continues to affect the restaurant industry, more and more restaurant owners are looking for ways to keep their businesses afloat. Many have been able to stay in business by innovating, creating outdoor seating, and investing in new contactless technology. It appears that outdoor seating has been a popular, if not essential, trend to maximize guest seating with capacity limits. In fact, on average, full-service operators say 44% of their restaurant’s daily sales now come from on-premises outdoor dining.
Outdoor dining has helped restaurants tremendously in their efforts to make up for lost sales over the summer, but what happens when it’s too cold to dine outside? Restaurant owners are searching for ways they can extend their outdoor dining season, including options such as tents, heaters, and other creative purchase options. Read more to discover 3 ways to extend your restaurant’s outdoor dining operations this year.
Investing in Tents and Heaters
Some solutions restaurant owners across the US are investing in to keep their customers cozy are tents and portable heaters. Dining outdoors could extend well into December, and with the addition of tents and heaters, it could last even longer.
Of course, options like these come with a price; restaurant owners must weigh the cost of renting something like a tent to ensure they can make money on outdoor seating. If they can’t bring in enough business to support the cost of renting the tent, it won’t be worth their time. Interestingly enough, many states such as Massachusetts are providing funding to restaurants to help them invest in items like tents—and many restaurants are taking advantage. According to National Restaurant Association research, “77% of full-service and 65% of limited-service operators say they would likely take advantage of incentives—such as a tax credit—to help them purchase tents and patio heaters.”
Tents and similar structures do pose safety concerns, however; any enclosed outdoor structure needs to have clear exits and be able to properly circulate air. Similarly, heaters need to be strategically placed to avoid fire hazards. Although these precautions are necessary, they are doable. Outdoor seating provided by tents benefits from mobile payments systems or payment systems capable of processing transactions tableside, such as SimpleTab.
Take Technology Outdoors
The purpose of outdoor dining is to keep patrons safe through social distancing. As cold weather approaches and flu season begins, concerns over COVID-19 will surely rise, discouraging even the most loyal customers from dining outdoors. Restaurant owners can quell concerns by extending safety measures and advertising their efforts to the public. If your customers are aware that you are taking extensive measures to ensure your establishment is safe, they will be more likely to continue their dining habits.
One way in which restaurants can keep their operations safe for customers during flu—and coronavirus—season is taking technology outdoors. By adopting new technology such as mobile POS systems, employees will be able to take orders outdoors, eliminating the customer’s need to venture inside and risk potential virus exposure. In addition to ordering outdoors, mobile POS systems allow customers to pay at the table. This allows them to stay safe at their table and avoid contact with others. Utilizing solutions like SimpleTab will give your virus-anxious customers peace of mind and keep them coming to your establishment.
Enhance the Dining Experience with New Purchase Options
In addition to tents, heaters, and new payment technology, restaurant owners are asking themselves how they can stand out and pull in the necessary crowds during the extended outdoor dining months. The goal is to make the outdoor dining experience appealing, something that’s easy in the summer; however, it might take a lot to convince customers to venture out of the comfort of their homes and into the cold to dine outside at your establishment.
Some new approaches restaurants are taking to draw in customers include providing dinners with complimentary hot drinks such as hot cocoa, hot tea, and warm cider. Specialty drink offerings, especially those that correspond with the season, are sure to entice customers. Some restaurants are even trying to sell blankets to patrons that can be used to stay cozy during their meal and taken home with them when they leave. The blanket will not only improve customers’ dining experience, they will think of your business whenever they use or see it at home, inviting them to return.
Another option restaurant owners have to consider is installing outdoor fire pits. These not only keep your customers warm; they are aesthetically pleasing, not to mention cozy. Furthermore, fire pits aren’t too common, but they sure are a crowd-pleaser. Installing a few in your restaurant’s outdoor dining area may be just what you need to create a buzz about your business and impress your customers.
Extending the outdoor dining season is doable as long as both owners and patrons are willing to reimagine the average dining experience. With innovation, technology, and new business investments, restaurants can continue to serve customers well into fall and perhaps even into the early winter months. With investments in outdoor infrastructure, new POS technology, and creative dining enhancements, dining outdoors this year will create an experience to remember. If you’re ready to elevate your outdoor dining experience with mobile point of sale technology, contact the experts at NCC today!