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Got a restaurant with a great rooftop? Lucky you!
Everyone loves a rooftop. It's an appealing feature for restaurant-goers looking for a fun outdoor dining experience. Plus, a rooftop is an ideal place to host private events, making it a magnet for more business revenue.
Marketing your restaurant’s rooftop dining is a smart way to charm new customers. But, before you boost your number of covers, you’ll want to make sure you and your staff are fully prepared to show guests a good – and safe – time.
We’ve put together a concrete guide for restaurants with rooftops that’ll help make your rooftop the hottest spot in town.
Setting up your rooftop restaurant
Consider How Guests Will Get Up To The Roof
Most restaurants with rooftops have a stairway leading to the top. This, however, may not be a feasible option for all of your guests – especially elderly patrons and those with disabilities.
That’s why guests must know ahead of time what the logistics are for accessing your rooftop. If there’s an elevator, make sure to let your guests know where and how to access it. You don’t want your patrons wandering around your space looking perplexed.
One way to do this efficiently is through your third-party reservation platform. Most likely, you can implement directions for guests on their reservation confirmation pop-up and email so that they can both find the restaurant and figure out how to get to the roof.
Bonus tip: Create tasteful, easy-to-read signs in your restaurant that direct guests to the rooftop. This is a good way to help guests get where they want to be and to market your rooftop seating to guests in your restaurant who may not know that rooftop dinner seating is available.
Plan For The Weather
It doesn’t take long for sunny skies to unexpectedly turn dark and grey.
While you can’t be sure how the day’s forecast will turn out, there are things you can do to prepare for inclement weather. These details can prevent guests from running indoors or seeking out another place to eat.
First, consider the season and time of year. Is this normally a rainy season for your area? If so, you’ll want to be cautious when accepting reservations or booking events on the rooftop.
Investing in reliable umbrellas or an awning is a must with rooftop seating. Not only will they come in handy when the forecast calls for rain, but they will also be a blessing on hot sunny days when guests want to stay outside but need a break from the sun’s rays.
Map Out The Floor Plan
Your rooftop can likely accommodate a range of party sizes.
If you’re planning on allowing guests to book your restaurant’s rooftop seating for private events, have a few ready-made floor plans mocked up that illustrate what an intimate, medium, and maxed-out gathering size would look like. This will give guests get a feel for what your venue can offer for their event.
When it comes to furniture, stick to outdoor or patio furniture, as it's more durable. It's also a good idea to stay away from using high-tops on a rooftop. That's a recipe for disaster.
700+ restaurant guests share how their expectations have changed during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Have a Backup Plan
Life is unpredictable, especially in a restaurant.
If unforeseen circumstances render your restaurant’s rooftop seating unavailable, it’s important to have a backup plan in place so you don’t lose out on business.
Seasoned event pros know that having multiple backup plans is key to ensuring an event goes off without a hitch, no matter what unexpected factors arise.
When using your rooftop seating for private functions, it’s always a good idea to have an indoor area you can transition guests to if the rooftop suddenly is no longer an option.
If you’re using your restaurant’s rooftop seating area for regular meal service, you’ll need to figure out an alternative area in the restaurant where guests can sit if the roof suddenly becomes unavailable mid-meal. Any reservations booked for the roof should be contacted by the manager on duty, who can encourage the guest to switch their reservation to another night and offer a discount or special promotion for the inconvenience.
The precise accommodations for guests are up to you as a restauranteur. As long as you have a rooftop backup plan that ensures guests will be able to stay and enjoy themselves at your restaurant, rather than having to find somewhere else to eat, you can prevent losing business for your rooftop.
Mind the Menu
Unless you have a sizable kitchen area on your rooftop, there will likely be tons of back and forth happening with your restaurant staff running food and drinks up to the roof.
A lot of back and forth = a lot of opportunities for spills, falls, collisions, and other undesirable situations.
If you have a bar on your rooftop, make sure the bartender has all the mixers, liquors, wines, ice, cups, and accoutrements ahead of time so a mad dash – and an unattended bar – won’t be necessary.
Before opening your rooftop space to guests or events, double-check to see what is and isn’t covered by your insurance policy. Reach out to your insurance rep to make sure you have a clear understanding of how your business is protected in case something happens.
In many cities, zoning and licensing laws will restrict a restaurant's ability to entertain guests on the roof. You'll likely need to get approved for an exemption from zoning laws and apply for special permits to be able to operate your restaurant on your roof.
If you'd like to expand your restaurant to include rooftop seating, loop your restaurant's legal counsel in on the idea as soon as you begin considering the option. They will be your best bet in navigating the complicated processes and language used in zoning laws, licenses, and permits.
And, if you’re worried about guests' behavior on your rooftop, post signs that outline how your restaurant is legally not responsible for the consequences of reckless behavior.
Don’t forget to always relay the specifics of your restaurant’s insurance to event organizers as well. If some degree of responsibility will legally fall on the party, you can recommend they obtain one-time event insurance through their own insurance company.
