Everyone has had the experience where they are out trying to find something to eat and based on restaurant names they are not able to decide on something until finally maybe something inside one of those restaurant’s catches their eye. Personally, I had a similar experience not too long ago in London. Along with a group of friends I had made my way out to King’s Cross in London. Our goal was to walk around this busy area and find a restaurant that appealed to us. This idea, however, quickly failed as we realized that most of the restaurants had obscure names and we were not able to get a sense of what they offered at a glance. This made it virtually impossible to make a decision. Clearly, this is a problem. What is the solution? I believe the city of Cardiff holds the answer. Notice how the streets are lined with large open seating areas. Cardiff has outdoor restaurant seating most everywhere you go. It does not matter if you are walking on the largest streets, the smaller alleys, or even through the arcades, outdoor seating is generally available. Okay, so you can eat outside. How does this solve our problem? On our first day in Cardiff, once again, I went out with my friends to find someplace to eat dinner. This time with no specific place in mind. Of course I was nervous that we would have the same issue we did in King’s Cross, however, it ended up not being an issue at all. In Cardiff, the group was able to get quick looks at a high volume of restaurants and then decide on one that was best suited for the group. In Fact, one of the first things, I noticed about our group during the first couple days in Cardiff is that when we went out to find food together we were generally able to find something that suited our needs quickly and easily. This continued to happen and this is when I recognized a pattern. The outdoor seating was making it easier for us to find a place to eat quickly. Why is this? There are a few key elements that help outdoor seating be so effective but they all generally boil down to communication. Businesses in Cardiff make use of outdoor seating as a way to communicate with potential customers and essentially sell themselves to those customers. The first and probably most important element is advertising. By having customers eating outdoors people are able to quickly discern what kind of food they serve, the quality of the food, and the aesthetic of the restaurant. The first is obvious, passerby individuals can quickly tell by what kind of food is on the table, what the restaurant offers. They can also be more easily attracted by the smell of the food. They can also make quick judgments about the quality of the food and the restaurant by seeing how many individuals are dining at that specific time at a glance and what kind of expressions those individuals had. They can also compare those metrics to other restaurants with outdoor seating to make a proper judgment. Finally, by taking a look at the outdoor seating and how it is setup they can quickly gauge what kind of aesthetic the restaurant has and what the atmosphere would be like. The second key element that allows for the success of outdoor seating is the usage of space. As you may know, most cities struggle for space and they often are very tight and cramped. Therefore, it is very important that all business make the most efficient and effective use of the space that they are given. Cardiff, in particular, is a city that makes use of an Arcade system. This is a network of pathways that go through buildings that are designed to make it easier for customers to get to the businesses they are or are not looking for. They also make the businesses be able to conserve space and have all of them be more compressed and closer together. In these arcades, all the businesses are very close together and very diverse in nature. Naturally, among those businesses, many are establishments that serve food. The problem then arises that how would one be able to quickly tell a restaurant apart from all these other businesses. Cardiff once again has answered this problem with outdoor seating. They have small chairs and tables outside of the businesses that serve food. Aside from providing more seating for these small businesses, the outdoor seating also makes it obvious to the customer that the business is a food establishment and it takes over more of their attention because the business simply uses a higher majority of the space available in the arcade. Space is also an important aspect in some of the larger spaces. On a big street, it can be hard for a restaurant to catch a customer’s attention. So if they have large sections of outdoor seating going out into the street, it can make them appear more prominent and high quality in comparison to other restaurants that do not have that offering. The final key element that allows outdoor seating to be effective for businesses, is the opportunity for entertainment that it provides. Having outdoor seating might allow a restaurant to free up some room on the inside to make room for entertainment like live music. It is also possible in certain situations for outdoor seating to serve as a viewing area for entertainment that is also located outside.
In this case, a band might play at the bottom of the steps while customers can sit and enjoy their food. If not in any of those forms, outdoor seating can always just allow for customers to be entertained. They can people watch while they eat or even some nearby buskers that are performing. By way of the three key elements, that are advertising, space, and entertainment, outdoor seating in Cardiff has made it possible for restaurants to better communicate with and sell themselves to potential customers. This results in a much nicer experience for both the customer and the business when exploring an area to try and find something to eat.