Experts share tips on how restaurant owners can maximize their return on patio furniture investments.

Sponsored by TUUCI.

Outdoor umbrellas, tables, and other furniture can be powerful assets for restaurants when it comes to branding and guest experience. Not only do these items add curb appeal and set the tone for the building, but they can actually attract consumers, too.

“Outdoor furniture sets up expectations for the quality of a restaurant from the exterior,” says Lindsay Kissel, vice president of sales for national chain restaurants, Theme Parks and Marine Division at TUUCI. “It creates increased draw for customers who are driving by and may think to themselves that the restaurant they passed seems like a nice place they want to visit.”

Yet, while outdoor furniture offers tremendous benefits to restaurants, it isn’t often considered in the initial planning phases of opening or renovating a restaurant, meaning that owners make last-minute purchases without researching solutions. Though they may find patio furniture at a box store around the corner, Kissel warns that this furniture isn’t commercial grade. Using furniture—particularly umbrellas—that isn’t designed for the restaurant environment means it isn’t likely to be durable enough to withstand repeated guest use and weather concerns.

“If an umbrella isn’t designed for the restaurant environment, it will likely fail quickly,” Kissel says. “Then operators have to go back and buy a replacement two to four months later. Ultimately outdoor furniture is an asset, and if you have to replace it frequently, you drive up the cost of the asset.”

Broken umbrellas also drain restaurant productivity, since managers must go to the store for replacements. Additionally, when furniture is broken, it is a significant liability. It sets the wrong tone for a restaurant, can be a safety concern, and disappoints guests.

Upgrading to commercial-grade umbrellas ensures products last longer than a season, like those made for residential use. But it’s also important to note that quality still varies greatly between manufacturers. That’s why it’s important for restaurant leaders to do their research and find durable umbrellas that last. While these products do often require more of an upfront investment, because they last for more than one season, they can generate big savings in the long run.

“Investing in a high-quality product that can stand up to the harsh restaurant environment for a number of years and even be repaired right there on site reduces the overall cost of ownership of outdoor furniture,” Kissel says.

To make sure restaurants get the best bang for their buck on an umbrella, Kissel says there are a few features restaurant leaders can look out for.  First, durability is important, but even the toughest umbrella may break if something hits an arm. This means the ability to repair an umbrella in the field is crucial—that way if something breaks, downtime and expenses are minimal.

“TUUCI umbrellas, for example, are designed to last for a minimum of three years,” Kissel says. “But it’s not uncommon to find restaurant clients who have had their umbrellas out in the field for 10 years because they are modular and can be easily repaired. We have replacement parts that can be shipped out quickly to clients, and repairs are often as easy as replacing two screws. Anyone can do it.”

A strong warranty is another key feature that gives restaurant owners peace of mind while signaling the quality of the product.

“Warranties are a testament to the manufacturer’s commitment to its products and the quality of construction,” Kissel says. “If an umbrella comes with a long warranty that covers a lot of items, it’s going to also let the restaurant owner know the umbrella can be repaired for a low cost to extend the life of the product and improve the restaurant’s return on investment.”

By Peggy Carouthers

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