How nice is it to sit on a restaurant patio? If you’re among the millions of people who endured one of the worst winters ever, it’s pretty damn nice. So nice, in fact, that it’s often easier to score tickets to a hot theater production or a sporting event than it is to get a seat on a beautiful restaurant patio for lunch, dinner or simply drinks. And how great is it for you and your accountant, restaurant operator extraordinaire? Extra seats mean extra profits. But here’s where it gets tricky.
What do you do when it rains?
I was recently on a restaurant patio under overcast skies for lunch. Weather forecasters predicted rain much later in the day. They were wrong. Go figure. Before our food arrived at the table, the rain came down and we fled inside. Luckily, there were seats available to accommodate us. I’ve been in situations before when the same thing happened, but the restaurant was full and there were no empty seats. The host then warned us that we would be dining on the patio at our own risk with little chance of moving inside. It was a gamble we lost. I don’t remember what happened after that. I imagine the meals we ordered were packed to go.
I do remember being a good sport about it. We took a chance and lost. But I’m sure not everyone takes it so well and blames the restaurant. And what happens when the meals you ordered and were packed to go were not designed to be eaten later? Then you potentially have customers blaming you for providing them with less than top-notch food.
I don’t think anyone can assign blame in these cases, but you still need to protect your reputation and not send customers out in the world who may express their anger to friends or even on Yelp. So I’m just curious: How do you handle outdoor guests when the weather does not cooperate? It may be a no-win situation, but I’d appreciate you sharing any smart strategies you may have. Your fellow operators will appreciate the courtesy.
Say ‘hello’ to Gina! Restaurant Hospitality has a new editor, kinda. Joining the ranks of RH editors is Gina LaVecchia Ragone, a great Irish girl (or maybe she’s Italian) who worked for RH from 1997 to 2003 and then left to raise a family. Now that sons Nick (13) and Alex (10) are older, Gina has come back to work with a renewed sense of vigor. She has been freelancing over the years for RH, but now she’s back in the office covering full-service restaurants. “The restaurant industry has changed quite a bit in the last dozen years,” says Gina. Indeed they have, G! Welcome back.