FIVE WAYS TO USE YOUR OUTDOOR BAR ALL YEAR LONG
In the current climate your outdoor bar area is more precious than ever. UK native, Josh Reynolds, Bar Manager at The Dolphin Hotel, Sydney shares some tools and tactics to effectively use your outdoor bar area, whatever the weather.
ROOFTOP REAL ESTATE
When you step onto any rooftop bar in the world, never mind any terraces or balconies, you instantly feel a whole lot better, everything just seems more at ease. And if the drinks are as good as the views, then you’re on to something special.
You have to be smart with outdoor space though, it’s not an easy sell if you don’t know how to effectively use it. I’ve five tips for making best use of your outdoor space all year round.
1. MAKE EVERY INCH WORK
Using your outside bar area to its full potential is super important given current restrictions. Ask yourself, can rearranging the outlay of your terrace, for example, make it more beneficial to you? Does that plant really need to be there? Does the layout comply with current guidelines?
We changed our whole terrace layout, putting in very long large tables for sharing and making our guests more comfortable and allowing for groups of ten. With spring/ summer on the horizon in this part of the world, I made a concerted effort to curate a summer style cocktail menu with Italian influence. The result? Refreshing and lighter style cocktail sales have exploded, now outselling beer on tap, which is pretty much unheard of for a pub. This maximised our venue to its full potential and got our guests spending. With the restrictions for how many patrons are allowed in your venue; you have to make every drink count. So be creative with your layout and use your menu as a tool to draw guests in - it’s now or never.
There’s also been a revival of terrace culture and back in June, the mayor of Paris relaxed the rules on pavement terraces there allowing bars, restaurants, and bistros to develop an outdoor space. The guys at The Cambridge Paris have done a great job by quickly turning their terrace into a city garden oasis. They rolled some grass out on the pavement, which not only adds some charm but shows clearly where their outdoor space begins and ends. They’ve kept it simple as space is limited by adding tables in line with guidelines and some trees for a nice relaxed vibe, a perfect extension to their indoor area.
2. OWN THE SEASONS
We’re quite fortunate that it’s coming into spring here in Sydney, so the weather is more mild and its starting to get hot, but that isn’t always the case and we need to prepare our outdoor bar spaces for unpredictable weather too.
At The Dolphin, we have large umbrellas covering each outside table on our terrace, so if it ever rains, the vibe keeps flowing and no one gets caught in the rain. Unless they're drinking a Pina Colada and like that kind of thing, of course! We’ve also made them collapsible for when the sun is shining, as some like it up, some like it down. It’s important to cater for all eventualities. Umbrellas are a really simple measure that keep guests comfortable and allow the good times to keep rolling.
You could go a step further and purchase protective coverings for your furniture to protect it from heavy rainfall or consider installing a retractable roof to see you through every season. The Prince is one of London’s biggest pub gardens and a clear retractable roof ensures the venue is fully adaptable. This feature is particularly useful in cold, wintery months in the UK where the roof remains firmly closed and winter foliage is added to the garden, the guys also offer a drinks menu of bespoke cocktails, hot wines and ciders so guests can really enjoy the cosy surroundings.
3. TURN THE HEAT ON
Venues should be keeping the safety of guests front and centre but keeping them warm is also a challenge. Do stand-up heaters work well with the space you have? At Cantina OK, standalone heaters work amazingly well for them. Standalone heaters are great for temporary outdoor terraces, they can be easily moved depending on seating configuration and they can be taken indoors at night when closing. At The Dolphin we installed three heaters which have been securely fastened to the walls around the terrace, they have great scope and reach and provide a great source of heat. We use “Re-Verber-Ray” heaters as they have dimmer controls for the heating system, making it really flexible to change the heat if needs be.
To keep things enticing and attractive, we also have two open outdoor fireplaces that burn aromatic wood. This also adds a sense of purpose for people to come and grab that spot as only two tables have access to the warmth of the fireplace. All these measures ensure that we still get people through the door and onto the terrace even on those colder winter nights.
One way to keep guests warm and comfortable during their visit is by offering blankets or throws but given the current situation venues have had to change their approach here. Some venues who were previously offering these have stopped to ensure guest health and safety. Dalloway Terrace, London is just one example of a venue who have paired this back. While others are using this as an opportunity to give guests a branded blanket they can keep and take home with them, almost like a form of merchandise.
Aside from installing heaters, venues are getting creative and inventive on how they ensure guest comfort. The Baxter Inn for example, were handing out complimentary Irish coffees to those who were waiting to enter the venue with capacity restrictions were in place – a nice touch that could be replicated in your venue when the weather turns cold.
If you plan on installing anything in your venue, especially with that much significance, definitely get a professional team to help you.
4. SAFE, PERSONAL SERVICE
Personal rooftop service like ordering from the table instead of the bar heightens guest experience and ensures that guests aren’t tempted to stay inside once they venture in to order or pay. It sets a nice mood, particularly in colder weather and limits free movement and contact within the venue. At The Dolphin we accept contactless ePOS payments so are able to offer this service. We really value our consumer confidence and keeping that high is really important to us. We want our guests to feel safe enough to return again and again. For this reason, we have a dedicated Hygiene Marshall who constantly goes around the venue and sanitises everything, especially after every guest leaves.
Leave nothing to chance, particularly outdoors. Sometimes cleaning of these areas can be forgotten as focus remain inside but ensure the team are briefed to circle all areas.
5. LIGHT IT UP
Outdoor bar areas get dark in the evening, and especially so in Autumn and Winter months so lighting should not be an afterthought. Consider the look and feel of your venue and choose your lighting options accordingly. For example, at The Dolphin we light the terrace up at night with the wood burning fireplace and using lots of candles, rather than adding in bright lights. This helps us retain the venue vibe and really looks cosy and inviting.
I’ve seen some venues use string lights on the roof terrace which add just the right level of lighting too. Others use large gas lit torches or spotlights. The point I’m making is, stay true to your venues style but ensure that adequate lighting is there for guests’ comfort and safety.
- Be creative with your outdoor layout to maximise space but remain in line with local restrictions.
- Take steps to weatherproof and prepare for all eventualities all year-round, not just seasonally.
- Consider the outdoor heating options that work best for your space.
- Provide outdoor guests with a heightened service experience with table service and contactless payments.
- Choose lighting that reflects the mood and vibe of the bar.
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