Alfresco or outdoor dining has increased enormously in Britain over the past few years. We've seen longer periods of good or mild weather, and people have taken up the continental idea of eating outside. And the smoking ban, of course, has led many people outdoors.

Have you been thinking about smartening up your café or restaurant, increasing footfall and increasing takings? Today is World Tourism Day and a good day to make plans to boost trade.

Paying dividends by Christmas?

People are always out and about in the summer, dropping into cafés and going to restaurants. And September sees older people making the most of the warm weather and the quiet, now the school term has started.

Autumn is tourism’s ‘shoulder season’ before things rev up again in December. Trade can drop off, with lower footfall rates and lower takings.

So this is a good time to take a look at your café or restaurant and see how you can smarten up the business. A revamp now could pay dividends during the run-up to the busy Christmas period.

How do your chairs stack up?

Chairs and tables are such a basic for cafés and restaurants and yet many owners get them wrong.

As a customer, how often have you sat at a table where the chairs don’t fit under the table properly? Or they make a horrible noise on the floor? Or they are, quite simply, uncomfortable? Or ugly?

Not conducive to a high spend, is it?

And how easy and efficient is it to keep things clean? Do the chairs stack neatly out of the way? Problem-free furniture saves time, temper and money.

Rattan furniture is the furniture of choice for high-end establishments. It can give that relaxed and chic bistro feel or something a bit more sophisticated.

Creating that warm feeling

The right amount of warmth and comfort welcomes your customers, relaxes them and makes them want to linger.

And yet winter is cold, there’s no arguing with that.

Patio heaters have really opened up outdoor space for cafés and restaurants. And they can be pretty stylish – a far cry from the gas heaters of old!

Patio heater in Cologne, Germany. Alfresco

Patio heater in Cologne, Germany
© CGP Grey and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence

Finally, alfresco – what does it mean?

Alfresco is borrowed from the Italian al fresco, meaning in the cool (air), although it’s not used for eating and drinking outdoors in Italy. That’s partly because al fresco is a slangy Italian phrase meaning 'being in jail' (yes, 'in the cooler'). It dates from when prisoners were kept in cold and damp dungeons and cells below ground level. No patio heaters there!