SCOTLAND is known for its unpredictable weather, but when the sun does occasionally rear its head, outlets with beer gardens stand to benefit – and this is when a well-furnished outdoor area can truly shine.
Furniture supply firms warned operators against waiting until the last minute to get their venue’s outside area in order and stressed the impact a well-appointed al fresco space can have on revenues.
“Never underestimate the visual impact your outdoor area can convey, both positive and negative,” said Jan Dammis, head of international sales at commercial furniture firm Go In.
“For a terrace, patio or pavement area to look elegant it needs high quality furniture with sophisticated looks.”
Josh Wesson, general manager at outdoor furniture supplier LeisureBench, agreed, saying it’s “critical” that operators maximise their outdoor space and consider the potential it holds to maximise revenue.
“Think of this as an advertisement,” said Wesson.
“First impressions count, enticing potential customers to come in and enjoy what you have to offer. This could be families with children or shoppers wanting shelter from the midday hustle and bustle.
“Secondly, it expands your available area for eating and drinking, allowing more customers to enjoy your facilities and therefore improving the return you will make from running a successful establishment.”
For those thinking of revamping their external space, Dammis advised that time is of the essence.
“When the first rays of sunshine start to appear, your competitors’ guests may already be sitting at outside tables,” he said.
And it’s important to consider a variety of factors when deciding what furniture to buy, according to Wesson at LeisureBench.
Never underestimate the visual impact of your outdoor area.
Firstly, said Wesson, operators must decide what the outdoor furniture will be used for, and what it’s required to do; this will ensure customers are comfortable whilst either eating or drinking.
For instance, if the area is destined to be used for dining, Wesson advised operators to invest in separate tables and chairs with arm rests, and parasols that can shade customers from the sun on hot days.
And for less formal use he suggested picnic tables and benches as “the ideal solution”.
Operators must also keep an eye on trends, according to Dammis, who said popular outdoor furniture styles for 2017 include wood and wicker, as well as combinations of teak, wicker and aluminium.
On the design front, he said “it’s all about taking the lounge outdoors”, and in terms of colour, he said muted lighter colours “have an elegant and timeless feel”.
And accessories such as heating, blankets and decorative lanterns can help attract customers even when temperatures dip, according to Dammis.
Style aside, the range also has to be practical.
“Make sure all your outdoor chairs are stackable, easy to look after and robust,” said Dammis.
“This makes it easy for staff to make changes to layouts, and ensures your chairs take up minimal storage space when they’re not being used.”
Taking a similar stance, Wesson of LeisureBench added that rattan material is built for strength and longevity, making it an ideal choice for outdoor furniture.
The old adage that you get what you pay for rings true, but Dammis acknowledged that, with costings tight, operators should simply buy the highest quality furniture within their budget – and ensure it’s well maintained.
“Buy the best quality outdoor furniture you can afford; inevitably, higher quality furniture will stay looking good for longer, and will represent a better return on your investment,” he said.
“You’ll also need to keep it well maintained throughout the season; this will extend its life and make sure it looks good for longer.”