5 ways to boost restaurant patio sales [+ free guide]

Sara Detrik
Marketing Manager

New ideas are essential. So much has changed for the hospitality industry in the past few years, from new QR code uses to new food revenue models. These changes have garnered press and attention from consumers and operators alike, which means standing out from the crowd just got a little more challenging. So how do you cut through the noise to make your restaurant patio the next topic of conversation? Simple.

You innovate. 

Rejuvenate your patio just in time for the warmer seasons with new ideas and fresh changes. Spring into summer is the one of the best times of the year for operators with outdoor spaces. An Ohio State University study reported weather affects customer mood and buying behavior, meaning good outdoor weather is a prime time for sales.

Those sales are projected to grow to $899 billion by the end of 2022, and, with inflation at an all-time high, carving out a share of that revenue is vital. Here are five creative ways to boost your restaurant patio sales this year and take advantage of seasonality.

Take home our free 3-step guide for turning guests into brand ambassadors.

Five creative ideas to boost restaurant patio sales

1. Outdoor-specific menus:

Rather than have one set menu for both indoor and outdoor seating, make patio dining a different experience than what your winter guests have grown accustomed to. When you add multiple menus, you’re expanding your options and creating a brand new way to dine at your restaurant. 

Summer is your opportunity to use local fruit and produce to create an experience that matches your patio. If you’re a more casual space with benches and ample seating areas, you might want to consider more snackable foods or sharing plates to make things easier on your kitchen staff and to create picnic-style dining as a draw. 

For a more formal dining atmosphere, consider adding an outdoor cocktail menu, especially if you have a bar outside and indoors. Using digital menus, you can pull out some of your best-selling food and route new cocktails to the correct kitchen or bar printers rather than all piling into one kitchen space with indoor orders. 

These restaurant patio ideas capitalize on a fact much discussed but little understood: seasonal summer food tastes better outdoors. By making a specific menu seasonal and temporary, you’re not only appealing to taste buds, but you’re also tapping into the ‘limited availability’ marketing tactic. A ticking clock is a beloved sales tool that creates a sense of urgency that encourages visitors to dine on your patio while supplies last. A temporary menu is perfect for triggering that impulse and increasing patio sales. 

2. Party spaces

Need new outdoor restaurant seating ideas? Many restaurants have “party spaces,” a rentable status symbol for dinner parties, office gatherings, and birthday celebrations. Bring that exclusivity to your patio by designating a more walled-off area for parties of 5 or more to reserve.

Making a private patio space is an easy shift, since you’re not building an extra floor or a new wing to your building. With a few well-placed screens and tables, you can create privacy without going through zoning laws and contractors. 

Diners gathered together at an outdoor restaurant table.

Why does a party space matter for your restaurant patio design? Catering to college students on vacation or large brunches creates an atmosphere that the rest of your patio can see and want for themselves. Party spaces are a FOMO (fear of missing out) tool. Millennials are the target demographic for decks as big dining out spenders and 60% more likely to make a reactive purchase from FOMO envy. 

Think of it as extra atmosphere and better sales. A party space encourages guests to order round after round of drinks and apps to share because of the ambiance and sense of pride at being in the space itself while others are not. Those outside the party space also feel the effects of envy, buying more reactively to be part of the fun at their table since they can’t join behind the screen.  They’ll even want to reserve the space for their friends, making new customers into returners.

Since it rings up a larger check size from re-orders, a party space also tips better for servers. Add self-service QR to the mix, and you have guests empowered to make their orders while servers can cover the same amount of tables. 

3. Self-pour technology

Have you ever heard of wine and beer on tap? Number three of our outdoor dining ideas list is a great new tech for larger patios, especially wineries and breweries, to serve alcohol more efficiently. While your bartenders are busy at the indoor location, you can create a self-service hub in the outdoor areas of your business. 

Kegged beer and wine are less expensive by volume than a bottle. Depending on the quality, a keg costs between $120 and $400 and can hold 26 bottles or 120 glasses. Breaking those numbers down, stocking your venue’s wine and beer by the keg is less expensive than by the bottle, leading to higher profit margins.

This option saves money with barrels versus bottling prices; it also tracks how much alcohol your business goes through for better reporting and easy tracking. Just because it’s self-service doesn’t mean the tech lacks visibility.

Just like tabs customers can add to, letting guests refill on their terms leads to bigger check sizes and more orders on impulse. Depending on your staff size and how hands-off you want your patio, using both this and digital ordering can make large, often hard-to-cover spaces more manageable for servers and self-sufficient for guests. 

4. Patio-specific rewards

Have a loyalty program? Why not take it to the next level with some patio-specific rewards. Dining outside at your business throughout the summer season nets specific discounts and promos for a limited time (remember how we love limited availability). On the flip side, you could also reverse this tactic. When patios are packed in the summer, people are more hesitant to eat indoors. The right reward, whether indoors or outside, can cover all your bases.

You can use marketing data programs like Bikky or a digital ordering system to see the trends in your most popular orders, promos, and locations. When you hone in on your patio, you segment your marketing efforts towards those who will bring you the biggest checks, like vacationers and post-work office employees. 

When you make your customers feel special and recognized, you increase retention. However, when you personalize those rewards to a more detailed level like if a customer keeps coming back to order one specific item, you can hone in and create an even more distinctive experience. 

Tartine, a major bakery chain, used their marketing to double their delivery check size and increase returns when they specifically catered to a kind of customer. You can replicate these results by zeroing in on patio users, offering unique outdoor benefits like discounts or special summer menu items for free (see tip number 1).

Diners seated at restaurant patio tables.

5. Portable patio meal kits

Your outdoor service doesn’t have to be limited to just your patio. Give guests the ability to bring your menu to their own backyard, packaged and sent with your specific brand. Specialty packaging and closed-loop baskets can create a new experience that expands your outdoor revenue to new opportunities.

Use delivery to create special patio meal kits with packaging unique to your brand and offerings. Picnic baskets, separated ingredients, barbecue bags — the possibilities are endless for new and innovative ways to expand on your outdoor dining ideas.

When you already have your patio space, making it its own brand and meal kit creates an experience that your off-premise guests will remember. With the right branding, you’ll entice guests to want to see the real deal, especially if you include a promo when they order to their homes. 

Creative thinking is just the beginning. 

You can get an entire range of restaurant patio ideas beyond our five listed for you here. Knowing what tech can do makes running your restaurant an innovative experience while still meeting reliability expectations.

The outdoor season is coming, and you only have so much time to jump into action. This research you’re doing now is well-timed, especially when you want to snag any new tools you’ve had your eye on in time for the summer boost. No matter which way you decide to innovate, the fact that you’re making changes is enough to propel you forwards to new revenue and better ways to boost your restaurant patio sales.

Start your journey to better revenue

See why thousands of operators just like you trust Bbot for their contactless order and pay.

Get a demo