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The definitive guide for outdoor dining at your restaurant

As cities begin to reopen, restaurant managers like yourself are probably looking for the most up to date information on how to set up your outdoor dining space. Diners are used to outdoor dining by now, so going the extra mile to set up a great space for customers will pay off - especially in the summertime! From New York to London to Melbourne, venues around the globe are finding their groove with outdoor dining, which if set up correctly, can mean big time growth for your sales.

While government sites are the best place to get up-to-date resources on face coverings, sanitation, capacity and social distancing requirements, here are a few tips for how to nail a vibe-y, cosy space for your diners. 

No official outdoor space, no worries! 🤷

Reimagine available sidewalks, garages, parking spaces and neighboring spaces as a patio for your diners. Furniture can be rented to make the upfront commitment less daunting, and when you’re ready to invest, a good set up can last all year round. Most cities have clear guidelines for how to use the space around your venue, and there may be more opportunities than you think to expand!

Plan for all weather ⛈️

Diners are accustomed to making restaurant bookings to secure the best seat in town. Even poor weather conditions won’t deter a customer who’s excited to try your food, so invest in standing heaters for the cold and fans or misting machines for the hot days. Customers stay longer and eat and drink more when they’re comfortable - it’s a no brainer! 

Offer a to-go window 🍦

Do you sell easy to take-away items such as icecreams, coffees, or sandwiches? Set up a to-go window facing your outdoor dining space, with benches for diners to perch and eat at. Seeing people enjoying your food will encourage passers-by to stop in next time and also give diners a safe place to stop and eat!

Safety first 👷

No one likes it when a truck whooshing by nearly blows the top off their burger! As tempting as it is to maximize your space and cram tables right up to the street, keep your patrons’ safety in mind and create a buffer between the diners and the road with traffic cones, planters and fences. When it comes to face coverings, use detailed signage to recommend customers wear a face mask at all times except when eating and drinking - so when entering the venue, going into the bathroom or interacting with waitstaff.

Spread the word 📧

As venues respond to rapidly changing restrictions, even your most loyal customers might not know that you have reopened for outdoor dining! Leverage your email base to promote a happy hour or opening deal, and if you haven’t already, switch on your Facebook Pixel from your digital ordering website to build an audience you can retarget with social media advertising - more info on that here! When customers are seated, have your staff trained to explain the new restrictions in detail, and what you need from them to cooperate with restrictions.

Leverage mobile ordering to expand capacity 📱

Customers are (understandably!) nervous to touch communal paper menus and interact with many different servers during their time dining with you. To help facilitate ordering and keep headspend high, QR code ordering websites including Mr Yum give customers the ability to order and pay on their own smartphone, paying as they go or at the end of a meal via a Tab.

Keep a guest register 📝 

With more customers re-entering your space, help contact tracing efforts by making your best effort to know who’s been at your venue, and for how long. QR code platforms including Mr Yum make this easy, with the option to check in with name and email address before viewing the menu. 

Outdoor dining is here to stay, and weather permitting, will be an all-year-round feature for dining as the industry recovers. Follow these steps, and make use of your local resources to find the best set-up for you!
Good luck from the Mr Yum team!