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Time for a bit of the old Al fresco

Ahh, the great British Summer!


Long sunny days, the smell of bar-be-cues in the air, topping up the tan with a beer or glass of rosé in hand….


OK, before we get too carried away, let’s just acknowledge that summer doesn’t always go like that and, here in Blighty, umbrellas and layers can often be more frequent summer fashion accessories than shorts and sunglasses!


But with temperatures now regularly in the mid to high 20s Celsius, so far the Summer of 2017 isn’t proving that bad. For bars, restaurants and cafes, that means one thing – if you’ve got any kind of outdoor space, now is the time to start using it.


Whether it’s putting a few tables under the awnings of your café, opening up the beer garden or creating a fully furnished al fresco dining deck, expanding your capacity like this is a scorcher of a sales opportunity!


But outdoor dining and drinking is not without a few operational headaches and, if there’s one thing that’s certain it’s the fact that, wherever they’re sitting, your customers will all be demanding a great eating/ drinking experience with top notch customer service.


So, the question you’re left with is how exactly can you meet your customers’ expectations and do al fresco in a way that boosts profits? And, what equipment or processes do you need in place in order to do that well?


First and foremost, you must focus on what experience you want to create for your customers. It’s really important to bear in mind that those who come to you for an outdoor experience might not be the same as your usual clientele or, even if they are, they may still be looking for something a little different.


Research shows that 43% of millennials spend more money on alcohol when dining outdoors so find ways to take advantage of that – you could introduce a promotional drinks menu, pitchers, al-fresco meal deals, an outdoor bar-be-cue or a summertime happy hour.


Another big consumer of the outdoor experience is of course families – parent’s looking to eat out without the stress of trying to confine the kids to a table or coming under the too-close scrutiny of other diners during tetchier moments! Again, a special summer kid’s menu or even a ‘kids eat free’ deal could be a huge attraction.


Don’t forget that, if you’re operating a modern smart POS system within your business, adding these kinds of special promotions to your usual offer and carrying out the sales transactions is both quick and easy.


In fact, the features found in a smart POS system can probably help to overcome two more of the potential pitfalls of creating an al fresco space – communication and stock.


With customer orders in and out to manage, a static POS system is likely to lead to communication problems between staff and customers and so cause delays. But, by using multiple, portable iPad-based tills with table and tab management features, your waiting staff can take requests from anywhere on your premises, automatically send orders to the bar and kitchen, and issue e-receipts to customers.  Communications problems sorted!


As for stock, increasing your dining covers and introducing summer specials means you’ll need to order the right seasonal supplies, consider what tableware you’ll need and put in some bulk buys wherever possible. With a smart till, you’ll benefit from accurate data on sales, stock and wastage. That helps you to make smart decisions about your menu (regular or specials) and manage your stock accordingly. Even better, once you’ve had a smart till for a while, you’ll be able to use data on previous years’ summer sales successes to make annual improvements.


With your smart till helping you make the al fresco experience a sizzling success, there’s only one final word of caution to offer. This is still the UK so, if you want your outdoor crowd to stick with you into the evening, you might just want to get a few patio heaters or put some blankets on seats!


To find out more about the Good Till’s iPad-based POS system for hospitality businesses, give us a call.

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