2018 Shapes Up As The Year That Local Finds Its Groove Outside

outdoor dining location

Spring and Summer ‘18 are getting ready to provide local operators and our BHS/H.Weiss customers with a great opportunity to expand their horizons.

What we’ve found over the years is that the fine art of outdoor dining has evolved into a mind set that with a little planning can become both highly profitable and create a signature for your restaurant or club. We have found that operators that execute successfully outside have built a recipe for success on three key ingredients: Beverage menu, food offering and proper staffing.

The most impactful approach that we are seeing with our BHS/H. Weiss customers is based on menus that stress local-local-local. It all starts with local beer and an atmosphere and a vibe that focuses on a local brew pub or beer garden.

The last decade has brought the emergence of world-class wines from our region. That local movement has morphed into a vast array of local spirits including malts, bourbon, whiskeys, vodkas (including a Vermont vodka made from milk!) We have been working with our customers to create local pairings of food with locally based wines, craft beers and cocktails.

We love the idea of small courses but you need to think it through to get the portion size right. Because if you are going to serve a smaller portion, you are going to need more staff. Make money on liquor, but tastings take more time per seating, so make it worth it…. offer suggestions of parings with each course.

A key to setting the right tone for these new outdoor menus is finding the right look and feel for your tabletop. Our suggestion is an organic and handmade look where each plate is slightly different. Think in terms of earth tones that blend and complement food. It’s time to move away from the big flat plates of the past. They always reminded me of  “pallets” for the food. We are trying to help our restaurants, clubs and catering customers think of tabletop as the base to build on.

Winter Fancy Food Show November 2018 728×90

We like the advantages from both an aesthetic and P&L standpoint that an operator gets with a smaller plate. They are in most cases less expensive but most importantly allow for smaller tables. That leaves room for more tables and a lighter feel in the room. Smaller plates also tend to break less keeping expenses down.

We have also seen a move towards a dressier look with satin finished flatware and even black and gold tones.

The operator gets an earthier look but they require better handling. In many cases they cannot be used with cold dishwasher and chemical detergents so you need to think before purchasing.

We are also involved everyday in working with our clients to select the appropriate glassware for their operation. The biggest movement in glass seems to be using interesting rocks or beverage glasses and simple glasses for the rest.  We are seeing either cut or pressed glass with a heavy retro emphasis to create a classy look. We are also able to help our clients save money by selecting one great wine glass and thus breaking one of the cardinal rules of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills who demand different glasses for everything. So why not keep it simple with a 10 oz. glass, a 14 oz. glass for on the rocks and even tall drinks and then a simple glass for water.

We have also noticed that as craft beer has gone from fad to mainstream that the approach to beer glasses has changed. We suggest a simple approach with one set of glasses for light colored beers and another for dark. It also might make sense to talk to your beer distributor and see what’s available for free but make sure it doesn’t compromise the look of your brand that you’ve worked so hard to create.

We are looking forward to a great Spring/Summer ‘18 season. Let us know how we can help.

Liz Weiss
Liz Weiss is the President and co-owner of Armonk, NY based H. Weiss Co., a division of BHS Foodservice Solutions. She is known nationally as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on tabletop design. The Michigan State graduate is also actively involved with WPO-Women’s Presidents Organization. Comments may be sent to eweiss@hweiss.net