Spring & the hopeful return of eating outside

Spring has arrived, and with it comes longer days and warmer weather as the world begins teeming with new life. There is no mistaking the joy that comes with the new season as we say goodbye to the cold winter months - people want more than ever to make the most of being outside in the sunshine and we Brits are known to brace the chill in the air for an hour in the sun! Pub gardens will fill each sunny evening, eager for a post-work pint and creating a celebratory atmosphere.

Eating out in the U.K.

This year, U.K. restaurants and cafes will once again want to take advantage of the government’s relaxed pavement licenses, meaning it won’t only be pub gardens bursting with life. These relaxed laws were first introduced as an effort to aid the recovery of pubs, bars and restaurants hit by the pandemic, and the effort was an enormous success. Outdoor eating proved to be a lifesaver for many in the hospitality sector as it meant they could continue to serve whilst meeting COVID regulations. What was a surprise, though, was how much we Brits enjoyed eating outside - in a time when we couldn’t travel, it was the closest we could get to feeling as though we were on vacation. Who would have thought that the best part of eat out to help out was eating outside?    

Part of the excitement came from seeing how businesses met the challenge of creating COVID-safe outdoor eating spaces. From tents to pods and yurts, all fitted with heating, lighting and ventilation - these creations revealed the genius and perseverance of those working in U.K. hospitality.

With the new laws extended until September, Alfresco dining - or, eating outside - is set to become more popular than ever. Businesses who’ve taken the opportunity to begin catering outside will undoubtedly profit from the extra space available, meaning extra tables, extra customers - and of course, the peaking interest when eating outside in the U.K. is still considered a novelty. Who knew how easy it would be to bring in new customers with a few tables and chairs? Because it really is that easy.

Businesses don’t need to invest in expensive, luxury furniture. We only need to look at the success of eating outside in Europe to know this. If the weather is sunny, the food and drink are good, most customers won’t take a second look at the tables and chairs. Portability is a must, given the unreliable British weather, but this is yet another reason to embrace the average folding chair over luxury seating. Embrace the change today, and make the most of the opportunity.  

European Cafe Culture

The British high street might soon resemble our European neighbours. Think the plazas of Madrid and Barcelona, the piazzas of Venice and Rome - pedestrianised squares packed full of people eating in the open air. Whilst eating outside is a new venture for many British businesses in the hospitality industry, Alfresco dining has been a staple of European cafe culture for decades. Those of us lucky enough to holiday in European cities will fondly remember the time spent eating outside. It is a festival-like experience that Brits might only experience in beer gardens - or once a decade on the Queen’s jubilee.

Prior to the government relaxing pavement licences it would have been rare to find a restaurant with relaxed outdoor dining. If we can find one positive to take from the pandemic, it is that the U.K. will now get to share in this European style of eating outside and the benefits that come with it - financially, and communally. This year, people will be looking for places to eat outside more than ever. Why not set up a social media post or a colourful sandwich board advertising your outside eating facilities?    

European models show us that cafe culture thrives off of eating outside. In fact, some cafes and restaurants in large European cities have minimal indoor seating and profit entirely off of alfresco dining. But food is generally far more integrated into European culture than British. Italy and France are famed for their afternoon-long meal times, and in Spain and France, part of a salary is paid in restaurant coupons. You can feel the love people have for dining if you visit these plazas; we have brought so much European food over to the U.K., so why not embrace more of the culture that comes with it?

Making outside eating in the U.K. permanent

Many in the hospitality sector have already realised the potential of eating outside, there is a petition calling for permanent pavement licences to help hospitality recover from the pandemic. The scheme was instrumental in helping businesses during COVID, but many businesses are still struggling. As UKhospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls says, via The Caterer, ‘This has the potential to be a hugely beneficial, low-cost, low admin scheme, and a welcome boost for an industry facing rising costs across the board, including VAT, business rates, rents, staffing and raw goods.’ Last year's success has shown that despite the U.K. famously bad weather, we can - and have - been successful in implementing outdoor eating.

We Brits can sometimes be averse to change, but at Brigad we know just how adaptable both workers and businesses in the hospitality industry are. Let’s learn a little from our European neighbours and embrace eating outside in the U.K. Even if outdoor eating is only a few extra tables outside, these extra customers might make a vital difference. If you temporarily open a new outdoor section of your restaurant, you can find qualified temporary staff looking for temporary jobs with Brigad.