Pubs and restaurants with outdoor areas have seen plenty of business over the past few months, with beer gardens heaving since the UK lockdown was lifted.

Craig Pannozzo, sales executive at Gazeboshop, discusses the need for venue owners to prioritise outdoor spaces and offers tips on creating the perfect al fresco experience.

Beer gardens have played a pivotal role in helping hospitality businesses survive this summer. 2020 has been challenging for many in the industry, but pubs, bars, and restaurants with covered outdoor seating areas have undoubtedly been at an advantage over their competitors.

As the lockdown was lifted, many who took the chance to go out for a drink or a meal favoured venues with al fresco dining areas. This was, of course, partly due to the good weather we’ve had in recent months, but sitting outside also helps to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Even though we’re heading towards the colder months and the weather is starting to turn, it’s likely that venues with outdoor areas will continue to be popular in the buildup to Christmas (particularly if they can offer guests warm, covered outside seating spaces).

Below, I’ve offered some of my thoughts on how venue owners can design the perfect beer garden. With the right approach, you can protect everyone’s safety whilst also creating a great atmosphere that keeps customers coming back throughout autumn and winter.

1. Protect the safety of staff and customers

The safety of staff and customers should be your top priority. To ensure social distancing, you’ll need to leave extra space between tables and make sure that waiters can get around without getting too close (two metres between each table should be sufficient).

You’ll undoubtedly be used to the routine of disinfecting tables and other surfaces by now, but it’s important to maintain hygiene standards outdoors as well as indoors. Have a member of staff clean your outside tables thoroughly each time a group leaves.

2. Create the right atmosphere

Once you’ve guaranteed that visitors can enjoy your pub beer garden safely, it’s time to think about how you’re going to create the right atmosphere. When deciding on decor, try to replicate the feel that you’ve gone for indoors as this will appeal to your existing customer base.

If it fits with your branding, add some vibrancy and life to the space using hanging baskets and other plants. Think about furniture as well: worn-out old beer garden benches are unlikely to draw a lot of customers in, so consider upgrading to something more modern and trendy.

The weather will also have a big influence on the atmosphere. Be prepared for particularly rainy or cold days by making covered areas with seating and tables: pop-up gazebos are a perfect solution for this, providing cover from the rain but also warmth.

3. Provide exceptional table service

One of the challenges of creating the perfect al fresco experience is that standards of table service tend to drop off. When sitting outside, it can be hard for guests to make eye contact with waiters, so consider investing in an app that allows them to order straight to the table.

As well as improving the level of service that you can provide to your guests, an app can also be used to help support your track and trace efforts. This may be particularly important in the coming months as the UK government has made it mandatory to collect customer details.

Equally, it’s essential to think about the layout of your beer garden: as a general principle, it’s vital to make sure that your staff can see all of the tables so they can assist guests when required. Nothing ruins a service experience more than feeling like you’re ignored.

Gazeboshop is an outdoor shelter retailer founded in 2005. They have built a network of clients including Coca Cola, the BBC, the British Army, the Stroke Association,Sainsbury’s and St John Ambulance. Operating from their base in Banbury, Oxfordshire, Gazeboshop has worked closely with the events and hospitality industry to increase footfall and bring back customers to the UK’s high streets.

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