Don’t Let The Wind Sweep Away Your Fun
A gust of wind could be disastrous to the guest experience on your restaurant’s rooftop.
From knocking over a drink or sending napkins flying to pushing a backdrop or piece of decor over the edge of your building, you want to avoid windswept missteps at all costs.
Combatting the wind comes down to the details. We recommend anchoring down any flimsy items, including seat cushions, with heavy-duty tape or string. Also, consider swapping paper napkins for thicker cloth ones if you can. Some restaurants with rooftop seating even anchor down their tables and chairs so the wind doesn't knock them over.
If you’re not able to do this, keep all napkins at the bar or buffet table under a heavy-bottomed cocktail glass. This will allow guests to use easily windswept items at their discretion.
Beef Up The Security
Depending on your rooftop layout and capacity, you may want to have an onsite security guard present to make sure everything runs smoothly. This will make your staff and your guests feel much safer.
Another strategic tip is to offer those who book your rooftop for private functions the ability to pay for additional security guards to be present at their event. This is an especially good idea for rooftops with low side railings, or for a celebratory evening event that will be serving liquor — better safe than sorry!
Consider Using Order & Pay at the Table Technology
Contactless pay at the table options are becoming increasingly popular among restaurants of all types, from fast-casual to fine dining, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pay-at-the-table systems are your staff’s best friends. They minimize the trips back and forth to the POS terminal, which in turn decreases the time it takes to close the sale. And, for a rooftop restaurant—where the kitchen (and sometimes bar) can be far away from guests—having a system that saves servers time is especially important. Plus, pay-at-the-table technology reduces your labor cost, too. Without worrying about processing payments or receipts, your staff can focus on connecting with guests, promoting upsells, and assisting with choosing rooftop menu items.
How to Ensure Your Restaurant Rooftop Seating Increases Revenue
Here’s how to market your rooftop restaurant to bring in the summer crowds.
Create an Insta-worthy Setting
Does your rooftop space sport a stellar skyline or sunset view? If so, don’t let it go to waste.
Providing guests with great social media content is an easy and free way to market your business. Just one single photo from a guest can expose your restaurant to numerous new patrons. That is if the photo is alluring and “Instagrammable.”
How do you do this? Simple - designate a section of the roof as the “photo-op” area. Make sure it's attractive and stands out. If you have a great view, then the less work you got to do! Guests can take pictures for their social media accounts with the beautiful scenery in the background. In chalk, write your restaurant’s social media handle on the ground or the wall so guests know who to tag in their posts.
Electric Feelgood, a Houston-based rooftop bar and restaurant, creates easy Instagram-worthy moments with their bright, multicolored neon sign and pink chairs.
Cantina Rooftop’s bright umbrellas not only provide much-needed shade on sweltering summer days, but also adds a colorful touch to the space, making it a no-brainer for beautiful Instagram photos.
Decorate & Design
The sky’s the limit when it comes to getting creative with decorating and designing your restaurant’s rooftop. When designing and decorating your rooftop restaurant, think about the ambiance you want to go for. You can do this with various light fixtures, stylish bar stools, and chairs, interesting restaurant tables, eye-catching murals, or rooftop gardens. Any combination of these elements can all add a fresh, welcoming touch to your rooftop restaurant.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, either — Make Believe’s plush, semicircular pink couches and retro vibe make the space interesting, yet inviting.
Delight Guests With Entertainment
Consider adding entertainment to enhance your guests’ experience. Depending on the mood and ambiance you’re aiming for, a live band, DJ, or even a well-curated playlist can add more flair to your rooftop.
Incorporating entertainment can also be a great way to transition your space throughout the evening. Music alone can set the tone from happy hour to dinner service to even a late-night dance club.
If you’d like to play music on your restaurant’s rooftop, make sure all speakers and equipment are properly secured to protect against the wind and the elements. Above all, be sure you’re compliant with any noise ordinances your city has, to avoid having to pay any fines or penalties.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn uses their live DJ sets and performances to encourage reservations, and uses this time as an opportunity to fundraise for causes dear to the restaurant.
Host a Summer Party
A rooftop lounge is a perfect place to host summer parties and events. Whether you’re offering intimate rooftop dinners for a small ticketed crowd or a mega dance party, themed events are a great way to fill tables and increase sales on warm days and nights.
Here are a few ideas for summer events on your rooftop:
Sell tickets for a prix fixe dinner with a local chef
Host a rooftop event with a DJ, special cocktails, and light appetizers
Theme your parties around the summer holidays
Bring in live music, host a karaoke night or an open mic night
Raise The Roof
When warm weather approaches, rooftop restaurants are an incredible source of revenue. To ensure this, you have to always keep your guests and staff's needs in mind, while also preparing for any unforeseen events. Use these reminders as a checklist to prepare for rooftop season, guaranteeing that your summer is surely a success. We know that with these tips, your rooftop can easily be the hottest spot in town.