How to optimise your outdoor space

With Covid-19 restrictions due to continue throughout winter, improving your outdoor area is essential. Here are our tips on creating an inviting space

See it as an investment

After nine months of peaks and severe troughs in trade, it is likely that your financial reserves have been badly affected. So, it may not seem like a good time to be spending money. However, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of investing in your outdoor area as long-term you could reap the benefits.

A revamped alfresco space could have many uses throughout the year – from Covid-19 friendly meals and drinks, to sports screenings and film nights in the summer. An addition such as a pizza oven can open up new revenue streams to you and create a buzz around your venue, ready for the busier summer months.

The biggest expense is getting the area covered from the inevitable ups and downs of the British weather. Look out for discounts on marquees  and sailcloth coverings over the winter.

Tables and parasols outside
Outdoor heater

What kit do you need?

Think about how your space works – would a big cover be more suitable or a series of smaller covers or even large waterproof parasols? Dining pods are another option where groups of customers can have their personal space for a meal or drinks.

During winter and early spring, heaters are obviously non-negotiable! Patio or tabletop heaters will keep customers cosy and mean they’re more likely to stay longer into the evening and spend more.

If you have the space and you can make it safe, fire pits or braziers are worth a look. They look instantly inviting and throw off a lot of heat. You could even sell a marshmallow toasting or s’mores kit to create an experience out of it. Encouraging customers to bring their own blankets to keep cosy while sitting outdoors is the norm now so don’t be shy in mentioning it!

Create a cosy atmosphere

A rainproof cover and heaters are important, but they won’t necessarily make a memorable space. It’s all about creating somewhere that has great ambience.

Attractive lighting is vital and can be cost effective. Strings of festoons or even outdoor Christmas lights look fantastic. Real or LED candles on each table are also a nice touch. Planters with seasonal shrubs and flowers or bay trees elevate a standard pub garden into something special.

Couple eating outside with lights

"Our new outdoor space will be useful long after the pandemic"

Jill Hall, owner of The Black Swan Coaching Inn in Pickering, shares how she and husband Philip have revamped their venue.

“We’ve been talking about setting up a proper outdoor area for a while but time and lack of funds meant it didn’t happen. When lockdown came, we knew we had to do it as we wanted customers to feel safe and comfortable visiting us again.

“We took advantage of the government’s Bounce Back Loan and used the money to buy a second-hand marquee roof. It’s a big expense but we can use it for many years to come. We’re already thinking of different uses for it – small weddings and parties when it’s safe to host them. We have a film licence and can fire up the pizza oven for a cinema night, too.

“Since we re-opened, customers have loved it and many have chosen to stay outside even as it’s got chillier. Heaters keep everyone nice and toasty. Lots of customers told us they were worried about sitting inside. We’re so pleased we can still welcome them to eat and drink with us.”

Outdoor area at The Black Swan Coaching Inn in Pickering
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