The warmer weather calls for al fresco dining and cool drinks, but today’s diners are looking for even more. Draw customers in the door and maximize sales this season with ideas for outdoor events and experiences.

Patio Parties

Think about your slow times and consider partnering with another local restaurant or two for a patio crawl that will not only entice eager regulars but also draw in a new customer base. Offer discounts with a punch card if they visit all the places and issue tickets by reservation only. The limited seating provides a sense of exclusivity, and by issuing tickets, it will streamline your planning process and up the appeal to diners who don’t want to miss out.

Partner with a guest chef for a fusion dinner or have a local distillery create cocktails with their products that pair perfectly with a limited menu. Give each guest a goodie bag stocked with takeaways that will make the event feel more special than just dinner: wrapped macaroons from the guest pastry chef or discount coupons for future visits. The cross-promotion is invaluable and can boost customer loyalty.

Think Themes

Everyone loves a themed party. Think about the holidays coming up, like Father’s Day, Fourth of July, and other special occasions where you can center an event, menu, and patio décor around that theme. Keep it simple with something like a specific decade party, featuring a live band or DJ playing music on your patio from that era.

Encourage guests to dress up and host costume contests with prizes for the best ones. Tie the theme into your menus, decor, and dress code for a limited time. With nearly everyone binge-watching their favorite shows now, curating an event and menu around a popular tv show or movie is one way to get guests in the door and help you stand out from the competition. End the night with a bang with a screening and snacks.

Let the Games Begin

According to research in the last year, half of consumers are interested in revisiting an eatertainment experience. And the interest in the dining and entertainment combo has continued to skyrocket. Cornhole, bocce ball, giant chess or checkers, or other social games can power up your sales and be a smart long-term bet to keep customers coming back and staying longer.

Turn It Up

Live music is key to keeping guests lingering and with the warm weather, turning your patio into a mini concert space can appeal to almost any demographic. Be sure to match the music to the vibe. Sunday brunch is a great time for mellow, acoustic tunes. But, if you tend to draw younger guests for brunch, a DJ spinning nostalgic tunes on the patio will always be a crowd-pleaser.

Set up a makeshift stage and book local bands for the weekends and special nights for DJs. Rotating the musician weekly is a good idea to get a new set of followers into your place — some of whom may be new. Keep customers hanging outdoors for the entire set with sweet dessert and drink specials that complement the tunes.

Class It Up

Sure, people want to be outside when it's nice, but they don't all want to just sit and drink. Offering a ticket to an interactive class held in your outdoor space is a possible way to attract folks who would normally skip the bar for a more productive day. Pair a sketch or drawing class with wine and appetizers, a cookie decorating class, or a guest chef-hosted cooking workshop.

Couples are also looking for new ideas for dates. Offer something more hands-on than happy hour. A very basic yoga and mimosa event could be a fun option that you can host before your patio normally opens, making you extra money without taking up space during normal business hours.

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