Top tips for adapting to outside dining spaces

Creating an effective outdoor dining space.

It’s fair to say outside space has never been more important – both to businesses and to us as people.

For restaurants and pubs in particular, who are among those hit hardest by ongoing coronavirus restrictions, outdoor dining spaces have been thrown into the spotlight as a real ‘must have’ for any business in the hospitality sector going forward.

But when it comes to outdoor dining spaces, design, style, character and ‘feeling’ are also must-haves – certainly in the eyes of guests.

They have to ‘feel’ something when they take a seat in your outdoor dining area – and most importantly, they have to feel at home.

So, how do you develop those kinds of emotions in your guests when they’re outside rather than inside? Here are some great ideas to get you started…


Outdoor restaurant design our recommendations.

Interiors can provide a richness of décor, with comfortable, stylish seating and lighting to set the right mood for guests at the right time. Outside, of course, recreating that is tricky – even on a hot summer’s day or a balmy July evening when everything generally seems right with the world.

It’s possible, although success is always in the finer detail.


The right lighting

When day starts to become night, how you light your outdoor dining space is critical to the kind of atmosphere you want to create for your guests. String lights, tea lights and lanterns are all brilliant ways to light your outside dining area, as well as capture your guest’s attention.


Protection from the elements while retaining the style

You can’t always rely on the British summer, but it’s possible to protect your guests from the elements and retain a sense of style and ‘brand’ at the same time. Table or bench umbrellas obviously work well on sunny days and offer value for money. However, consider other creative solutions that reflect your brand’s tone of voice in providing respite from the sun.

A step further, you could consider a covered area that can be used all year round, or a pitched canopy – the sound of a summer rain beating down on material can provide an atmosphere in its own right and can be rather soothing!

Making your outdoor dining area an ‘experience’

Capturing guest attention and providing a theatrical experience when they first enter your outdoor dining area can make your venue memorable. Think about placing fire pits around your outside dining space to create a sense of drama or light up a large barbecue where customers can toast their own marshmallows or choose freshly cooked meats.

An open outdoor kitchen is also a great way to entertain guests dining al-fresco.


Outdoor restaurant seating ideas

One of the biggest challenges facing hospitality in the era of Covid-19 is seating. With social distancing restrictions being relaxed completely, we hope, in the not-too-distant future, brands can once again start to think about how they lay out their outdoor dining area and the type of seating they use.

Bringing people together, after so long apart, will be key in the early days post-coronavirus – so think about using bench seating, with long tables where diners can share space, food, drink and laughs.

The Stable, a national brand of pizza and cider restaurants, do this really well.

Your outdoor space, of course, should reflect your brand as much as your inside space – your customers should feel like they’re eating and drinking with you, despite dining al-fresco. So, use the materials that reflect your brand – whether that’s sleek metals or warm wood tones.

Remember though: this is the UK, so your seating will need to be durable and resistant to the glorious British weather as well as remaining stylish and on-brand.


How Harrison can help create an outdoor dining experience for your brand

Creating a usable outdoor dining space isn’t necessarily the hard part for you as a brand – it’s making that space feel like ‘you’ that’s much, much harder.

The outdoors will never be indoors, but that doesn’t mean it has to feel ‘different’.

Just take a look at this rooftop hotel concept we developed for a hotel chain in Dubai – competition doesn’t come bigger than the Dubai skyline, so creating drama and theatre was a key part of this particular project.

The stories we create are told through design. That’s what we’re all about.

Get in touch to find out more.

Restaurants of the Future

Restaurants of the Future



As we start to reflect on the impact that COVID-19 has had and will continue to have on the Hospitality and Leisure sector, it’s time to consider spaces that are a lot more flexible and adaptable, with transitions that can be easily made without sacrificing large numbers of occupancy.

Traditionally Restaurant Interior Design and Bar Design is very fixed, screens are welded, bolted to the floor and packed full to maximise on cover counts. However, with society Post COVID-19 we believe a less permanent approach will be required from the very initial design and concept phases. Screens that have a sense of permanence yet are designed in a way to shield and protect without forfeiting on aesthetics.

So we at Harrison have put together this vision of the future to show that social distanced restaurants can be beautifully designed without the need for clinical screens and graphics.

