Restaurant Patio Dining: 4 Tips to Maximize Sales Using Your POS

By Katherine Pendrill

Person dining on a restaurant patio and using their phone to pay for their meal.

What’s better than sipping craft beer on a Saturday afternoon? Sipping it outdoors on a patio in the sun, obviously! People have always loved patio season, but in the wake of the pandemic, the rising popularity of outdoor activities means offering restaurant patio dining is an especially savvy business move.

Setting up a patio is a great way to boost customer loyalty by giving your guests a new favorite place to hang out. In turn, it’s an excellent strategy to increase sales. And if you’re able to winterize the space, it can even bump up your revenue year-round.

In this guide to restaurant patio dining, we’ll explore the advantages of offering outdoor dining at your venue. We’ll also dive into 4 ways to use your POS to maximize patio sales. Grab your sunglasses because your restaurant’s future is bright!

Group of friends enjoying Mexican food on a restaurant patio.

Benefits of Offering Restaurant Patio Dining

Restaurants with patio dining have a few advantages over their indoor-dining-only counterparts. What’s the hype all about? Let’s find out.

Expand Your Seating Capacity

When it comes to your restaurant’s atmosphere, there’s a fine line between a lively place to be and a crowded place where no one wants to be. Offering restaurant outdoor seating in addition to your dining room enables you to increase your capacity and give your guests a spacious, comfortable dining experience. This is especially important for diners who are still nervous about the public health risks of crowded environments.

Expanding your seating capacity by offering outdoor dining on a winterized patio (think a covered patio with heaters and blankets) also lets you take advantage of the extra space year-round. 82% of diners want to see outdoor seating options continue to grow, so it’s worth your while to take this approach, too.

In addition, more seating will allow you to cut down on wait times. No one likes to wait for a table when they’re hungry, so implementing this change will keep wait times to a minimum and make for happy guests!

Increase Revenue and Profit

It’s no secret that budgets are tight in the restaurant industry, and rising food costs are causing an additional crunch. Restaurants with patio dining can leverage the extra space and foot traffic to boost both their revenues and profits. 

“Almost 50 percent of every incremental dollar that you sell on a patio goes toward your bottom line,” David Hopkins, President of The Fifteen Group, told MENU Magazine in a 2021 interview. “If you’ve got an 80-seat patio and you can turn 40 more people per day just because you’re efficient, that will probably amount to about $100,000 to $120,000 more profit over the course of the summer.”

Most restaurateurs would be happy with extra cash to the tune of six figures in the bank. It makes sense, then, that around 26,000 U.S. restaurants offered outdoor dining, according to Yelp, in 2022, compared to fewer than 8,000 businesses in February 2020. Furthermore, more than 9 in 10 operators who set up outdoor dining plan to continue doing so in 2023.

Enhance the Guest Experience

Dining al fresco amidst beautiful restaurant patio design (think lush greenery and twinkle lights) offers a completely different experience than indoor dining can provide. The fresh air, natural light, and ambient streetscape sounds create an atmosphere where your guests can become fully immersed in the moment. With the rising trend in patio dining, it’s no surprise that searches for outdoor seating were up 1,060% in Q1 2022 when compared to Q1 2020.

Restaurant outdoor seating can also generate a sense of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) among people walking by who can see the action and want to get in on the fun. Passersby seeing and smelling plates of delicious food doesn’t hurt your chances for walk-ins, either!

People dining on a busy restaurant patio.

4 Ways to Use Your POS to Maximize Patio Sales

We’ve now walked through the top perks of outdoor dining during patio season and beyond. You don’t want to leave your patio sales up to chance, though. It’s time to get strategic and tap into the power of technology to increase the revenue your patio generates.

1. Streamline Indoor and Outdoor Operations

Offering restaurant patio dining alongside your indoor seating requires a higher level of organization than having just one dining area. So, take advantage of your POS’ mobile capabilities to streamline operations. 

