Whether you are seating 10 guests or more in a physically distanced space, creating an outdoor patio environment that is just as good as your indoor guest experience should be the key focus throughout your patio planning.
The space may be temporary, but guests’ experiences are long-lasting and so are their memories, so it is remains critical to a restaurant brand’s overall success to invest sufficient planning and development to create a seamless dining experience.
By being thorough in designing and executing your perfect patio experience, you will be in an ideal position to attract diners.
Daniel Lemin, Strategy & Analytics Lead at Convince & Convert, says, “When choosing a restaurant, GenZ and Millennials are 99% more likely to rely on social media and online reviews than are GenX and Boomers.” By being thorough in designing and executing your perfect patio experience, you will be in an ideal position to attract these diners.
Seasonal patios often pose many challenges for restaurateurs. Should you install heat lamps for cooler nights? What’s the seating plan? How do you schedule wait staff for patio season? What patio trends make sense to your restaurant brand?
There are many considerations in how you approach your patio to ensure it is “the place to be seen” this summer with many Instagrammable moments. To create this winning formula, you must consider important factors from an operational perspective as well as the details of the atmosphere.
Be prepared for your kitchen to handle the extra capacity. Consider your current equipment capacity, the amount of space in refrigeration and storage, as well as your team’s skill level. A streamlined offering or change of purpose for the area is a better option than having your customers wait an extra 30 minutes for food because you cannot execute to expectations.
From plate ware, glassware and cutlery to napkins, to-go containers and chopsticks, all items need to be stocked up to support the additional seats to service. Be prepared by ordering in advance, as suppliers tend to get busy with patio orders as spring approaches.
Calculate the number of shifts per week this will add to your front-of-house schedule and determine the date your new staff need to be hired and trained by. Then work back from that date to allow for enough time for hiring and training.
TIP: Hire gradually over a few months to alleviate the pressure of mass training to allow new staff to get comfortable and ready for patio season. It does incur higher labour costs on the front end, but will pay off with greater productivity and less turnover throughout the summer.
Your patio design, décor and overall outdoor experience are the fun part of the planning process, and also what define your patio as a place to be and shared on social media.
So, what are the “rules” of patio design?
Each province and municipality has different laws on what restaurants can serve, how they serve it, when they serve it, and where they serve it. Some local laws prohibit outdoor bars while others require partitions or café barriers around sidewalk seating. Educating yourself on local laws and obtaining permits sounds about as appetizing as a spam and prune salad, but it’s a crucial part of the process. Punishments violating local laws and not having proper permits can range from a citation to fines or even closure. Before you start building your outdoor patio, research your local laws and be sure to obtain the proper permits.
Your gut instinct might be to place as many tables and chairs in your patio design as possible. After all, more tables mean more customers and more revenue, right? Not necessarily. Make sure you have ample space between tables and chairs for both servers and guests to manoeuvre through your restaurant’s outdoor seating, struggle free. A cramped floor plan can take away significantly from the patio experience and have a negative effect on sales.
As well, ensure your patio can take advantage of a view if you have it with as many seats possible. Obviously, these will be in high demand and the more you can take advantage of the view, the more you can mitigate potential customers being upset. If a view is not part of the patio experience, use high walls to create a more intimate experience. Some of the best patios are ones in parking lots that have used this strategy to make you feel like you are in an oasis.
TIP: Do NOT reuse your interior table and chairs for your patio.
A patio requires patio furniture made of durable materials that can hold up to the wear and tear of the outdoors. Look for furniture that’s weatherproof and easy to clean. If space and storage are an issue, opt for stackable chairs. Additionally, make sure your patio furniture jives with your restaurant’s décor and atmosphere. For example, if you run a high-end restaurant, you may want to reconsider outfitting your patio with foldable plastic chairs.
When serving outdoors, you must be prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store. You’ll need solutions for keeping bugs away, providing shade from the sun, keeping your diners warm on cooler evenings, and of course what to do in case of rain! Your weather preparation plans can significantly add or detract from the outdoor dining experience.
