The Benefits of Investing in Sheltered Outdoor Seating

Year after year, more and more venues are transforming their outdoor areas to meet the demand for alfresco dining.

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster praised the hospitality industry for their ability to adapt during a hard period and welcome alfresco dining’s growing popularity.

He said: “Due to the limitations set on hospitality when we reopened from the series of lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, businesses had to pivot and look to how they could make their premises viable to trade. For many, outdoor dining became an obvious choice which has only enhanced the hospitality offer further. We are seeing more and more customers looking for the alfresco option when they come out to socialise and dine, especially when we do get good weather. As the infrastructure in our cities and towns adapts to allow more businesses the opportunity to offer outdoor options, we hope that more customers return to their local hospitality scene and avail of the excellent pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and hotels offering alfresco.”

What was previously thought of as a dining experience that we would only encounter on holiday in countries with warmer weather, has now reached the UK in full force, despite our more unpredictable climate. However, the term alfresco seems to be a more fitting phrase for our environment; the Italian term ‘al fresco’ translates to ‘in the cool’ or ‘in the fresh’. So dining al fresco means to dine in the cool. Perfect for Britain!

Now that hospitality and dining establishments have this new trend, which doesn’t appear to be a fad, to consider, they need not look at it as though it is an extra outlay to meet the demands of their customers, only an opportunity for growth. 

Read on for Indigo Awning’s top 10 reasons you should be investing in outdoor shelter today!

The Benefits of Investing in Sheltered Outdoor Seating
  1. Money, Money, Money

When discussing the predictions for the rise in al fresco dining in 2022, Janice H. Dobson, Business Development Director at Archatrak, said: “Restaurant owners can look at it mathematically,” Dobson explains. “They know the value of every seat they offer and I encourage my clients to ask themselves, ‘what could 8 extra seats, 12 extra seats, 20 extra seats, mean for your business?’ Often, they’ll find that, in a relatively short period of time, these outdoor areas can pay for themselves and continue generating revenue years afterward.”

Take a 4mt X 4mt parasol with optional fitted heaters and lighting for example. The total cost including import, customs, delivery and fitting is just under £8000 for the highest quality. The parasol should shelter and shade 4 tables of 4 approx., so let’s go with 16 covers.
If we assume an average spend of £15 per person and this is turned 3 times a day over busier periods of just 3 days per week then it will generate an additional £2160 of sales revenue.
If we then assume a gross margin of 50%, this would provide a contribution to overheads / profit of £1080 per week.

What’s more, our zero deposit leasing options allow for payments to be spread over 2-5 years. So if you were to choose this lease payment method for the parasol with Indigo Shading Ltd, the weekly payments over 48 months would equal just £48.41. Resulting in a final, additional profit of £1031.59 per week!

The telegraph said it best: “It is thought about a third of pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars have outside space to take advantage of the new alfresco dining laws. The industry estimated that every outdoor seat was worth up to £6,000 a year to businesses in extra revenue.”

  1. Customer Satisfaction

After the government extended the grant for pavement licences until September 2023, and possibly further, this opportunity for growth is here to stay. According to an OpenTable diner survey, 82% of people want to see outdoor seating options continue to grow and 79% of UK diners have attested that they would be willing to spend more time and money in a restaurant if they incorporated outdoor dining. 

The online reservation service also reports that alfresco tables are more popular than ever during all four seasons and in every kind of weather. Many people seek outdoor tables with specific features that meet their needs such as shelter that keeps tables dry in the rain, and heated outdoor areas in the colder months. There has never been a better time to invest in your outdoor seating area!

  1. Weather Protection

This weather protection allows a customer to still have the alfresco dining experience without having to worry about the weather or even the temperature with the addition of heaters. This same shelter can also provide shade in the summer. All year round use!