With an outdoor POS, servers can input orders right at the table. Leveraging restaurant tableside ordering in this way means your staff won’t need to spend time moving from the patio to inside the restaurant just to send an order to the kitchen – ultimately saving several minutes on each order.

Having an outdoor POS also reduces the risk of order errors. When servers can input orders right on the patio with guests, they won’t have to worry about forgetting details like modifications. That table of 15 guests who all want extra sides with their meals? Piece of cake!

In addition, increased service speed means you can turn tables faster, getting more customers on the patio during each service and boosting your sales.

2. Simplify Patio Staff Management

Running a restaurant patio means you’ll likely need extra seasonal staff for a few months. As summer approaches every year, your POS can make patio reopening less of a headache.

Instead of relying on paper time cards to keep track of your employees’ hours, staff can clock in and out in a few taps with your POS. And with Cloud reporting, managers can track employee performance from anywhere. This is an especially valuable feature if you have seasonal staff who don’t have as much experience as your regular servers because managers can keep track of their sales and provide feedback in real-time.

You can even use POS data to gauge how busy your restaurant will be during specific days and times of the week. This will help you staff accordingly, so you have enough employees in the front and back of house to make sure service doesn’t suffer, but not so many that your labor costs go up. There’s no point in having six servers rolling cutlery on a Tuesday afternoon if you can anticipate that your patio will be slow and run with a leaner crew until dinnertime.

3. Take Advantage of Modifier Prompts and Upselling Tools

Every savvy restaurateur knows that making upselling a standard part of the ordering process is an excellent way to grow your revenue. The only problem? Relying on memory alone means busy servers with long to-do lists can sometimes forget to upsell. This is where technology can step in to save the day.

Your POS has menu management features you can adjust to promote upselling. For example, you can set up pop-up upselling prompts that will remind your servers to promote different modifiers, ultimately increasing average check size. You can also use color-coded menus remind staff to highlight promotions or upsell specific items that perform well with patio diners (think summer drink specials like white wine sangria). Adding high-quality images to your menu can also help servers upsell tableside by showing guests how delicious your food looks.

In addition, detailed menu descriptions help servers answer diners’ questions and make tailored recommendations or accommodations on the fly. This feature is incredibly useful on any busy patio, but also a great resource for seasonal staff who may not be as familiar with the menu yet. Nothing ruins the vibe at a table like guests having to wait 15 minutes for a server to run and ask the kitchen whether a modification can be made to a menu item.

4. Use POS Data to Make Key Business Decisions

You may have chosen to open a restaurant because of your passion for food, but you also need to know your numbers if you want to run a profitable venue. This is why having a POS that can provide you with data is critical.

Using POS data can help you create more efficient floor plans so you can make better use of your outdoor space and increase the return on investment your patio generates. For example, you might find that large groups prefer your patio space. With your table management system, add and remove tables, walls, and sections on the fly so you can quickly accommodate bigger parties. You can even integrate your POS and reservations system to give loyal guests the VIP treatment by assigning them to the best seats available – whether that’s inside your venue or out.

Data does more than allow you to set up a smart floor plan and impress your regulars, though. It can also help you identify your top-selling seasonal items and adjust the menu accordingly. Analyzing sales trends lets you optimize your menu and service by offering the right promotions at the right time (think “Wing Wednesdays”) to provide the best guest experience possible.

Finally, you can use historical patio sales data to generate an exclusive menu with specials that specifically attract customers to your outdoor seating area. If those half-price margaritas were a hit last year, why not bring them back? Not to mention, this historical data can also help you predict just how busy your patio might be at different times of the day so you can staff accordingly and keep labor costs to a minimum.

We’ve now covered how offering outdoor dining can help your restaurant expand seating capacity, increase revenue and profit, and enhance the guest experience. You also have ideas for four ways you can boost sales using your POS, including streamlining operations, improving staff management, leveraging upselling, and using data to make better business decisions. Here’s to your best patio season yet!

Photo of Katherine Pendrill
by Katherine Pendrill

Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.

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