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How restaurants with outdoor areas weather storms

How restaurants with outdoor areas weather storms

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In the September issue, editor Michael Sanson wrote about a scenario where he was on a restaurant patio when it rained and everyone outside had to run inside for cover. All is well, he said, when there are seats inside to accommodate outside guests. But what do you do when there is not enough inside seating to handle outdoor guests? He asked how others handle the situation. Here are excerpts from letters we received on the subject.

Wishing has not been a proven strategy for us at The Gilmore Collection in West Michigan.  All of our 20-plus entities have patios and are at the mercy of the ever-changing Michigan weather so over the years we have enclosed a portion of the patios with structures or awnings that we can use year-round with ease while still leaving open air space adjacent to the enclosures for when the weather permits.  This has created increased revenues and happier guests who have more choices.  Of course, if we do get rained out and have an unhappy guest left standing with a plate in hand, we will take care of them on the spot and make them happy, although most guests fully understand the issue at hand.

Gregory Gilmore
The Gilmore Collection
Grand Rapids, MI  

I run a restaurant on Hilton Head Island that is right on the ocean and has 75 percent of our seats outside. Needless to say staying aware of weather conditions is always a top priority. Here are some of the things we do to keep poor weather from ruining a guests’ experience.

Download a weather app on your smart phone and pay attention to the severity and movement of rainfall.

If rain is evident, we quit seating outside 45 minutes prior to the arrival of the storm.

If we are unsure, and it appears it might miss us, we wait as long as possible to close the patio.

We never take reservations for outside tables. There may be nowhere to reseat them.

We have umbrellas for most tables that will keep guests dry with light rain. But we intentionally have a few tables that don’t have them and can easily be moved underneath an awning.

We become proactive for our seated guests. Weather can change rapidly and we will ask the customer if they would prefer to move under cover. They almost always do.

When tables do move, we alert the server, kitchen and food runners of the new table number where they are seated.

We have a Grab n Go concept for lunch only. At dinner, we can take an outside section and move it under cover.

When it rains, we don’t give up! I have seen a rainy shift lose thousands in sales. I’ve also seen zero loss when we are proactive and always looking for creative ways to beat Mother Nature. Guests really take notice when we create a great experience despite poor weather.

Kurt Oswald
Sea Pines Resort Beach Club
Hilton Head, SC

Working in a tiny bar in a national park with limited seating outside is always a challenge. When it appears it could rain and guests become insistent on sitting outdoors, I inform our hosts to keep tables open and ready seats inside for them in case they change their minds.

If it is already raining and guests insist they don’t mind the rain, I kindly inform them that their food and drinks will get wet, along with our staff. This is usually met with “Oh, I didn’t think of that.”

Veronica Alexander
Bar & Beverage Manager
The Ahwahnee Hotel
Yosemite National Park, CA

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