You might be amused to learn that al fresco is said to be old Italian slang for spending time in prison. But, guests and patrons know, al fresco dining is far from confining. In fact, eating al fresco or, in the open air, is a practice that can be traced back to medieval times, and with good reason (other than the fact that barely anyone had a dining room in those days).
Here’s why guests will often ask to sit outside. Even if they’re not aware of it – spending time outdoors can have major health benefits. The practice is said to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and provide a mood boost. Some studies have even shown that it can help reduce the risk for chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. OK – we are not saying patio seating will cure everything, but it will make people feel better, just because of the vitamin D in sunshine. According to the Vitamin D Council, “exposing your skin for a short time will make all the vitamin D your body can produce in one day.” That said, if you’re not providing outdoor seating for diners, you are letting them down, especially as the sunshine starts revving up.
More reasons guests want more outdoors? Eating al fresco is its own little prison break for any overworked American. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends approximately 90% of their time indoors. Adding to that, the U.S. Travel Association reported 52% of Americans have unused vacation days. Those figures can be concerning given that spending time away from the office and in the outdoors has been shown to help people restore attention and increase creativity. Outdoor seating is essentially a way to offer diners a chance to have a mental vacation from their usual surroundings. They can relax, unwind in the fresh air, and head back to work with a natural mood boost.
Getting at the bottom line – outdoor seating can also provide a nice increase in revenue. With more seating capacity available, you’ll be able to get additional guests in the door. Not only will there be an increase in the number of seats available, diners also get to choose the ambiance. Dining al fresco is often seen as more casual than indoor dining and, therefore, attracts diners looking for a laidback experience. Pair that up with food and drink specials and the fun atmosphere can encourage more consumption. Who doesn’t love a good, outdoor happy hour special? According to FSR Magazine, Millennials do. In a survey they conducted with Study Hall Research, 43% of Millennials claimed to spend more money on alcohol when dining al fresco.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of providing al fresco dining is the free advertising it can create. Have you ever walked past a group of people outdoors, enjoying a nice meal and drink and immediately wanted to do the same? Well, you’re not alone.
“When people see guests dining outside, it gives an energy to the place and reminds people of the hospitality they, too, can expect when they walk in outdoors.” – Chris Devin, Senior VP at Bar Louie
According to Devlin, senior vice president of new business development for Bar Louie, a casual bar and grill concept with more than 80 restaurants spread across 25 states – the real benefit of outdoor dining is the atmosphere it advertises. An al fresco setting and sunlight – great for selfies – can also provide natural photo ops for guests looking to share their experiences on social media. As a result, the al fresco dining experience will create more buzz around your business in no time.