Patio Season: Tips to Turn Up Your Patio Service

a small restaurant patio view from above. Tables and chairs, and hanging greenery

How to Revamp Your Restaurant's Patio Experience

It’s April in Toronto, spring is in the air and patio season is just around the corner. As the weather warms up, more and more people will be heading outside to enjoy a drink or a meal in the sunshine. For restaurant owners, this means preparing for an influx of customers on their patios. With busy patios come new challenges, from managing wait times to ensuring timely service.

As patrons who frequent the Toronto patio scene during the warm months, and former operators, here are some tips to make the most out of patio season. 

Demand for outdoor dining

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a significant shift towards outdoor dining due to the need for social distancing and increased safety measures. In many areas, indoor dining has been restricted or banned altogether, leaving restaurants to rely on their outdoor spaces. 

Fast forward to 2023, and we’re still seeing a growing demand for outdoor dining options, especially in places like Canada or big cities like Toronto. One study found that the demand for outdoor dining has grown by 40%, and more restaurants plan on offering outdoor dining solutions.

Throughout Ontario, restaurants have become quite creative with how they offer patio seating, whether it’s in a makeshift area, or right on the sidewalk. Regardless, if you do not offer outdoor seating, it’s something you should consider, if possible. 

Managing Higher Traffic, With Less Staff

According to Restaurants Canada, foodservice owners are operating at an average of 80% of their normal capacity due to labour shortages. Furthermore, restaurant owners are reporting that hiring and retaining staff is at the top of their challenges.

So, with patio season quickly approaching, how can restaurants strike a balance between providing a good experience for customers, serving good food, and turning tables fast enough to limit long wait times? Here are some options.

Streamline Summer Menu

With staffing and labour concerns in both the front and back of house, restaurants may want to consider trimming down or streamlining menus. 

One approach is to focus on dishes that are quick and easy to prepare, such as salads, sandwiches, and grilled items. 

These items can be prepared quickly and require minimal cooking time, which means customers can receive their food faster. Another approach is to reduce the number of menu items overall, which can help simplify the ordering process and reduce wait times for customers. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that restaurants have to sacrifice variety – by carefully selecting a few key dishes that are popular and easy to prepare, restaurants can still offer a diverse menu that appeals to customers. 

If you choose to reduce the number of items on your menu, consider increasing the number of modifications or add-ons. It might take a little more prep time and some tweaking of portions, but it’s a great way to increase margins, AOV (average order value) and it gives the guest the option to have more control of their order.

One way to easily implement this is through a digital menu or a QR code ordering system. When using a digital menu or ordering system, restaurant owners have full control of suggested add-ons and modifiers, and they are offered to every single guest.

Which brings us to the next tip.

QR Code Order & Pay System

Burger and a soup beside a qr code, qr code ordering for restaurants is a restaurant trend for 2023

Regardless of how an owner or manager might feel about leveraging QR Codes for ordering and payment, it’s proven to speed up service, turn tables faster, add increase average order value by 23-30%! 

Furthermore, restaurants may find themselves understaffed during the busy season, making it challenging to manage customer demand effectively. 

Using technology like QR codes and mobile ordering and payment systems can help streamline the ordering process and reduce the need for additional staff. Plus, it integrates with your POS

By providing customers with a QR code that they can scan with their smartphones, restaurants can enable customers to view the menu and place orders directly from their devices. This can help reduce the amount of time customers spend waiting for staff to take their orders and process payments (which is proven to be the worst part of the dining experience). Whether it’s waiting to pay, or waiting for a cold drink, we can all agree waiting in the hot summer sun is no fun. 

Lastly, the majority of people enjoy ordering and paying from a QR code. Especially millennials and gen-z, which make up the majority of patio traffic in the summer time. Plus, when you use a QR code ordering system, it automatically acts as a digital tab, allowing guests to simply get up and go when they’re done with their meal.

With that said, if the QR code or contactless ordering system just isn’t for you, not all hope is lost. There’s also a hybrid system which combines mobile ordering with traditional service.

Hybrid Ordering System

While technology can be a great way to manage the demands of a busy patio, you may not want to sacrifice the personal touch that many customers expect from a dining experience.

That’s where the hybrid ordering system comes in. A hybrid ordering model that combines technology with traditional ordering methods can strike a balance between efficiency and personal service. For example, customers can scan a QR code to view the menu and place orders directly from their mobile devices, but also have the option to place orders with staff members. Staff members can either punch in new items & orders from a stationed POS, or they can be equipped with tablets to punch in orders at the table side. 

When it comes to payments, guests can either settle up directly from their phone, or pay via cash, card or terminal from a serving staff member. 

Interested in learning more? Book a no-frills demo to see if OrderUp could be a good match for your restaurant.

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