New restrictions to the hospitality sector
On the 14th September, new restrictions were applied to the residents of England to suppress the rising number of new COVID cases.
The new rules dictate that only people from the same household can mix inside bars, pubs and restaurants. However, different households are allowed to mix outside, provided they abide by the rule of six.
Yet as the cold, dark and wet weather creeps in, the idea of sitting in a beer garden, clinging on to menus and beer mats seems pretty unappealing.
But being the pub fans we are, it's unlikely that Brits will want to say goodbye to their locals without a fight, especially during the runup to Christmas, when there's always an excuse for another Baileys.
So how can pub and restaurant owners make their outdoor spaces winter-proof during the pandemic restrictions?
Tropical beer garden to winter wonderland
The hospitality industry has no choice but to adapt and invest money into outdoor spaces, at a time when cash flow management is incredibly difficult.
But if you're a pub or restaurant owner and you can afford to make some changes to your outdoor area, the benefits could be huge. We've listed a few ideas below.
The most obvious choice for bar owners to keep the cold at bay is to install outdoor heaters. However, if you're new to this, you'll need to scope out the best solution for your space, budget and requirements.
For example, if your outdoor area is fully exposed – i.e. has no walls around it at all, then you'll need a powerful heating solution that can withstand longer running-times. If you have a semi-covered space, with walls or shields, you can opt for heaters that run on a lower temperature for a shorter period.
You should also bear in mind the different types of heaters. Some are cheaper but less sustainable (propane or paraffin). Some require a higher upfront investment but may save you in the long run (LED and electric).
Outdoor blankets often feature in pubs and restaurants across Europe where al fresco dining is taken advantage of for as long as possible. As well as helping to keep customers warm, they can create a cosy atmosphere and make seating feel more intimate and comfortable.
You may even want to personalise them with your pub or restaurant's logo, as a form of branded marketing.
If you're fortunate to have a large outdoor space, like the Beavertown tap-room in North London, you can deal with exposure to the elements by installing a marquee. Their experience manager Meghan Waites told the BBC recently that they've invested in both a marquee and outdoor heaters to 'keep the tap-room in full swing'.
As long as it is well-ventilated and customers are at a safe distance, then it's a great way to stop mass cancellations on a rainy evening.
Restaurants like Coppa Club in Tower Bridge have made unique outdoor spaces their USP, come rain or shine. Typically booked up, especially during the winter months, their cosy igloos are inspired by champagne vineyards, making you feel like you're enjoying a balmy evening in southern France – in the middle of November in London.
Other bars have also used quirky outdoor seating arrangements, such as disused train carriages, old festival yurts or theatre sets. Not only do they keep customers warm, but they also create an 'Instagram moment' that everyone loves.
A winter drinks menu
One appealing way to keep icy fingers cold is to wrap them around a warm beverage.
Introduce a warm winter cocktail menu, including staples like mulled wine and cider, Bailey's Irish coffee, as well as twists on the classics – like a warm White Russian and a winter whiskey sour.
Looking for a reliable card machine without being tethered to your till? Need a speedy connection on your roof-terrace, beer garden or new outdoor igloos so that you can serve customers from the comfort of their yurt? Check out the Dojo one and take advantage of sleek card machines with no long-term contracts.