Refitting your restaurant for outdoor dining: Takes from Amit Raizada

In many of America's largest and most gastronomically diverse cities, the last seven months have ushered in a fundamental--and possibly permanent--change to the restaurant industry. With COVID-19 cases still prevalent across the country, indoor establishments like hair salons, gyms, and restaurants have increasingly moved their services outdoors, creating new challenges possibilities for savvy purveyors.

Restaurants of all shapes and sizes--from Michelin Star winners to strip-mall chains--have been forced to abruptly adapt to this new regulatory structure. Atmospheres, auras, and carefully crafted reputations have been, at least partially, reset--giving newer restaurant ventures have an opportunity to retool their models and compete with well-established firms.

To gain some more insight into how you can recalibrate your restaurant to make the best of this new reality, we sat down with Amit Raizada, who has written extensively about the elements and attributes that help contribute to a successful restaurant. A seasoned venture capitalist and entrepreneur, and CEO of Spectrum Business Ventures, Raizada delved into the key attributes during his disasters and donors, a 3 part piece that he believes COVID-era restaurants should embody.

"In the past, energy, atmosphere, cleanliness and lighting are some of the traits I've ascribed to innovative and ultimately lucrative restaurants," Raizada said. While the restaurant industry looks significantly different from when I penned those pieces back in February and March, the same principles still apply. In this rapidly-evolving market, subject to abrupt regulatory changes, aspiring restaurateurs should think about how they can incorporate these elements into their establishment. These will help fully leverage the opportunity posed by the shift to outdoor dining."

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Asked seemingly overnight to fundamentally recalibrate their dining experiences, restaurants across the country have sought to use any and all outdoor space on their properties to continue to safely accommodate customers.

"In some cases, this effort can contribute to an innovative and wholly novel atmosphere," Raizada said. "In New York and Los Angeles, for example, municipal officials have sealed some streets off to traffic in their entirety, allowing restaurants to move tables and set-ups into the street directly outside their establishments."

A restaurant's success is a function of its atmosphere, Raizada said. If your restaurant is located in a trendy spot, the move outdoors may even help create a new, even more appealing atmosphere.

Whether on Broadway in Manhattan or Melrose in L.A., outdoor dining in fashionable locations is--quite simply put--trendy," Raizada said. "The unique sensation of atmosphere draws heavily on emerging market trends and the increasingly prominent economy of experience. It helps turn your restaurant into a trend--a place not just to grab a bite to eat, but also to participate in something exciting."

But not all establishments have been so lucky, Raizada said. Most restaurants are not located along world-famous thoroughfares. So how should owners and investors work to maximize the benefits posted by this shift?

"The same principles still apply," said Raizada. "Consider, for example, taking steps to make the outdoors space to which you have access as desirable as possible. It is relatively easy, for example, to create a space that feels as if patrons are eating in a garden. Purchase some potted plants and string some lights to create a quaint outdoor space."

Ensure, too, Raizada counseled, that your restaurant continues to exude an air of enthusiasm and energy. In these difficult times, such a task can be far easier said than done. But customers, Raizada said, ultimately respond to the energy that your establishment creates.

Raizada also encouraged restauranteurs to evaluate their menus.

"This does not inherently concern the shift to outdoor dining, but it emerges another changing market trend accelerated by COVID," Raizada said. "Many Americans, in a bid to cure quarantine induced boredom, have taken up different forms of exercise to assuage COVID anxiety and harness their free time to get in shape. I predict healthy cuisine--which I've long argued reigns supreme among younger generations--will become increasingly popular. Now is a better time than ever to retool your menu to meet this new demand.

"As CEO and Founder of Spectrum Business Ventures, I've always seen a staunch proponent of reading emerging market trends to gain footholds in the markets of the future. For aspiring investors interested in the restaurant industry, now's your chance."


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