By Steve Starr, principal, starrdesignIn Part One of this series we tasked restaurant operators to answer several questions about their outdoor dining space. This was done to get operators thinking about and thinking through the best ways to capitalize on these spaces for maximum ROI. For the purpose of this article, we will now make some design recommendations intended to make outdoor dining spaces friendlier and more inviting to guests.
For those that are looking for a happy medium, we’ve found a few things to be helpful in mitigating weather extremes and getting a few more useful weeks out of your outdoor dining spaces, especially as cooler temperatures threaten to limit outdoor dining capacity.
Although we have identified several elements that contribute to a great outdoor dining experience, and may help to increase ROI, success requires careful choreography. Knowing which, how much, and where to use the various elements is key in designing a great outdoor eating environment. Just like the old fairy tale Goldilocks & the Three Bears, Goldilocks had to try different bowls of porridge and different beds before she found the ones that were just right. That’s why some of the greatest outdoor dining environments are created over time. Restauranteurs try a variety of elements to test what’s just right. If you want to move the process along a little faster, we suggest working with a restaurant design professional and studying the outdoor dining environment with the same level of thought and intention you would your kitchen or dining room. We’ve found that visiting a number of inspirational environments with your designer and developing images studies helps evaluate which options and elements will be successful. Creating a 3-d model and renderings of the outdoor dining environment is another way to look at several options before having to make a final decision and pay for construction. The last thing we’ve found useful for our clients is to mock-up the area in a warehouse or even a parking lot to see if the spacing, elements, and solar orientation are what you want it to be. It’s a life-size, inexpensive way to refine your idea so is the final product is one step closer to being ‘just right.’By incorporating one or even a few of these design elements, restaurant operators can keep their patios and outdoor dining spaces open longer, thus maximizing ROI even through the cooler months. No one knows what the future holds, but by having a plan we can at least mitigate some of the financial challenges brought about by the current pandemic.