Over the weekend, I had brunch at a tiny NYC restaurant on the Upper West Side that’s always crammed for tables and space.
In the summer, this restaurant accommodates outdoor sidewalk seating. But of course, in 30-degree weather, this no longer becomes possible.
Like many restaurants, when the weather is cold, they put up a cold weather door blocker at the entrance. You know what I’m talking about, one of those draped canopy entrances that essentially provides a buffer door area. This initial design helps prevent every patron from feeling the icy chill each time somebody new enters the restaurant.
But that’s not all they did. They decided to purchase the extra large entrance, buying even more buffer room and forming a partial outdoor corridor alongside their restaurant. When you entered the tented temporary entrance, a space heater instantly warmed you up, and they had placed a small table, two chairs, and a large, full coat rack inside. In other words: They were encouraging everyone to make themselves at home outside, rather than inside, their restaurant.
I took one look at the setup and cried, “This is genius!”
I imagine the space they saved with keeping a coat rack outdoors (as opposed to in the restaurant) allowed them to squeeze at least three additional small, 2-top tables inside. At an average of $50/table for a one-hour meal, and assuming 5 table rotations on a typical Sunday brunch between 10am and 3pm, this conservatively buys an additional $750/day in earnings for this restaurant on just one Sunday alone.
But that’s not all: Given the space heater in the waiting area, they also make it easier for people to say, “Oh, that’s fine, I’ll wait 15 min for a table” during their busiest times, rather than lose people who aren’t interested in standing in the cold as they wait for a table. Finally, as any New Yorker knows, the process of “shedding layers” at the beginning of a meal and of “bundling up” at the end of the meal takes space. You need to be able to reach your arms through a coat without smacking into somebody with a fork and a place to keep all those layers that won’t be intruding onto the table space of your neighboring diners. By migrating this entire process outside, I imagine they were able to position the other tables ever-so-slightly closer together, maybe giving them space for another long group seating table in the middle, once again accommodating more people.
If you’re operating a business that is dependent on seasonality (such as would be the case with any restaurant that offers outdoor seating in the summers only), I’m sure it’s much trickier to navigate the winter months on a shorter budget. But I loved seeing how creative this restaurant took it upon themselves to maximize every last inch of seating space.
It takes creative problem solving to design a solution like this. But it just reminded me that sometimes the best thing you can do for your business is to quite literally just move the furniture around a little bit.