>> Operating an outdoor dining area can be a great investment for a business in the hospitality sector. As the weather warms up and even on mild winter days, an outdoor dining space can provide additional seating and increased revenue.

Research by international patio experts, ShadeFX Canopies, has shown that outdoor seating can add as much as 30% in sales to an establishment’s takings.

Here are some of their tips for maximising your profits with outdoor space:

1. Stop relying on perfect weather
There is always the chance of perfect weather. For all the other days of operating an outdoor seating area, sun and rain protection is a must. Rain can shut down outdoor seating for days in certain seasons and cut into a restaurant, club, or hotel’s profits in no time. Likewise, too much sun and heat aren’t always welcome. With growing health concerns for UV exposure and an ageing population, an outdoor space can become uncomfortable for patrons, driving customers. Meanwhile, a full and active patio is an excellent advertisement of a restaurant’s popularity.

2. Cover up!
Investing in a retractable patio cover will allow you to use the space in inclement weather. Statistics show that keeping a patio open an additional 15 days in a season can return up to £30,000 based on a £17 per seat average and patio space with just six tables of four.
NOTE: A motorised retractable patio cover covering a total area of 320 sq ft (20×16) costs around £6,000.

3. Be consistent
The patio area needs to possess many of the same interior space characteristics to maintain a consistent brand, style, and ambience.

4. Amp up the ambiance
Introduce ambient lighting around your dining area. A string of lights along a nearby wall or along the rail of a pergola or porch top can add the perfect amount of intimate lighting for evening soirées. Alternately, you could use lanterns or hurricane lamps along the table to create a warm glow.

5. Protect your dining area from the weather
Investing in a retractable canopy can make any space weatherproof. These options can work with a pergola, as an awning, or with an array of other outdoor structures. Plus, if you’re providing afternoon teas, a canopy allows guests to indulge in as much or as little sun as they like.

6. Create a defined space
Consider using suggestive boundaries, such as screens or a row of plants to demarcate a space and give it an architectural structure.

7. Experiment with your furniture options
Who said that a dining area has to involve a dining table and chairs? Consider creating a lounge area where your guests can relax and enjoy canapés or tapas-style dining. You might also considering leveraging an outdoor bar with a counter space, adding another level to your entertaining and your diners’ experience.