Outdoor ordering: Time for licensees to think about their gardens

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Summer's nearly here: Time for licensees to think about utilising their outdoor space
Summer's nearly here: Time for licensees to think about utilising their outdoor space

Related tags: Public house

The days are getting longer, the barometer’s rising and the temperature is on the up. Summer’s on its way and it’s time for licensees with gardens to think about maximising that facility. And a new outdoor bar could be just the ticket.

The first long, satisfying, thirst-quenching swig of a pint on a sizzling hot day. The clink of ice mixed with the hushed fizz of brightly coloured cider – condensation dripping down the tall glass as the sun heats your skin. Is there anything better than sitting in a pub garden drinking sweet-alcoholic goodness on a lazy Saturday afternoon? If there is, we certainly can’t think of any right now.

No matter what generation, what favourite tipple, nor the very serious threat of wasps, the lure of the pub garden on a summer’s day is undeniable.

As pubs begin to forget about their fireplaces and whack out the barbecues, the public will now look for where they can lounge on a summer’s day, rather than wrap up warm on a winter’s night. 

Take the first steps

Outdoor ordering, a cherished novelty as soon as summer sets in, has a host of benefits for both publicans and customers. Offerings can come from a range of facilities, including quirky sheds, specialised containers, burger shacks, rotisseries and temporary bars.

But, there are things to consider before ordering your off-the-wall decorations – including noise, planning permissions and, most importantly, your licence.

Outdoor areas provide friends, families, beer, wine, and cider drinkers somewhere to come together and share in the joy of spending the day in the sunshine with a glass, or four, of their favourite beverage.

Now with longer days and warmer evenings, pubs can start to plan how they can use their outdoor space for the ever-nearing summer weather.

The Three Cheers Pub Company, which own a “small collection of handsome pubs” in south London is a prime example of making its garden work for them.

One of its pubs, the Avalon, in Clapham South, has three alfresco spaces, complete with a summer bar and kitchen. The company says sales increase by up to 25% over the summer months, with a “totally new clientele” as its gardens are known “destinations”.

“Business also increases on weekdays, with mums and pre-school children looking to make the most of the sunshine,” says a spokesman for the company.

“We also see a boost at about 4pm at the weekends when people often go for summer walks and then stop at the pub afterwards.”

Big sellers with the outdoor clientele include Pimms, rosé and Aperol Spritz as well as salads, sharing plates, burgers and pizza.

“We recently introduced an alfresco grill and bar at the Avalon to give customers an even better service. They no longer have to go inside to order and service is so much quicker, which makes for a much happier, sunnier summer experience for everyone.” The grill is used on busy summer days to support the main kitchen.

Another of its pubs, the Rosendale, in West Dulwich, features a garden with two epic feasting tables along with a summer bar and permanent outdoor rotisserie.

The rotisserie, used around twice a week, only gets a workout when hired by large parties.

The courtyard at The Avalon in Clapham South, London. Picture by Naomi Gabriell.

Cheap seats pay off

Of course, if you have the budget, going big on your outdoor bar would be great. However, as pubs face consistently rising costs, building one does not have to break the bank.

Glen Duckett, owner of the Eagle & Child, Ramsbottom, Lancashire, has built his “quirky” outdoor bar for £300. He built it himself along with the help of his full-time maintenance man.

The bar itself has been made from reclaimed stone from the garden and old out-buildings around the area.

“It will hopefully create a great outdoor environment. I think people like being out in the fresh air when it is a nice day,” says Duckett.

“We are really busy when it’s nice – people just want to be outside in the garden. In terms of trade it’s great, it means people don’t have to wander inside. If you’ve got a bar out there it’s more convenient.”

Offering advice for people who want something similar, he says: “People are quite into quirky recycled stuff. Try and recycle to reduce your costs, you could use old pallets, reclaimed scaffolding boards, stone timber or bricks.

“Giving it a shabby garden look, can look cool, but you don’t have to fork out lots of money – and then if it’s not the best summer you won’t have spent thousands on a bar you only use once.”

Duckett’s bar will start serving customers by the May bank holiday. He said he did not need planning permission for his bar, but will need to look at his licence.

Do your legal checks

Before rushing off to buy your own building materials to create your outdoor bar, legal specialists Poppleston Allen also advises operators to look at their licence.

Andy Grimsey, partner, says: “If you are looking to have a mobile bar outside, you need to make sure that the area outside is licensed for the sale of alcohol.

“The same with entertainment – check you are authorised to play music outside.

“You can apply for a temporary event notice (TEN) for both alcohol and entertainment under the Licensing Act for up to seven days at a time, for 21 days in any one year. But it would be better to apply for a permanent variation to your permanent licence.