Acceptable restaurant patios have these basics and essentials mastered, but great restaurant patios take it a step further. Give your outdoor seating a personal touch to distinguish yourself in the market. Enhance your diners’ experience with food and bar specials, live music or yard games. A restaurant patio that’s well planned, unique, and full of character can quickly turn those one-time customers into regulars and boost profitability. And remember, 35% of Canadians prefer to visit a restaurant or bar when going out with family and friends – far ahead of the second-favourite option, outdoor activities, selected by 23% of Canadians (Source: Restaurants Canada-sponsored poll). Canadians will come if you build your patio the right way.
When all these items are considered in your patio planning, the result will be a patio experience that customers will remember and great word of mouth for your brand. With your operational overhead covered by your revenue inside, a well-operated patio can add 30% profitability on the additional revenue brought in. It can be very lucrative indeed to ensure these details are part of your plan to create the perfect patio experience!
Written by Sephen Hamelin and shared with permission from Chef Connexion.
The Super Bowl and food go together like, well, Tom Brady launching one to Julian Edelman. The big game is arguably the largest single sporting event on the planet. That translates to millions of dollars in business for the city and state where the game will be played, and restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia will get a nice, tasty piece of the football pie on Sunday, February 3. However, your restaurant can share in the party even if it is located in a different time zone and a different country.
Build a stadium atmosphere at your restaurant and reap the benefits. Perhaps unlike any other television spectacle, the Super Bowl is itself a “destination” for family and friends, not just an event, says Greg Fash, vice-president of marketing at Cavendish Farms. He says your restaurant should plan carefully in order to really boost your completion percentage.
“Restaurants are uniquely positioned to create the party around the game without the work and hassle of having the gang over to someone’s house,” Fash says.
He paints a larger picture of the gridiron gala: it represents a perfect opportunity, by virtue of its winter-time scheduling, for Canadians to get out and enjoy a warm and exciting diversion from snow and frigid air.
“It’s the first event to bring people together since Christmas and break mid-winter boredom,” said Fash.
“Everyone is looking for a bit of an escape in February without waiting for Valentine’s Day, and the Super Bowl is the perfect reason to look for good times with friends.”
Like a good offence, customers are anticipating a Super Bowl atmosphere that is dynamic and energetic - an experience that they just can’t duplicate at home, according to Fash. Recognize before you start planning that expectations are high.
“Don’t disappoint. Engage and activate the experience from the minute they arrive. If possible, schedule additional service staff to manage any special entertainment that does not involve food and beverage,” says Fash.
Take a moment to select a theme around the game itself. Do some research into the location and see if there’s a food or beverage that is distinctive to Atlanta, Georgia—this year’s Super Bowl city.
If you pick a theme, engage customers immediately when they arrive and stick with it, says Fash.
“If you have premiums with the Super Bowl team logos, make sure they get them immediately and create a game-like atmosphere,” he adds. “Servers, signage and games need to be high energy and consistent with the theme you’ve chosen. Remember that people could have stayed home and watched on their own big screen entertainment centers. That, in part, is your competition.”
Fash suggests promoting the event in January, and if possible, give away door prize tickets and appetizer discount coupons that could be used at the Super Bowl party.
There are many variants of pools and games throughout North America focused on the Super Bowl. “Do your homework to understand if there is a local market preference, Fash says. “Build a contest around the game that might offer a discount for declared Patriots fans, for example, on a specific platter if they’re ahead at the quarter.”
Another approach may be to team up with local sports associations and other organizations that may be looking for new and clever ways to fundraise and raise awareness.
“A local team or association may be able to assist you in organizing the in-restaurant Super Bowl contests in return for a portion of the proceeds. Just make sure that you’re associating with adult teams or associations if the event includes alcohol,” Fash says.
Despite the food, for many customers, the game comes first.
It may not be enough to merely serve what is on your regular menu. He suggests special dishes that are specific to the game location. “You need to build a game-day menu. Like the famous television Super Bowl commercials, make the food memorable."
“But at the same time,” continues Fash, “recognize that people aren’t at a Super Bowl party generally to have big meals. They want fun food frequently. Offer appetizer specials every hour and focus on sharing platters. What is important is that you get people engaged and that you activate their experience.”
Appetizers and beverages are a natural fit with friends and fun. Create shareable appetizers that offer a variety of tastes and textures which—"and this is key," adds Fash—allows a restaurant to customize for the game and will encourage multiple orders.
