Spring has sprung! As people leave their winter hibernations they want a few things: food, friendship, and fresh air. Patios and other forms of al fresco dining have always been hugely popular, and the younger generations have only fueled restaurants’ desire to seat outside the box. Millennials are the first generation more likely to try a new beer garden than they are to attend a nightclub.

In a study of the Top 100 Bar and Nightclub venues, nearly three quarters (73%) sport an outdoor patio, terrace or rooftop space – an increase from 63% in 2013. Beer gardens, sidewalk seating, rooftop bars, and garden dining offer restaurants more ways to earn revenue from more guest demographics, while giving diners the ambiance they crave. If you’re on the outside looking in at the outdoor dining trend, here’s some food for thought.  


Beer Gardens Grow Restaurant Revenue

Craft beer sales continue to grow, and many experts believe they will capture 20% of the total beer market share by the year 2020. Beer gardens offer younger adults a respite from the rushed pace of modern restaurants, and give them the perfect venue to enjoy the craft drinks they love.

Communal tables allow restaurants to increase seating while creating a social atmosphere that encourages longer stays. The longer your outdoor space keeps guests comfy, the more they’ll eat, drink, and be merry.

Outdoor dining allows restaurants to maximize their profit potential without costly building permits, construction costs, and the lost foot traffic caused by construction. In crowded urban markets, the ability to seat even 10 more guests at a time can add up to huge revenue gains. Research suggests that even a simple patio can boost revenue by as much as 30%.


Patios are Free Advertising

When people walking by can get a sample of the sights and smells of your food, as well as a sense of the ambiance, all that free advertising will draw more patrons right to your door. Today’s diners are hungry for experiences that they can share on social media. A perfect scene of sun-drenched diners happily enjoying meals is an instant advertising boost to potential guests who literally see your restaurant in its best light.

Atlanta’s Astarita says that their patio section is crucial to their success during warmer months. “As soon as spring comes around, our numbers head upward, and having our two patios allows us to capture more business than our competitors who don’t have the benefit of an outdoor dining space,” Astarita says. This restaurant reports patrons are sometimes willing to wait 30 minutes extra for a patio table, even when the dining room has available seating.


Al Fresco for all Diners

Outdoor seating of every variety offers benefits that make your restaurant an attractive proposition for more types of diners. Large groups, for example, enjoy patios because they can relax and order multiple rounds of drinks and food at their own pace.

Garden seating can also solve more permanent issues. Guests with mobility issues often prefer the easy entry and exit of al fresco dining, allowing them to access a restaurant that they might not otherwise be able to enjoy. Even one step up can be problematic for guests who use wheelchairs and other walking aids, so ground-level seating areas are ideal. Patrons with mobility issues frequent local businesses because they’re closer, and these same patrons rally around businesses that accommodate their needs.

Diners with dogs also enjoy the freedom outdoor dining affords, as restaurants increasingly allow patrons to sit with their dogs while enjoying a meal. Gallup reports 44% of Americans own dogs, so giving guests the options to dine with their fur babies is effective, free marketing that lets you court a huge demographic.

Spring is a season of new growth – for everything. Brand new, outdoor dining options are the perfect addition to a season of higher revenues and brighter financial forecasts. Just like any garden, sunlight gives your restaurant more room to grow.