  1. Curb Appeal & Branding

Furthermore, while it is predicted that sheltered outdoor dining area can increase revenues by 30%, it can also offer year-round promotion. Since COVID, the curb appeal of an establishment has never been more influential. In fact, FSR Magazine reports that 70% of first-time sales are based on curb appeal alone. This means that 70% of the new customers that you serve, have chosen you based on the exterior of your premises. This is a staggering statistic to consider when investing in your outdoor area. It’s also important to note that if you have an awning, parasols or even screening with your logo and brand colours printed on them, this reinforces your brand identity to every passer-by, whilst also instilling that your business is professional, legitimate and cares about its appearance.

  1. Competitive Advantage

This extra footfall that your establishment could attract, from improving your curb appeal, could be the exact same people that may have gone elsewhere had you not. In this current market, it is likely that you won’t be the first venue in your perimeter to have an outdoor dining area but you can certainly ensure that it is the most attractive one with the addition of high quality shading, heating, lighting and even decoration. Be the best option on the street!

  1. Enhanced Atmosphere

This kind of visual is the reason that alfresco dining is supported by so many councils; it produces a vibrant atmosphere for towns and cities. Speaking about London, Chairman of the City Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee, Shravan Joshi, said: “Offering free licences for outdoor dining has been a transformational policy in the Square Mile [of London]. It’s great to see workers, visitors and residents dining ‘al fresco’ enjoying the vibrant atmosphere, akin to the continental experience, especially in hot weather.”

James Tumbridge, the Chairman of the City Corporation’s Licensing Committee, said: “Outdoor dining has brought a vibrancy to the City not seen before. As footfall continues to rise post-pandemic, ‘al fresco’ dining is bringing the buzz back into the City as visitors, workers and residents enjoy the sunshine and the wealth of dining options we have to offer.”

Cllr Johnny Thalassites, lead member for planning, place and environment said: “Seeing our streets buzzing with people enjoying our world-class bars and restaurants has been a real positive during a difficult couple of years. We want it to be a lasting legacy following the pandemic.”

Hugh Seaborn, Chief Executive of Cadogan said: “We had been considering seating in outdoor spaces and the pandemic accelerated these plans. With the strong support of Kensington and Chelsea Council, we were able quickly to introduce 900 new al fresco seats across the neighbourhood and provide crucial outdoor spaces to gather, as well as provide a much-needed boost for hospitality businesses in Chelsea. This al fresco dining has brought real vibrancy and a buzzing café culture.”

  1. Better Reviews

Studies show that 90% of consumers consider reviews before visiting an establishment. You do it, I do it; we all do it! We may even read the menu… but the point is, the more positive reviews you can receive the better for your business. So yet another benefit of having outdoor seating is that this enhanced atmosphere and these satisfied customers that you’ve created will now be more inclined to leave positive reviews. It’s a virtuous circle!

  1. Multiple Dining Experiences Without the Cost

Ever wanted to have a space to offer for special occasions or functions but you don’t have the cash flow to fork out for a building extension? Guess what, installing a fixed structure or enclosed set of parasols allows for an area which can be closed off and made private. What’s more, you could even get creative and use the defined spaces as an opportunity to offer different menus, different décor, or even a unique dining experience. This ability to now say yes to private events or large parties means more revenue!

  1. Wider Audience Appeal

Another very important benefit to mention when considering investing in your outdoor area is the fact that you would appeal to a much wider audience. Yes some people just like to dine and drink alfresco, and you’ll attract these too, but some people struggle to find a place to stop if they have pets, like to smoke or even have a health condition that may require them to have fresh air. Inclusivity is a high priority for this modern society, so if you can provide multiple areas which appeal to a variety of customers, everyone will feel welcomed and included.

  1. Wellbeing

This modern society also understands the importance of our health and wellbeing. Being outside or having fresh air can do wonders for our minds and bodies such as improving the immune system, reduce stress levels, reduce anxiety & depression, vitamin D can improve our mood, promotes good vision, reduces inflammation, improves work performance, improves memory, gives us a better quality of sleep and time outside can strengthen our family bonds.

The list of alfresco dining benefits goes on and on, which is a welcome thought in these economically trying times. With inflation and the cost of living crisis, it’s never been more important to think laterally and logically about easy ways to improve the hospitality and dining industries. If you think adding some outdoor shelter could benefit you – speak to Indigo Shading Ltd today!