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Alfresco Dining, The Season is Aproaching!

Wayne Phillips is a catering industry leader with 32 years’ product design experience and is currently managing director at catering supplies manufacturer, rexmartins – www.rexmartins.com

UK consumers are spending an increasing amount of time outdoors, with relaxation, dining and spending time with friends and family the most popular outdoor pastimes and this opens up a huge opportunity for hotels, restaurants and bars.

People are choosing to eat outside all year round, not just in the summer. The multitude of gazebo options now available puts a stop to any concerns regarding the British weather and with this, hospitality providers are creating longevity in their outdoor spaces, with longer-lasting, more robust outdoor cooking, lighting and heating equipment.

Cooking programmes on TV are a contributing factor, chefs including Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein and James Martin are increasingly showcasing how to cook and eat in the great outdoors and consumers are lapping up the trend, opening up an expanding revenue stream for premises with available outdoor space.

Size isn’t everything

If space is an issue, the convenience of the latest modular kitchen systems allows caterers to utilise equipment in a size and layout to suit them. Everything from state of the art BBQs, rotisseries, hobs, bottle coolers and sink units are available as separate units and as many come with optional casters it’s relatively easy to set up an impressive combination, from which staff can entertain guests as well as feed them.

Staff Motivation

Outdoor cooking can be a theatrical experience and giving chefs licence to be creative outdoors can bring job variety and be a workforce motivator. Assigning designated outdoor catering staff provides new skills and training opportunities.

Cost efficiency

In addition to aesthetics, equipment which is cost-effective to run is key. Cooking equipment using LPG (Liquid Propane Gas) is known to be more energy efficient than other fuels. LPG can heat a large outdoor BBQ to full temperature in just six minutes, which will significantly reduce fuel costs compared with traditional gas BBQs.

Another requirement is longevity. The units should be built to last, check the manufacturing quality and ideally look for 304 stainless steel equipment as this won’t rust, it’s long lasting and easy to clean. For added reassurance ensure all components come with at least a two-year warranty from the supplier, meaning you won’t need to deal with any potential after-sales issues.

Customer Service

Like buying a car, or any other big-ticket item, customer service is of the upmost importance, especially during the after sales period when the deal has been done. Hoteliers and restaurateurs can’t wait for trouble-shooting when they have customers to serve – any knowledge gaps need to be resolved instantly.

Research the aftersales element of any supplier you choose to do dealings with. Assess how easy it is to communicate with the factory or supplier. Are all channels of communication open? How easy is it to speak with someone? Is there enough information on their website? The website should also feature testimonials from customers, as these are a great barometer of customer satisfaction.

Staycations

At a time when every hospitality operator is analysing their business carefully, creating a new revenue stream such as letting “spaces” could be the path to greater profits. And this could be the letting of space to caravans and motorhomes.

The British love for staying in the UK for their holidays, so-called ‘staycations’, and for caravanning increased once again in 2017, according to data released by the National Caravan Council (the NCC) and VisitEngland, and is set to grow even more in 2018
The NCC published figures which showed the touring caravan industry made 13.7% more vans in the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. In addition, the number of motorhomes made increased by 11.3%.

Between January and April 2017, Brits took 14.4 million staycations, a record, up by 3% on last year.

VisitEngland said that British residents made 44.7 million holiday trips in the England in 2016, 2% up on 2015. Nearly a quarter of these holidays were taken in a caravan, motorhome or to go camping. About two thirds of these holidays (or 29.3 millions trips) were short breaks (holidays of between one and three nights).

So, do you have any outdoor space that can be converted for leisure facilities, that can help you tap into the £750m market for B&B lettings? Opening up land around your business to the camping, glamping and caravan market is not difficult and can provide endless opportunities to increase revenue, not only in “pitch fees”, but also potential breakfast lunch and dinner opportunities!

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