Business booster

Take Me Out: Outdoor furniture guide

By Sheila McWattie

- Last updated on GMT

Take Me Out: Outdoor furniture guide
Five publicans describe the business benefits of transforming their outdoor areas. Sheila McWattie reports.

Adding value

Combining creativity with eye-catching furnishings at Urban Art Bars’ the Lord Clifden and the Red Lion, in Birmingham

The Lord Clifden, Urban Art Bars

Graham Smith, owner of Birmingham’s Urban Art Bars (UAB) — the Lord Clifden, voted Great British Community Pub of the Year regional finalist 2014, and the Red Lion, both close to Birmingham’s busy Jewellery Quarter — has added value and trade to his pubs with innovative touches.

Specialising in good-quality music and offering art for sale, Smith encourages cosy indoor drinking and dining alongside a relaxed outdoor atmosphere.

Up to 250 smokers and non-smokers congregate around large screens that show live games — six at the Lord Clifden and two at the Red Lion — as well as enjoying music provided by popular DJs, and feasting on themed barbecues.

Applying multiple skills across these diverse environments, Smith and his hard-working team ensure that the strong sense of community engendered by UAB’s outdoor design pays off in terms of footfall, loyalty and satisfaction.

“These days, it isn’t enough to say you cater for everyone,” says Smith. “Customers are becoming more discriminating about price and quality. They want to enjoy drinking and eating, wherever they are in your pub — so your choices of outdoor furnishing designs are crucial if you want guests to stay loyal. Careful refurb decisions have boosted our turnover by 20%.

“In our sheltered area, we chose to go with tall, standing tables, built on-site by our facilities manager Tony Thornton. Customers welcome having more space to chat or watch sport. Our bar stools cost £100 to £150 from Palace Furniture in Stourbridge, a company we’ve always used because it provides great choices from antique pieces requiring some TLC to brand-new items.

“And we use a local company, Pads2Pubs, for all our upholstery needs. Re-upholstery costs £30 to £75. It’s great to be part of a friendly community. Pads2Pubs owner Mark Lamb has used the Lord Clifden for years. We’re already looking at making changes and additions by this summer, to keep UAB fresh and to boost turnover further.”

A yard of gin

Heated outside area boosts trade at Laine Pub Co’s the Four Thieves, Battersea, south-west London

The Four Thieves, Clapham Junction

At Laine Pub Company’s recently refurbished Four Thieves, in Battersea, south-west London, an outdoor heated gin yard has drawn in crowds since the pub opened in late September 2014, bringing the Brighton-based company’s London sites to eight.

CEO Gavin George says: “The Four Thieves’ garden space is perfect for autumnal evenings, bringing the inside outdoors, with heated and covered areas and soft furnishings — and it will attract lots of sun in summer. We partnered with Tanqueray to create the Gin Yard, which has become an extremely popular Battersea nightspot, leading to great exposure for the Tanqueray brand. With a capacity of 98, it’s so popular that we have to keep some capacity back in the pub to cope with the outdoor space closing.

“Outdoor spaces like this are at a real premium in this part of London, and we considered it so important that we removed part of the building to make the yard bigger — something that’s really paid off, even in winter, thanks to its stretch cover tent from Intent productions and branded blankets provided by Tanqueray.

"All furniture was sourced second-hand by our estates director Pete Bennett because our customers love the vintage look.

“On the roof of our Gin Yard, we’re growing lavender, which smells amazing — we’re planning to harvest it for our house gin.”

On top of the world

Revitalised terraces at the Prince of Wales, Brixton, south-west London


"Close to Brixton tube and the Ritzy cinema, the Prince of Wales is one of the capital’s few big multi-purpose venues with a substantial outdoor roof terrace,” says director Wayne Saunders, whose company, The Lambeth Limited, leases the building from local commercial property-owner Zeo Holdings.

“Because the terrace was largely unknown to the local community, we needed to highlight its fantastic potential, not only to clubbers but also our midweek demographic, including mums’ clubs, yoga sessions and alfresco wine-tastings, all run by locals.

"Since taking on the Prince of Wales in April 2013, we’ve spent about £500,000 on the refurb, including re-siting electrics, installing sound systems and adding a retractable roof to the outdoor terrace, giving us an all-year-round rooftop bar, with the potential to grow our winter club revenue by up to 20%.

"We are considering introducing alfresco dining on the roof terraces in spring and summer, and pre- and post-show set menus for our comedy and cabaret events.”

Boosting versatility

Lucrative conversion of smoking area to alfresco dining space at Cheers Café, Bar & Tavern, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire


Innovative conversion of a canopied smoking area to an alfresco lounge at Dennis Forsyth’s multi-award-winning freehold has provided 80 extra dining covers, and as a private function area with dance floor, it caters for 120.

Forsyth explains: “We replaced the cement floor with high-quality laminate and fitted the exposed sides with large concertina windows, easily opened in fine weather, plus two glass-and-wood doors. Furnishings supplied by Leicestershire-based Trent Pottery, plus an audio-visual system enhance the alfresco
dining atmosphere.

"Social media marketing is key here and our Facebook images attract widespread attention. Three local newspapers ran ads and stories, and we placed large ads in tourist magazines. Our trade boost mainly comes from young families who enjoy a drink and meal in a smoke-free environment during weekend cabarets, while our dedicated smoking areas still cater for up to 180.

"Our £38,000 conversion was an instant hit, increasing weekly turnover by £1,500 to £2,000, and pushing up sales to £17,500 to £20,000 weekly, and was a significant festive boost, when our new area enabled us to hold a hugely successful Hogmany party, licensed until 3am. The day’s turnover reached almost £10,000 — five times more than usual. Outdoor trade continues to flourish, generating £15,000 last May bank holiday Sunday, when we featured live bands.

“Maximise space wherever possible,” advises Forsyth. “A dining area with an inside/outside feel, adaptable without fuss to suit the weather, is invaluably versatile.”

Glamorous camping

Sleeping outdoors doesn’t mean roughing it at the Farmers Boy Inn, Longhope, Gloucestershire

“Across our food, drink and accommodation, we use local suppliers wherever possible,” says Phil Kiernan, proprietor of Gloucestershire freehold the Farmers Boy Inn and pie business Mad About Pies, which are both based in Longhope.

The pub — featured on Channel 4’s Four in A Bed series — already has eight single, twin and double rooms, accommodating 16 guests.

“Glamping — upmarket camping, which is becoming increasingly popular at events including festivals — also suits smaller-scale venues.

“We’re investing £10,000 in three wooden pods and one shepherd’s hut, each with double bed and wood-burning stove, plus one shower pod and toilet pod. Our outlay covers purchase, construction and drainage, plus trellis for a maze,” explains Kiernan, who plans to add more huts.

“Our pod supplier, who imports from Lithuania, is Outdoor-Oasis in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, while our more spacious shepherd’s hut is handmade by BlueSky Shepherd Huts here in Longhope.”

Kiernan had to get prompt delivery because he had early bookings for three pods (£90 each) and the shepherd’s hut (£120), including breakfast, for early this month.

The shower costs £1 for three minutes and the toilet is free, and Kiernan sells logs for the stoves.

“Our outdoor accommodation is surrounded by greenery, next to the maze and a picturesque brook,” he says. “We’re committed to optimising space and diversification. It’s essential to listen to our target market and implement ideas in partnership with local businesses.”

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1 comment

Heated Seating

Posted by Rob Woodcock,

GeoBAR are looking for retail partners and brand owners to help trial their Patented heated seat and cushions. This uses waste heat from the cellar cooling and refrigeration processes to produce free heat for people. Much more environmentally friendly.

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