Why It’s Important to Have—and Use—An Outdoor Dining Space
Open Up and Get Outside!
As we begin to see the loosening of COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s time to appreciate the importance of spending time outdoors—for you and your guests. If you have an outdoor space, you’re more than likely allowed to begin service (if you haven’t already). Unfortunately, if you currently only have indoor seating your eatery may have to stay shuttered a little longer (and we hate to see that!). But, regardless of where you live or what type of restaurant, pub, brewery, or other dining establishment you have, getting outside is vital to your mental, emotional, and business health. Why? Read on, to find out why it’s so important to have—and use—an outdoor dining space.
1 – Not Just for Guests
Spending time with friends and family is important for your mental and emotional health—especially as a restaurant owner or operator. Enjoying an outdoor dining space isn’t just for your guests. When you’re out at your “other” favorite restaurant, when the weather is nice, do you choose to sit outside or stay inside? We thought so. Most people make the same choice and it makes so much sense.
Eating and socializing outdoors and enjoying the weather is a great way to blow off steam after a long day—especially if you’ve been cooped up for weeks because of the COVID-19 lockdowns! The benefits of socializing cannot be overstated. Spending time with friends and family in a social atmosphere, according to Psychology Today, can have positive impacts on your mental health, cognitive engagement, physical health, lower risk of dementia and other degenerative mental diseases, and may help you live longer. Not bad, especially along with a good meal!
2 – (Re)opening for Business
Many states are allowing restaurants to open; some are focused on starting with those that have outdoor seating. The Ohio Restaurant Association announced that restaurants with outdoor areas were allowed to begin serving customers earlier (May 15), than those with just indoor seating (May 21). This 6-day head start may be the difference between a successful summer and one with lower revenue that could affect the financial stability of the business for the rest of the year.
Even as the lockdowns were beginning, restaurant operators across the country were looking ahead to reopening their outdoor areas first to help maintain local social distancing requirements.
Jeanne Kern, Owner of The Vine, in Elkhart, IN said, “We have a twelve-table patio and, as the weather gets better, we’re seeing [more] activity there. We’re anxious to get to 100% allowed capacity in July and are thankful to have very strong, faithful support from our customers. It’ll take more than a virus to stop what we’re doing.”
From increasing carryout, to including online ordering, restaurants are able to supplement their operations and also show their customers they’re open for business.
3 – Increasing Capacity
An outdoor dining space can help to increase the capacity of your eatery by adding more seats—and help the bottom line. There are many simple ways to do this: from sidewalk seating to building a dedicated, enclosed space. The increased capacity will lead to increases in revenue as well. A simple deck or patio can mean an increase of 30%! Additionally, the Simons Advisory Group conducted research and found that a $200,000 investment increased overall sales by $500,000—more if the seating is available year-round.
Antonio’s Italian Restaurant in Elkhart, IN was one of only two non-chain pizzerias in Elkhart County that were open throughout the entire lockdown. Their outdoor space is large and has both the positive and negatives of an outdoor space: when the weather is nice, it’s perfect, but mosquitos attracted by standing water and humid conditions can, naturally, affect open-air patio areas.
“Our patio is a big part of our success,” said Paul Cataldo, owner of Antonio’s. “We currently have 45 seats, but, once the lockdowns are over and we can have full capacity, we could get up to 60 guests seated. We try to use tiki torches, fire pits, and other things to keep our guests comfortable.”
Now, the type of seating can make a difference on the attitudes and choices of your customers. If it’s open to the elements and adjacent to a sidewalk or other walkable area, it can create its own “social scene” that may attract new customers. If it’s exposed to sunshine and a beautiful natural view (e.g., flowing river or mountains), then it could actually have health benefits for your guests.
4 – Sunny Delight!
Vitamin D is an important supplement that helps with bone growth, calcium absorption, and protects against osteoporosis in older adults. There are some very advanced studies about the benefits of sunlight and vitamin D on human health. One, from the Environmental Health Perspective journal, had this to say:
“The best-known benefit of sunlight is its ability to boost the body’s vitamin D supply; most cases of vitamin D deficiency are due to lack of outdoor sun exposure. At least 1,000 different genes governing virtually every tissue in the body are now thought to be regulated by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25[OH]D), the active form of the vitamin, including several involved in calcium metabolism and neuromuscular and immune system functioning.”
That’s a lot of big scientific lingo, but suffice it to say, getting outside and enjoying the sun helps with both physical and mental health. So how much sun is right for you? According to Medical News Today, sun exposure from 15 minutes to a couple of hours—depending on skin tone and sensitivity—is recommended by the Vitamin D Council. Now this article isn’t providing medical advice and you should consult your doctor about your specific sensitivities to the sun and how best to protect yourself.
Making the Most of Your Outdoors
Your customers are going to have a great experience at your restaurant. That’s a given right? Or you wouldn’t be in the business in the first place. This fall, there will be a beautiful cool night that will be perfect for an outdoor meal. As people are strolling along the sidewalk, riverfront, or beach area where your restaurant is, they’ll see your beautiful outdoor space and be drawn to a new experience. Whether you have an open-air space or an enclosed space with permanent or retractable screens, your customers will have a great time!
Some people haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy a nice meal on a nice night. With an outdoor space, particularly one that’s enclosed, you can protect them from annoying insects, inclement weather, and too many UV rays. Just remember that some sun is healthy, too much, like anything, can be harmful. There are many different companies that offer retractable screens in different fabrics like mesh or clear vinyl. Stoett Industries is one such company. Located in Hicksville, Ohio, Stoett’s line of Panorama retractable screens offer protection for your guests and can be custom fit to accentuate your current architecture.
Panorama: The Perfect Fit
colors to match any eatery’s style and décor. The housing is made from powder-coated aluminum, has 80 and 90% solar screen fabric (for the mesh) and a “clouding” resistant, 30-gauge clear vinyl material that prevents waving.
Each Panorama retractable screen system uses the most efficient Somfy® motors and leverages the latest interfaces with the myLink app (available for iPhone and Android) that lets you control the screen—extending and retracting it—from just about anywhere.
The custom feel of the Panorama line of retractable screen systems will be a welcome addition to your restaurant’s outdoor space. Installation is straightforward and, with the right tools and know-how, can be accomplished yourself (though a certified installer is recommended to make sure things are perfect!). So, with all components made in America, Stoett can bring the best of both worlds (the great outdoors and your food) to your guests so you can make the most of the outdoors!
To learn more about Stoett products and the line of Panorama retractable screen systems, visit stoett.com.