Making the most of your open-air seating will be critical – even during colder months.

As restaurants reopened across the country after COVID-19 shutdowns, many operators turned to their patio spaces in an effort to offer open-air dining to guests who were reluctant to step back into dining rooms. Usually patio season begins to wind down as the air becomes cooler and sundown comes earlier, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can still get mileage out of your patio space if you plan accordingly for the temps and meet cold-weather cravings head on. Here’s how.

Make it Hygge

Hygge is a Danish term that’s caught on worldwide in recent years. It means coziness, like the feeling of curling up in front of a crackling fire while sipping a mug of steaming tea. You can create your own hygge moments by making your outdoor space more comfortable for guests. Consider adding a few heat sources to your patio (just to make sure you offer some relief from the cold.) Vinyl curtains can also help retain heat while still providing a pleasant view for guests. If it fits the vibe of your brand, you may want to offer blankets to your guests. Just treat them as you would table linens, laundering after each use.

Comfort in a Bowl

Patio diners will likely look for menu items that keep them warm, and fall and winter are the perfect time to serve hearty stews, braises, and soups. Find opportunities to add warming, brothy dishes to your menu, like a cioppino or bourride, or a classic coq au vin. These specials could also be exclusive to your patio menu, giving guests another incentive to dine outdoors.

Seasonal DrinksOptimize Outdoor Space

Your beverage menu should reflect the seasons, just as your dining menu does. Update your beverage menu for the cold weather with hot beverages, both alcoholic and non. Toddies, mulled cider, hot buttered rum, and pumpkin spiked lattes feel festive for guests and help drive up check averages. Feature your show-stopping hot cocktails on social media, highlighting the fact that they are only available for a limited time.

Embrace the Holidays

This will likely be a strange holiday season, with fewer people traveling to visit family and friends. Brainstorm ways you can use your patio space to celebrate the holidays, such as offering a limited-time “Friendsgiving” menu or creating socially distant Santa Claus photo ops for families.

Offer Buy-Outs

Let your followers know that patio buy-outs are available for larger groups. This could be a great opportunity for folks who are looking for a neutral space to host holiday parties in a semi-outdoor location with food and drink. Determine your buy-out pricing and menu offerings and create a marketing piece. Add the information to your website in a pop-up just prior to and during the holiday season and reach out to local press to let them know about the availability of your space for holiday gatherings and other buy-outs.

Create a Memorable Experience

Take a look at your patio space with a critical eye to determine how it looks to your guests. Are there improvements that can be made to the flow of the space, lighting, or decor? Is it possible to have live music? Consider the touches that will make your patio a destination year-round, and then determine if they are financially viable. A few DIY improvements can create an Instagram-worthy, memorable experience that guests can’t wait to tell their friends about.

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