“Work with your suppliers to feature, or even get support to sample, new and interesting appetizers that your customers may not have had a chance to try before. It gives the restaurant the opportunity to evaluate potential for new menu additions. Linking appetizers and beverage specials throughout the evening is a natural, of course.”
Regardless of the food choices, make sure your restaurant affords great sight lines for the fans (that is, your customers), Fash recommends strongly. “If you don’t have enough screens consider acquiring additional ones. It’s all about atmosphere.”
There is a caveat, however, he notes, and that is to know your clientele and decide whether you have to divide your space between rabid fans who want a loud and raucous “tailgate party” environment and those customers who will nevertheless enjoy the game but want the spectacle to be a little more low key.
But, ultimately, with the hype of the Super Bowl and 30-second television commercials going for somewhere around $3.5 million in the U.S., low-key is going to be hard to come by for this annual sports spectacle.
For many restaurants, February 14 is the busiest day of the year.
From high school sweethearts looking for as much of an impression as can be made with limited income to older couples who have gone to the same restaurant every year for the past several decades’ worth of Valentine’s Days, it’s a day for couples to go out and enjoy each other’s company.
“One of the big things with Valentine’s Day is that people usually go out to treat themselves and each other,” says Jackie Oakes, Marketing Manager at Flanagan Foodservice.
Most restaurants put in a bit of extra effort to attract customers for Valentine’s Day, and customers in turn recognize this and are more likely to revisit a restaurant that made them feel special.
Oakes says that the effort should start from the moment the customer walks in the door. “As customers arrive, have the hostess greet them with a glass of wine,” she says. “Have flowers or candles on the table to help set the atmosphere.”
When it comes to food, many restaurants already provide special Valentine’s Day menus, and with good reason. Couples are looking to make the dinner special—not only compared to what they regularly eat at home, but compared to what they’d normally eat at a restaurant. Spending a bit more than usual is common, and restaurants can take advantage of this by offering some more gourmet options, knowing that their patrons will be interested.
“It’s a very common day for indulgence,” notes Oakes. “Think outside the box and change it up with some variety.”
Surf-and-turf combos are a popular option with Valentine’s Day diners, though there’s still plenty of room for variety. Oakes suggests that only offering one combination of seafood and steak isn’t enough, as it doesn’t take into account the differences between your guests' eating habits.
“Guests enjoy a variety of different meats,” she says. “Some may have the tenderloin steak, versus others who'd prefer a rib-eye. Proportionately, you can get a five-ounce tenderloin. Five ounces of beef is a lot. But when you put it next to a five-ounce lobster tail, that’s 10 ounces right there. That’s a lot of protein. Some will likely eat the 10-ounce or 14-ounce rib-eye plus the five-ounce lobster tail. For others, that’s just too much.”
At the end of the night, most Valentine’s Day diners will be looking for a little something sweet—even if they normally wouldn’t be. And more often than not, they’ll also be looking to share.
“Consider a special dessert menu for two,” says Oakes. “A very popular trend right now is mini-desserts. They’re a perfect solution for someone looking for a sweet treat to finish off their meal. They’re attractively priced, and customers enjoy sampling two or three different desserts.”
Even those customers who might opt to skip dessert could likely be tempted by a specialty coffee.
Beyond the menu, Oakes says that with Valentine’s Day competition fiercer than ever, restaurants can stand out from the pack by partnering with local businesses to offer holiday packages (think spas and theatres), providing strong advertising on outdoor signage and social media, and maybe even running the menu for a couple extra days on either side of February 14th.
“It’s one of the busiest days for restaurateurs and some people will shy away from the crowds,” she says. “Extending your Valentine’s menu for a weekend or a couple of days prior to the actual holiday can bring more people into your establishment. Make sure you get the word out. Draw as much attention to it as possible.”
Above all, though, it’s important for restaurants to remember that while they’re expecting the busiest night of the year, their customers are expecting the exact opposite.
For most Valentine’s Day diners, the night represents one of the few times all year when they can get away from the normal hassles of everyday life. Childcare has been arranged, other commitments have been set aside, and most couples are simply looking forward to a nice, slow-paced evening of enjoying spending uninterrupted time with their significant other.
