This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
Winter is around the corner, and for businesses with outdoor spaces, this means making preparations to ensure comfort for customers when the cold weather hits. Customers say they don’t mind the cold. Square’s Future of Commerce Report shows that 65% of them would choose outdoor seating even when it’s cold outside.
Plus, outdoor spaces are an important source of revenue. According to Fast Casual, outdoor seating can boost your revenue by up to 30%, irrespective of the type of establishment you run. The shift to outdoor has been crucial in helping businesses stay afloat when restrictions were placed on indoor activities because of the pandemic.
Here are some ways to make your makeshift parklet or outdoor space more comfortable in the winter.
Ways to winterize your outdoor space
1. Invest in supporting structures
An Inquirer survey revealed that while customers may be okay with cold spaces, wind or wetness can be deal breakers. Outdoor dining structures like geodesic domes, glass greenhouses, bubble tents, yurts, or pods are a great way to provide the necessary coverage from unpleasant weather. These structures add some privacy to your space — perfect for dinner dates — and ensure some social distancing. You can also get creative with their design and incorporate elements that customers will love.
For example, Mediamatic Eden, a vegan restaurant, serves diners in small glass cubicles that offer a view of the sea, while Lafayette and Daniel use private dining booths designed like “dressing cabins on a Mediterranean beach,” according to New York Times reporter, Pete Wells.
The structure you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your space, and the desired ambience. Keep in mind that outdoor structures may pose a health risk and there may be regulations regarding the use of specific structures. For example, individual dining pods were banned in Connecticut last year due to airflow concerns. Some states require 15 minutes of wait time before turning tables and allow only people from the same household to share a pod. While most states have lifted many pandemic restrictions, be sure to check in with the appropriate local/state authorities to be sure you’re in the clear.
2. Add some heat
While 25% of customers don’t mind if there’s no heating equipment in your patio, the right amount of heat will keep your customers cozy and warm so they can fully savor the outdoor experience.
Propane patio heaters are a great option and can supply nine times more heat than their electric counterparts. They can be hung on roofs and walls, or placed neatly on tables and around dining structures. However, if you’re in a location where these power heaters are banned, such as in New York City, then electric heaters will work just fine and may even be safer and more sustainable. Outdoor fireplaces are also an option, especially if you have a small patio or want a countryside feel.
Before you invest in equipment, be sure to check applicable heating regulations for outdoor spaces in your location.
3. Spice up the menu
Over 40% of consumers are willing to try new menu offerings, according to Square’s Future of Restaurant findings. The winter months may just be the perfect time to introduce those changes.
Create a special winter menu with fiery entrées that warm up your guests — think sizzling hot soups, fondues, or deviled chicken and chips. For even more warmth, offer exclusive hot piquant drinks or cocktails to match the special menu.
With Square for Restaurants, you can easily track the success of these special items from your dashboard and make adjustments as needed. All changes sync across your website, POS, and kitchen display system. By embracing the Square suite of tools, such as online ordering and contactless payments, you can keep all orders organized and serve those meals at the excellent speed that’s needed for the winter season.
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4. Deliver a top-notch experience
Think of the overall experience you’d like to create for your customers and find ways to make them even more comfortable. It could also mean the little things, like throwing in cushions to further insulate the chairs or using lighting and music to set the mood — warm white and colored light bulbs immediately create a welcoming atmosphere that is perfect for those chilly nights.
Whatever you do, find ways to deliver an excellent outdoor experience while ensuring safety and comfort. More importantly, welcome guests with a cheerful, uplifting smile that reassures them they made the right choice.
Square has the tools to run your business — on your own terms. To help celebrate businesses paving their way forward, we partnered with Forbes on the Next 1000 initiative to spotlight bold entrepreneurs and share their most valuable lessons. By sharing firsthand experiences, we’re helping businesses celebrate resilience, build skills, and explore what’s next. See how Square works, and get more expert guidance for the next era of small business.