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Pavement poise

The benefits of les gens attablés aux terrasses des cafés

Even on a bitterly cold day in a European city it’s usual to see a steady stream of customers, stylishly wrapped-up against the elements, sipping a coffee at a pavement table, chatting with friends and watching the world go by.

Outside dining is something the Continentals have always been much better at that we Brits, but restauranteurs and café owners here shouldn’t ignore the potential of their outside space.

While it may be unrealistic to expect anyone to eat an alfresco three-course meal in Edinburgh in March, you should, given the right conditions, find that outside tables increase your coffee and drinks custom significantly, even when the sun isn’t breaking the clouds.

A successful outdoor space doesn’t have to cost the earth either: The Outdoor Dining Perspective Survey found that the expensive attractions of an outdoor bar, decorative fireplaces and landscaped gardens were much less important to people than overhead cover, good views and great people watching opportunities.

If you’re based in a town or city that’s much-frequented by visitors and your business is on the tourist trail, there’s even more of a reason to provide an attractive outside place to sit, as people are more likely to want to soak up the atmosphere when they’re on holiday.

And in those summer months, when a full-service restaurant with outside space really comes into its own, the rewards can be great: the same US research found that 43% of customers aged 25 to 34 said they spent more money on alcohol when they ate outside than they did when they ate inside.

So if your venue is designed to attract a younger demographic, you may even want to set up a temporary bar and barbeque area this summer to encourage lengthy, lingering meals where people stick around for another drink or a coffee or two.