Restaurant operators have made significant investments in revamping their operations during the past year by expanding their takeout and delivery capabilities, enhancing safety procedures and revamping their indoor and outdoor dining arrangements.
For many operators, these changes will continue to pay dividends throughout 2021 and beyond.
Outdoor dining in particular has been a lifeline for restaurants that have been forced to reduce or eliminate their indoor dining room capacity amid the pandemic. Operators invested in furniture, decor and other infrastructure to create an outdoor experience that made their guests feel safe and comfortable. Some operators built outdoor decks or patios and added elements such as planters, umbrellas and partitions.
Restaurants also extended their seating areas on sidewalks, streets and parking lots as local municipalities around the country not only relaxed restrictions on such activities, but encouraged it.
By many accounts, consumers embraced the opportunity to support their favorite local restaurants while enjoying the pleasures of dining al fresco. According to a survey from restaurant reservations platform OpenTable, outdoor dining accounted for 12% of all seated parties from August to November of last year, compared with less than 1% during those same months in 2019.
Many of those newly created dining spaces have been temporarily shuttered for the winter months, but demand for outdoor dining is expected to continue, and operators should prepare now to have a competitive outdoor offering in the spring.
OpenTable’s research found that 52% of consumers said they planned to dine out at restaurants more this year than they did in 2020, but safety will continue to be top of mind for these customers. The most important consideration when choosing where to dine out in the year ahead will be the health and safety measures taken by the restaurant, cited by 43% of respondents, ahead of the second-most important factor, food quality, at 25%.
Outdoor dining offers guests that added level of safety. Restaurants can also optimize the experience for their customers by offering amenities such as televisions that show crowd-pleasing programming. For instance, DIRECTV’s pro sports package, which includes not only NFL Sunday Ticket, but also NHL® Center Ice® NBA League Pass, MLB Extra Innings plus international soccer programming and more, making it the premier option for restaurant operators interested in offering sports game viewing at their restaurants.
Spring sports will soon be in full swing, and after a year spent mostly cooped up at home, consumers will be ready to enjoy watching games in the type of outdoor environments that their neighborhood restaurants can provide.
To accompany their strong sports lineups, operators can add related decor such as local sports paraphernalia and create special game-day menus—perhaps reflecting local sports stadium fare. Promotions can be designed to encourage repeat visits throughout the season, so that the outdoor seating areas become destinations for hungry fans.
Making TV programming available for outdoor guests can also be a powerful marketing tool to attract customers off the street.
In addition to sports programming, televisions can also be used to show TV shows or play music, which can help keep outdoor guests entertained while they dine. And for restaurants that are interested in multicultural and multilingual broadcasting, finding the right programming provider is critical.
DIRECTV for BUSINESS offers these solutions and more for operators seeking to optimize the potential of their outdoor dining facilities. To find out more, click here.
This post is sponsored by DIRECTV for BUSINESS℠