Rose & Crown, Egham

Written by: Sarah Milward
Date added: Mon, 22/05/2017 - 13:11

Summer Trading – How to make more from your outside space

For some pubs, Summer means doubling your retail space, yet everybody seems so badly prepared for this dramatic change to their offer. Clive Price from Barons Pubs runs seven businesses in the Surrey area and thinks we need to treat our outside space more seriously.

PLAN YOUR SPACE EFFECTIVELY

Summer space is all about creating a welcoming environment, just like inside your pub. You have to do more than put up a couple of umbrellas in the hope that people will choose to eat outside. Do it better than other pubs and set up spaces that beat the competition so people want to use your space.

Put some planning into your garden and patio area. We work with design companies and invest money into the outside so we know it will work. They will come up with ideas you have never thought of and can make a big difference to how the area works. But you should always try to take a commercial view too. At the Rose & Crown, some suggestions were not so practical for us – we have a large garden and placing things away from the pub would have meant service was too slow.

Just like you would do inside, offer a variety of choices where to sit. Some people will be happy at small patio tables, but others will have larger groups so you need to make it easy to pick a space. We have used railway sleepers to build low height barriers between groups of tables. They give customers a sense of their own space but if you get the height right, they don’t feel obtrusive. Planting on and around these helps to soften the lines and make them feel fresher.

Most of our seating is on paved areas, when the weather has been wet, people don’t want to ruin their shoes on damp grass and you’ll soon find that grass looks worn if it is under tables.

It goes without saying you should make sure everything is tidy and well-looked after. Keep the lawn trimmed and ensure any plants are looking healthy. Just as you would inside your pub, do some pre-session checks to make sure the garden is set up properly and that you are ready to trade. Small details like cushions on seats can really show that you are taking the space seriously.

INSTALL THE RIGHT FACILITIES

We have a purpose-built outside bar, it’s connected to the main building so our team can easily access the serving area, which means I can monitor staffing levels across the whole business and deploy people in the right place. The till system connects too, so food orders are passed on to the kitchen. We’ve found an outside bar is great for customers – especially those with small children, as adults can order without ever losing site of their family.

When a bar is outside, people seem much more keen to form an orderly queue to be served. Customers watch the queue and decide when it would be good to jump up and order, so we give the impression of serving them quickly. We have a play area for children that’s in full view of the bar and many of the tables, but it has been placed so people who want to keep away from the hubbub can choose quieter spaces.

Our outside offer is growing – we are just about to commission a purpose built pizza oven and servery – all built into a shipping container! As a temporary structure, it won’t need planning permission and working with a design company, we have managed to create a solution that has come in at under £40,000 but will provider an amazing experience that customers will enjoy and recommend to others in the area.

EXTEND USABLE HOURS

One of the highlights of our outside space is bookable sheds. They offer a sheltered space for a group of customers eating and drinking together and they have their own heaters too so they often get used in the evenings.

Customers appreciate the exclusivity and privacy and for something that’s really simple, they have been an amazing hit. Word has got around about how good they are – Russell Crowe has even used one, and nobody knew he was here!

HAVE A SERVICE PLAN

I often joke that the standard of service stops the minute you take three steps away from the building. I’m not sure why so many pubs don’t plan properly.

We devise an outside menu, it’s a slimmed down version of the main menu with dishes that are easy and quick to make. Outside service can take a little longer so we don’t want customers having to wait.

Just like inside the business, your outside area needs to be divided so every team member knows who they are responsible for.

A missing fork will mean a long trek for customers, so checkback is even more vital. Dining outside is a much more relaxed experience so checkbacks will drive higher sales if you put some effort into it – but if you ignore people they’ll buy less!

Our card reader works outside too, little things like that ensure customers come back again.

OUR EXPERT, CLIVE PRICE

The Rose & Crown is one of seven businesses run by Barons Pubs and is based in Thorpe near Thorpe Park in Surrey. Clive grew up in the local area and it wasn’t long before he found himself working at Thorpe Park catering for thousands of covers every day with mass-market dining on the ground floor and a more premium restaurant upstairs.

He studied Hospitality in Oxford and set up a restaurant business, but soon realised that nowadays a successful business needs to make the most of every retail opportunity and that a restaurant on its own had inherent limitations. A pub is the perfect solution as it can provide much more.

His pubs are all located in quiet, affluent areas of Surrey and Berkshire and close to major motorways and attractions.