The last thing they want is to feel is like they’re being rushed through dinner so that the restaurant can make more money by putting a second couple at their table. If that happens, it’s a sure bet that they won’t be back the following year—and neither will anybody they talk to about it.
With a cooler breeze in the air, favourite fall flavours are back on restaurant menus. Though appetizers, entrées and desserts typically get the love when it comes to seasonally updating your menu, brunch offers the perfect opportunity to celebrate the new season.
Fresh produce like apples, pumpkin and squash were made for pairing with comfort food brunch staples like waffles, fritters and French toast.
Highlight fall’s best by spicing up your brunch menu with spiced apple muffins, baked oatmeal stuffed acorn squash (served with cranberry sauce), or pumpkin pulled pork eggs Benedict.
LUDA’s Instant, Gluten-Free Hollandaise Sauce Mix features a slightly sweet flavour with lemony notes and butter flavour. It’s as versatile as it is vegetarian and certified Halal and Kosher.
Steam-table and freeze-thaw stable—no butter needed! The product prepares an opaque, medium thick, light yellow sauce, and its mild and slightly sweet flavour is balanced with a little heat and lemon notes.
Yield: 8 servings (2 Benedicts = 1 serving)
2.7 kg JMS Fully Cooked Natural Pulled Pork
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 cup White onion, diced
6 Garlic cloves, diced
3 cups Pumpkin purée
2/3 cups Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Molasses
4 tbsp Ground mustard
To taste Salt and pepper
2 cups LUDA Instant Hollandaise Sauce
8 English muffins, split
16 Fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
2 Green onions, thinly sliced (for garnish)
Pulled Pork: (From tempered state) Oven: Remove from pouch. Heat in oven at 350°F for 20 minutes. Boil: Drop pouch into boiling water for 15 minutes. Microwave: Remove from pouch. Heat for 8 minutes.
Pumpkin BBQ Sauce: Heat a pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and onions, cooking until translucent for about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook one minute more. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Blend contents until smooth and combine with prepared pulled pork.
Hollandaise Sauce: Add mix to 3/4 of 4L hot water, stirring vigorously with a whisk. Add the remaining water, stirring. Heat and then hold above 65°C (150°F). Stir before serving.
Benedicts (to order, 1 serving): Poach eggs to order. Meanwhile, heat pumpkin BBQ pork mixture (if applicable). Toast split English muffin until golden brown and top with 1/8 pork mixture, a sprinkle of sage leaves, poached egg, hollandaise and sliced green onion.
With fall brings the feeling of new beginnings and fresh starts. The shift from warm to cool innately inspires dishes of comfort and depth. While flavour preferences and trends may not vary much from the summer months, main ingredients and their applications are a whole lot heartier.
Jumbo ricotta ravioli complements rich garlic shrimp, Parmesan, chives, and basil as a shareable appetizer. Braised pork shoulder sandwich with apple cider and orange gravy incorporates bright citrus flavour while being autumn-appropriate. For a Canadian-inspired fall dessert, feature blueberry bread pudding with vanilla custard, vanilla gelato and maple syrup.
These are the fastest-growing flavours this fall season, by mealpart, to inspire your own signature fall flavour:
Blue Cheese - 29.2%
Lime - 29.2%
Celery - 27.1%
Basil - 26.0%
Dill - 26.0%
Sesame - 25.0%
Avocado - 22.9%
Cream Cheese - 22.9%
Cajun - 21.9%
Goat Cheese - 21.9%
Dill - 29.2%
Citrus - 26.0%
Peppercorn - 25.0%
Sriracha - 21.9%
Mango - 20.8%
Grape - 20.8%
Beet - 17.7%
Rose - 17.7%
Coconut - 16.7%
Brie - 14.6%
Crème Brulée - 19.6%
Espresso - 14.1%
Salted Caramel - 13.0%
Toffee - 12.0%
Vanilla Bean - 10.9%
Buttery - 7.6%
Ginger - 6.5%
Mocha - 6.5%
Butterscotch - 5.4%
Blackberry - 5.4%
Caesar - 10.4%
Passion Fruit - 7.3%
Pomegranate - 7.3%
Blackberry - 6.3%
Cherry - 5.2%
Grenadine - 5.2%
Citrus - 5.2%
Sweet - 5.2%
Cucumber - 4.2%