How UK restaurants can maximise outdoor dining sales this autumn

Egg Soldiers reveals three key strategies for UK restaurants looking to make the most of the warm weather this autumn
Outdoor dining lead
In the UK, outdoor dining is a seasonal trend that tends to only hang around for a few short months of the year. As soon as the weather warms up, we Brits relish the chance to dine al fresco, flock to beer gardens and do our very best to make the most of warm summer nights and semi-reliable dry weather.

In a 2022 survey, reservation service Opentable found almost three quarters of those surveyed said they wanted to see more outdoor dining options in the coming years, and while we may be approaching the end of the current summer season, there's no reason to say goodbye to outdoor dining just yet – especially considering demand.

With a few small tweaks, you can keep your summer setup going throughout the rest of September and maximise outdoor dining sales.

Keep the fire burning
Cooking with fire
Barbecuing, grilling, and cooking with fire is a sure-fire way to feed all of your diner's senses. The smell alone will bring people in off the street, and once seated, they'll also be able to enjoy the theatrics involved with cooking over flames.

If you have the space, an outdoor kitchen makes a masterful centrepiece, and if you don't, you can still evoke the feeling of cooking with fire by offering BBQ-themed menu items or smoke-flavoured dishes.

As the days cool and Autumn really kicks into gear, your fire-themed summer menu can easily be rebranded for cosy October evenings and the approaching bonfire season.
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Take Day into Night
One mistake operators often make later on in the outdoor dining season is assuming that the daytime and nighttime eating experience is the same. To keep diners comfortable when day turns to night, it’s important to recognize that there is a shift, and a few subtle changes are all it takes to make a big difference to the overall eating experience.

  • During the day, focus on providing pockets of shade; at night, consider offering blankets and throws to keep diners warm as temperatures drop.

  • If you use umbrellas, remove them once the sun sets to open up the sky. Alternatively, utilise awnings and coverings to provide protection and create a cosier outdoor ambience.

  • For both the safety and comfort of your diners and staff, ensure adequate lighting at the table and keep walkways and doors well illuminated.

Work Around the Weather
During the pandemic, indoor dining restrictions forced food businesses to embrace year-round outdoor dining. Many pubs, bars, and restaurants invested significantly in outdoor seating, heating, and protection from the elements, resulting in an outdoor setup that can be utilised long after summer ends.

Depending on your outdoor arrangement, you may or may not be at the mercy of mother nature. Dry days undoubtedly make life easier, but it’s still possible to capitalize on outdoor dining when the weather’s less predictable.

Canopies, awnings and umbrellas can be used to shelter diners from spontaneous showers, while blankets, heaters and a choice of hot alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will make cloudy days and cooler nights more comfortable.

If you want to keep offering outdoor dining but can’t offer protection from the rain, then closely monitor the weather forecast and be transparent with your customers about the need to move inside if weather conditions change.
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