SCOTLAND’S climate is often unpredictable, but operators can still make the most of their outdoor spaces while they wait for the elusive sunshine.
But before introducing furniture, suppliers say bar and restaurant operators must first consider the space they have to work with.
Jan Dammis of hospitality furniture supplier Go In said: “Uneven floors, a lack of shade or shelter, poor layout and inadequate access can all reduce guests’ enjoyment of your outdoor area – and that’s before the furniture is considered.
“First, give some thought to choosing the right flooring. This is critical because it can not only help make the outdoor area look attractive, it also allows furniture to be organised and accessed in the best possible way.”
Surfaces such as gravel, grit, flagstones and paving or wooden decking, said Dammis, can all be considered.
“Each method has its pros and cons and some locations will be more suited to one solution than another,” he said.
“Consider the ease with which you might want to make changes to the area, the cleaning and maintenance required by each option and the ‘look and feel’ you’re trying to achieve.”
Looking after an outdoor area needn’t be a big job, according to David Dean of NBB Recycled Furniture.
Dean said recycled plastic furniture is completely maintenance free and can be easily stored.
“Transforming your tired and used gardens is a lot easier than some publicans may think,” he said.
“Adding colourful and appealing planters will be inviting and ensuring seating is of good order will ensure diners are kept happy – who actually wants to dine on a half-rotten picnic table that has seen better days?”
The company claims to regularly extend its furniture range, which includes poseur tables, A-frame tables and condiment stations.
It is also able to produce bespoke products because of the type of material used.
The licensed trade will be hoping for some dry, warm weather in summer to help boost trade.
The unpredictable Scottish climate, however, means nothing can be taken for granted outside and precautions have to be taken for every eventuality.
Helen Reynolds, director of Shading by Design, which supplies awnings, giant umbrellas and commercial parasols, believes weather-proofing outside areas is essential to allow customers to shelter if necessary.
“Provide some kind of ‘roof’ to keep out the rain, preferably retractable so that customers can enjoy the sun when it does shine, eg. umbrella, awning, terrace awning,” said Reynolds.
“Provide light and heat and if possible some type of screening to keep out the wind.”
When it comes to choosing furniture, suppliers say it is important to select high quality tables and chairs which will last.
And although Scotland can be a wet and windy country Dammis, of Go In, said there is no reason why furniture outside Scottish outlets shouldn’t be as durable as furniture elsewhere.
“Choosing good quality outdoor furniture is the key and there’s no reason, with the correct choice of furniture and good maintenance, why it shouldn’t last as long in Scotland as in the rest of the country,” he said.
“It’s important to choose furniture that looks good, is easy to maintain, is comfortable for your guests and gives you good value for money over its lifetime.”
Dammis also reckons a design theme from an establishment can be recreated outside.
He added: “Outdoor furniture needs to strike a balance between the ambience and design statement you’re trying to achieve for your outdoor area, perhaps carrying a theme from your interior design, and the practicality of the furniture itself.”
The furniture, he said, must be able to cope with the weather or it will quickly look shabby and uninviting for guests.
And ideally, he said, it will be fully waterproof, UV and heat resistant.
“Inevitably, higher quality furniture will stay looking good for longer,” said Dammis.
“Furniture may need to be cleared away at certain times or stored over winter, so folding or stacking units could be an advantage.”
No Butts Bins (NBB) was founded specifically to provide smoking shelters for outdoor areas.
Dean said outside cover is important to allow smokers to enjoy the outdoors too.
He said: “The key now is to provide imaginative and practical smoking areas for customers to enjoy.
“Offering a well-designed ‘retreat’ by adding all-weather furniture, heating and lighting will ensure a pleasant environment.”
Planning and licensing restrictions in a garden or outdoor area, however, must be carefully observed.
“Full planning permission is required if permanently fixed, conservation area consent or listed building consent and pavement licence if intending to use the public pavement,” added Reynolds of Shading by Design.
Outdoor furniture – top tips
- Use your outdoor area as your business card – make it a good or even better representation of your style indoors.
- Offer comfort, style and quality.
- Go for flexible arrangements so changes can be made quickly and easily.
- Make small yet significant gestures towards additional comfort in your outside area.
- Offer seat cushions and warm blankets for chillier evenings.
- Make sure the furniture is robust, easy to maintain and well looked after.