SUMMER may still seem a long way off but, believe it or not, spring officially begins a month from now.
And, according to furniture suppliers, spring is the time when operators should turn their attention to outdoor areas – and any maintenance or refurbishment work that needs doing – if they are to reap the benefits of the al fresco space during the summer months.
Jan Dammis of hospitality furniture supply firm Go In said, when it comes to outdoor areas, first impressions count – and can influence a consumer’s perception of the venue as a whole. “The outside space is often the first and most obvious aspect your customers see when they arrive, so it’s important that the area is attractive, well-maintained and inviting,” said Dammis.
And he suggested publicans assess their outdoor area sooner rather than later, carrying out any necessary refurbishment work ahead of time.
“Early spring is a good time to prepare your outdoor area and furniture for the coming season,” he said.
“Remember to freshen up the base of your outdoor area, whether it’s natural stone, gravel or wooden decking.”
Scotland’s climate also creates its own set of problems when designing an outdoor area, said Dammis.
“The balance between sun, shade and shelter is particularly important in the changeable climate of Scotland – a light, sunny, airy space on one day can seem too hot during sunny periods, or wet and windy at other times,” he said.
“Shade and shelter can be provided in a number of ways; either man-made – through sunshades, shade sails, awnings and canopies – or natural with plants, trees or living pergolas, for example.
“Look to see if any trees, shrubs or plants need removing or pruning to strike the right balance between shade and shelter.”
But shelter may only be half the battle if publicans want to keep patrons enjoying their outdoor area into the evening, according to Jerry Hodkinson, marketing manager at furniture supplier Andy Thornton.
Hodkinson suggested both outdoor heating and the creation of a “warm atmosphere” as ways to encourage more evening use.
“Apart from actually introducing external heat sources, be it electric or gas heat lamps or open fires, you can actually make an area ‘feel’ warmer by creating a cosy atmosphere,” he said.
“Just a few pieces of decor, plant tubs and screens can give an area a feeling of warmth as well as defining a designated area.
“Use wooden furniture which is immediately warm to the touch, rather than metal furniture which is initially cold to the touch.”
Getting furniture right is a crucial element of any outdoor area, according to Doug Barr of outdoor furniture firm Woodberry of Leamington Spa.
“Quality outdoor furniture that is built to take the brunt of the weather is the best way to ensure your investment in outdoor furniture is ‘proof’ against the weather,” he said.
“Comfortable, well-maintained, good quality furniture goes a very long way in creating a welcoming atmosphere in outdoor areas.”
In terms of the best material for outdoor furniture, Barr said recycled plastic is popular for outdoor areas.
“As well as being virtually maintenance free and coming in a choice of colours it is never going to rot or rust and whilst made of 100% recycled plastic, is recyclable itself if needed,” he added.