If you would like to contact us to see how we can assist you and your business please contact either…

(UK and Europe)
Richard Samarasinghe

Keith Anderson-

Paul Wainwright-


A Goose Goes to Europe

As we tentatively start moving forward to re-opening the hospitality sector we are showcasing a number of recent projects, starting with Goose Island, Shoreditch, London which opened last year. Our concept presentation is linked here

The Goose Island Beer Company is a craft brewery that originated from Chicago, Illinois with a number of brewpubs named after an artificial island in Chicago. The founder John Hall created the micro-brewery following a tour of Europe in 1998 sampling different beers pint by pint. We were asked by the owners Anheuser-Busch to translate and adapt the unique personality of the US-based operations into Shoreditch, East London. Our design was influenced by Chicago’s stripped-back Warehouse interiors. The space was broken into a number of discrete areas accommodating live music, an authentic US micro-brewery and comfortable lounge and dining areas away from the main bar area. We also developed an ingenious way to reduce or extend table tops depending on the time of day.

As the founder said, “America deserves some damn fine beer like this, too.”

1751 The Distillery Bar & Kitchen – Hilton, London Bridge

Completion of a new F&B Concept at 1751 The Distillery Bar & Kitchen at the Hilton in London Bridge

We’ve recently completed a new F&B concept called 1751 Distillery Bar and Kitchen on the ground floor of the Hilton, London Bridge, named after the gin act of the same year. It was an ex Jamie’s Italian, which we have transformed over 12 weeks. Even with the impact of the recent Coronavirus it’s performing incredibly well and is still building, especially group bookings.

Bob & Berts expansion plans are paying dividends!

Bob & Berts Expansion Plans

Over the past couple of years, our team at Harrison have been working with Colin McClean and David Ferguson on developing a scaleable cafe brand. Our recent development in Portstewart has resulted in sales that have exceeded the founders’ budget expectations.

Founded in Portstewart by Colin McClean, his father Arnold and brother-in-law David Ferguson, Bob & Berts has 16 coffee shops across Northern Ireland, including; Coleraine, Stranmillis, Lisburn, Omagh, Dungannon and the recent, newly located sites in Portrush and Portstewart. The company’s continued growth strategy has resulted in expansion into Scotland and a future push into the North of England.

Bob & Berts philosophy is underpinned by doing things the right way; thinking local, prioritising people before profit, taking great pride in our work and, most of all, putting proper coffee in your cups and great grub on your plate …. your way.

The original designs were created intuitively by the founders and naturally evolved into very fun and charming spaces with bags of positive energy.  Bob & Berts intentionally avoid the on-trend design look, and as such, attract a guest that wishes to avoid the unnecessary, themed and overly trite appearance.  Harrisons have been mindful not to disrupt this formula, consciously not over-designing or over-detailing the proposals so it very much remains in the right space in the new local markets they are entering.  The client continues to encourage us to keep the fun levels high and consistently is revaluating the operating model to ensure the wide and extensive product is delivered to a high standard to the customer.

Bob & Berts is THE rendezvous for LOCAL people to escape from the hustle and bustle of life on the go and a local haven for the community.

What is your competitive advantage?

We can all easily convince ourselves that our business is different. We can believe your product or service is truly ground-breaking.

“If customers could see how good we are…”

“If people realised how we could help them”

“Don’t people realise our product is of better quality than….”

I am sure you have probably uttered something similar either recently or in times past. When customers do understand and believe the advantage of buying from you rather than your competitor, it makes the difference.

Whether you’re making jet engines, selling advertising space or financial services, you have to show why you are a better choice than your competitors.

It’s also important to recognise that one of your competitors might be inaction or something totally different.

A customer may decide your time-saving solution is not for them and stick with a heavy workload or may decide to save time in a completely different way. The competition isn’t always a rival company.

So with all this in mind, we reach two key points.

What makes you different from the competition? What is your value proposition?

People have to see and believe your value for themselves. Customers must understand and appreciate your value and place in the market.

Does this resonate with you? The reason many are frustrated is that in an attempt to prove their value to the market, they miss the obvious. It’s not what you say, it is what is interpreted. Everything we do to promote our business is subjective, the success of a strategy, value proposition or competitive marketing plan is in what the prospects and customers believe and act upon.

I know that developing a competitive market position is challenging in today’s world, but it isn’t impossible. I help people put these together all the time. Having these clearly articulated so a new starter can ‘get you’ is where you should begin.

I’d appreciate your thoughts?