“Under the Licensing Act side of things, if you just have permission to sell alcohol inside, and wanted a mobile bar outside, you would need to get either an authorisation or amendment to your permanent licence or get a temporary licence, in the form of a TEN.”

Grimsey also advises looking to see if any planning permission is needed, especially if you are looking to create a permanent structure or add a container in
the garden.

Another area to consider is noise. “If you want to make your garden an attraction, where previously it had been a couple of little outdoor smoking tables, you would certainly want to look at what measures you are taking to ensure the neighbours aren’t unduly disturbed by noise”, he says.

Kate Nicholls from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) adds: “Outdoor areas can be a great way for licensees to maximise their offerings and attract customers to their venues, particularly as the weather gets brighter and the days longer.

“Pubs with outdoor bars will need to make sure they have the relevant licences in order because their local authority may classify the outdoor bar sales as taking place outside the normal premises.

“It may take time, but licensees with plans to incorporate outdoor bars should liaise with their local authority to make sure that everything is in order before incorporating something such as this into their venue.”

Mobile ordering

If adding an outdoor bar really isn’t an option, there are ways of ensuring customers can top up the tan without having to get up from their seat. Despite some mobile ordering apps getting mixed reactions from both staff and guests, other industry commentators believe that as the technology continues to evolve it could well be the future of outdoor ordering.

Brandon Trollip, who looks after digital payments in the UK for Mastercard, spoke to The Morning Advertiser​ about Qkr! – a mobile phone ordering and payment app that has been adapted and used in Young’s pubs.

“If it’s that much easier to order, then consumers will probably end up paying a bit more, because it is virtual currency,” he says.

“It is making ordering and paying as frictionless as possible. Customers and consumers can just enjoy their time, without leaving the comfort of their chair.”

Trollip says that the technology would not fit every pub chain but believes it is the future of ordering in the industry.

JD Wetherspoon joined the order and pay app revolution at the beginning of the month, with other apps including Orderella and Flypay.

beech house 2

Container idea floated

If you’d prefer someone else to do the hard work, and want something a little different, Aldridge-based container specialists have helped create a ‘container bar’ that forms part of a quirky outdoor venue area at the Beech House in Solihull, West Midlands.

The Beech House has been opened by Hunky Dory Pubs and is the first in a joint venture between Oakman Inns & Restaurants and Enterprise Inns.

The outdoor shipping container bar is “proving hugely popular”, the company claims, and is providing a positive way of expanding the pub’s capacity/saleable area, with more than 50 reservations after the first opening weekend.

It’s also boosting business, adding 8% to turnover in the past six months.

General manager Dan Dawson says: “We have created a completely new function space for up to 120 guests on the upper level with a double teepee and a bar recycled from a former shipping container.”

The bar was created in the modified box supplied by S Jones Containers, with internal fit out by Hunky Dory Pubs. 

It features an oak-laminated food-safe worktop with bi-folding doors, and under-counter washer unit, chillers and bar units with power sockets and beer lines
connected directly back to the bar’s cellars.

Outdoor ordering, however, doesn’t have to be all about drink. With the younger generation drinking less, publicans may want to consider what else they could bring to their outdoor space that doesn’t involve alcohol.

Young’s Burger Shack was originally created in response to a demand for more fast-casual dining options that “engaged with its more urban, modern demographic”.

“An outdoor space can offer greater dining choices and speed of service, and ultimately provide customers with more choice,” says a spokesman for the company.


Young’s first Burger Shack was launched at the Windmill, Clapham, south-west London, in July 2015 and, following its success, was rolled out, with more than 20 now well-established sites within the estate.

The spokesman continued: “The Burger Shack offers customers a more relaxed way of dining, especially in the summer months when many just want a place for a quick bite with minimum fuss. It allows us to cater to the ever-growing customer demand for premium casual dining with a burger that’s been created to satisfy even the most diehard burger fans.”

The Burger Shacks are only available in the warmer months, although it does have a few resident Burger Shacks that can be enjoyed all year round. These include Shacks at the Trinity Arms, Brixton; the Loft, Wimbledon; and the Hammersmith Ram.

The ALMR’s Nicholls has some pertinent final advice: “One of the great strengths of the sector is its ability to evolve, responding to both consumer demand and economic challenges.

“Venues have made great use of space by opening rooftop and garden bars, cinemas, miniature golf areas and more to great effect. As we move further into spring and demand for outdoor eating and drinking grows, pubs and restaurants have an opportunity to capitalise on this desire. They need to make sure that all eventualities are prepared for and that any necessary licences are in place.”

Related topics: Marketing

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