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.

The transformation generation of the new roaring twenties – Where do hotels go from here?

This is the year of ‘Future Thinking and resetting’ at Harrison, and our recent planning and brainstorming session was all about that. It was a truly dynamic session with contributions from the global team in Melbourne, London, Dallas and Dubai.

We’re all mindful that the industry we work in is under pressure like we’ve never seen before, but hotels are still under construction, entrepreneurs are still designing and building, chains are still growing, but in the shadows, we experience record numbers of lifetime closures, sales declines and job losses which we cannot get away from.

But what of the hotel assets that have had a year of hell from lockdown after lockdown, how can they continue to survive? …… We have a clear view that they have to.


The Future of the Hotel.

We talked about the role that large hotels will play in owner portfolios, hypothesising whether there was still a place for them in cities where office worker behaviour has transformed and what once might have been unthinkable is now becoming acceptable ‘working from home’ and the role of Zoom becoming so common place it’s hard to see a return to the social and working habits of the noughties.

So, what of these assets?

Can whole floors be transformed from single night stays to permanent residences? Can staid all day dining becoming destination dining? Perhaps a whole floor transformed to a gaming and sports themed destination with a global brand perhaps, such as Goose Island Craft Beer Bar, an AB InBev concept?

Meeting rooms transform to technological spaces that replace the traditional meeting room, to a Boardroom by the hour or day and other cavernous space transformed to destination social meeting and workspaces relieving the boredom of home working.  Why couldn’t additional space be used to home retail services and shops aligned to the needs of the new user, guest, resident, visitor, worker and owner?

Can a 600-bed hotel become a 350-bed hotel and multi-purpose asset that relies on multiple income, multiple destination purpose driven rather than the traditional dual income streams they currently rely?

These assets have to sweat and sweat differently. Imagine hotel revenue directors being complemented (even replaced) by single building asset managers looking after leasing etc., not just maximising the revenues of single night stays.

And then we went on, how do we make these spaces even more dynamic, future thinking and pace setting, like fashion statements but more physical and permanent. Many owners crave trophy assets, be they the hotel brand or restaurants and bars within, but that list is a relatively short one and as we transform how do we lift stunning indulgent design and make it equally captivating, atmospheric and command crave?



Hospitality Trends & Ideas to Look Out for in 2021

Our fashion analogy is that it’s a bit like taking couture fashion off the catwalk and into the mainstream, still generating awesome brand awareness but affordably in spaces that drive essential footfall from the residents but also the surrounding community as a new destination, but also a space that can quickly evolve, maintain and drive footfall.

Dining, drinking, social and meetings spaces that used to last several years or longer won’t now as innovators and entrepreneurs teach us how to create dynamic spaces so brilliantly and affordably. The consumers’ emotional needs crave value; atmosphere, comfort and the trend are now a given expectation.

We’re looking forward to seeing how hotels evolve in the transformation generation of today’s roaring twenties.

Futuristic thinking is demanded to make sure that guests still get their jaw dropping experience, but owners too can sleep better at night knowing their assets are sweating while they’re sleeping, whatever the time of day it is.  And that is what the design, branding and strategy team at Harrison are focusing this year with their theme of ‘Future Thinking’ as ‘Global Brand Transfer’ experts.


Hospitality Consulting at Harrison

The team at Harrison have proven their ability to take brands and successfully ‘glocalise’ them from home brand to a global brand particularly in the franchise sector with brands such as Hard Rock Café, Pizza Hut, Wynham Hotels and Resorts, Hilton, Slim Chickens and TGI Fridays.

The Harrison Global Brand Transfer program now offers clients a full end-to-end service from design, branding, and franchise consulting services.
Offering clients

Brand Development on behalf of the Franchisor

Building design brand books for franchisees to deliver consistent global brand guidelines.

Brand Delivery on behalf of the franchisee.

Taking the brand books and providing detailed drawings for local contractors to build and deliver.

Strategic market entry guidance to both franchisor and franchisee with expert guidance and consultancy to ensure a successful development plan roll out

Guidance and advice for new brands going to market with franchising aspiration

Working with operators to build a robust franchise model.

Guidance and Advice for established brands with a franchise strategy.

We have over the years in fact created a Harrison ‘franchise ecosystem’

For further information or a chat about your franchise plans then please contact us on or via our websites contact us page.

Hilton Metropole Hotel NEC – Birmingham

We are both delighted and excited to announce that Harrison have been appointed to redevelop the iconic Hilton Metropole Hotel NEC in Birmingham.

Our remit will include strategic insight and brand positioning, storytelling, brand creation and ID development for each zone, in addition to Interior design and project management services.

The redevelopment of the entire ground floor F&B areas at the Hilton Metropole Hotel, NEC, Birmingham will be divided into three distinct zones, which are currently identified as lobby lounge & bar, a breakfast and events Restaurant area and the Terrace. Our brief is to create a unique, practical but sophisticated and contemporary environment for conference and event visitors. This project will encompass developing three distinct F&B propositions.

Whilst employing the same interior language throughout our aim is to provide a range of coherent spaces which can be flexible and cater for different offers creating a cohesive guest journey through the space.

We will keep you updated on progress over the months to come.

Dog and Fox, Wimbledon Village – Sunday Times Best Hotels 2020

We’re delighted to announce that our recent interior development at The Dog and Fox, Wimbledon Village has been added to The Sunday Times Best Hotels 2020.

Our design direction was inspired by flora and fauna found in the nearby common and the adjoining equestrian centre.

We created 12 new build bedrooms, using three different luxury and artistic styles using artwork that reflected the warm, rich nature influences and references to the Dog and Fox.

Well Done Jackie and the team.

The Importance of First Impressions





We’ve been recently exploring the importance of ‘first impressions’ for a hotel concept we’re working on and we created a 360 animation.

Each stage of the customer journey must be analysed, especially during these challenging times, with track and trace now becoming mandatory, you need to reassure your customers at every stage.

There are many cost-effective ways this can implemented and we’d be delighted to help.  We hope you like it!

To learn about how you can create a great first impression for your restaurant or hospitality business contact or fill in a contact form here.

GRIF Marketplace, a virtual conference – 24th June 12pm -4pm GST (9am- 1pm GMT/UK time)

We’d like to invite you to GRIF Marketplace, a virtual conference taking place on the 24th June 12pm -4pm GST (9am- 1pm GMT/UK time). It is open to operators, owners and industry influencers.

Please find the full programme here featuring speakers such as:

Peter Backman, Principal, Peter Backman Foodservice Consultancy
Emma Banks, VP Food & Beverage Strategy & Development EMEA, Hilton
Mario C. Bauer, Co-Founder of Curtice Brothers; Co-Founder of White Space Partners; Brand Ambassador at AmRest
Chris Daniels, General Manager, Munch delivery app
Victor Lugger, Founder, Big Mamma Group

The beauty of the virtual conference is you can pop in and out but do make sure you lock your diary for
the two Harrison sessions:

1. Riding the wave – Main Stage, 12:50 – 1:10 GST with Paul Wainwright
2. What is next for hotels F&B? – Breakout Session, 2:30 – 3:00 GST with Dean Concannon.

Contact me if you have any questions –