May 23, 2019
Category: DT Advantage Summer 2019
Here Comes the Sun
High five, you’ve received your patio license, but do you have a plan to maximize your profits? A quick primer on how to make money outdoors. - Sydnee Bryant
Make a good first impression
A large percentage of your patio customers will be passersby, proving that your outdoor space is one of your most effective marketing tools. Increase curbside appeal by greening up your outdoor space with flowers, plants and potted trees. (Downtown business owners and property managers can purchase planters and baskets annually in the spring through the DBA.) Ocean-inspired blue and green accents add a pop of colour and zen to your space. Illuminate your patio after dusk with string lights to add warmth and increase visibility from the street.
Feature refreshing drinks
Offering a summer drinks menu full of fresh, fruity cocktails is an easy way to entice people to sit outdoors. Sangria is a must-have and many restaurants now offer a rosé version in addition to traditional white and red varieties. Update your wine list, placing an emphasis on chilled white and rosé wines. “We like to refresh our drink menu seasonally,” says Jesse Kupina, operating partner of Central Social Hall on 109 Street. “Specifically for this summer, alongside our new signature cocktails, we have added more sessionable craft beers like a juicy pale ale, grapefruit radler and a white IPA.” The unofficial summer cocktail of the 115-seat Central Social Hall patio is their Famous Frozé, a frozen blended drink made with rosé wine, strawberries and triple sec.
Keep food light and seasonal
Research shows that people eat less when it’s hot outside. When they do chow down, they tend to go for lighter fare. Nevertheless that shouldn’t affect how much money people are spending. Customers may not eat larger entrees, but they’ll spend equally as much money on a couple of smaller plates. Switch out heavier soups for light and cooling options such as a summer asparagus or carrot. Summer salads should feature the season’s best ingredients such as blueberries, strawberries, corn, peas, beets, etc.
Pick the right furniture
Be sure to make your patio as weather-resistant as possible. The Parlour features wrought iron patio furniture and colourful seat cushions for comfort. “If you have patio furniture that isn’t heavy and durable, it can be costly and dangerous if you get a strong wind,” says Darren Malko vice-president of operations for Century Hospitality Group, which runs the 108 Street restaurant. “You should have heavy, durable umbrella bases and you should monitor the elements so you’re providing a safe environment for your guests should the weather change.”
A patio will increase your total seating capacity. Be prepared for extra customers by hiring additional seasonal staff – servers, hosts, and food runners. Hire summer staff as early as possible – ideally before you open the patio for the season – so that you have time to properly train them.
Turn on the music
Hire a band or DJ to play music on the patio, or place speakers around the perimeter so that you can pipe in music. Live music is also a big draw, particularly if you hire local musicians with big followings. Remember to keep the music low enough that guests are still able to converse, but loud enough to attract foot traffic. “Music creates the right ambiance and brings in a lot of a lot of customers who are walking past our patio,” says Wayne Jones, owner of Rocky Mountain Ice House. “They hear the music. They see people enjoying a beer on the patio and they just can’t resist stopping.”