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What Is Dining Al Fresco?

Lauren Valensky
27 Jul. 2023

As the nights get lighter and temperatures begin to rise, we start to crave lazy days outdoors in the sun. And whether it’s a romantic candlelit dinner for two or a celebratory soiree, there’s something that about eating in the open just feels special - so special in fact, that it actually has its own name - al fresco.

While ‘al fresco’ eating provides a  wonderful opportunity for diners to enjoy good weather, for businesses, there’s also a great deal of potential to push profits by making the most of the sunnier seasons.

So what exactly is ‘dining al fresco’, and what makes it so different from normal dining?

Where does the name 'al fresco' come from?

"Al fresco" is an Italian term meaning “in the cool air” or “in the shade”.  And while it technically refers to any activity done outdoors, it’s most commonly used in relation to eating in the open.

What does al fresco dining include?

Al fresco dining can take many forms, however, there are a few key elements that are always present:

  • Outdoor setting: Another defining characteristic of al fresco dining is that it takes place outdoors. This could be in a rooftop bar
  • Good weather: One of the best things about al fresco dining is that it can only be done when the weather is nice. So if you’re planning on eating al fresco, make sure to check the forecast first.
  • Good company: Whether you’re dining al fresco with family, friends, or a romantic partner, good company is a must!

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Whether it's serving your guests outside with the help of our award-winning accessories, having your outdoor menu and indoor menu stock sync in one place with omnichannel management, or creating personalised loyalty programs to see your customers coming back, our state-of-the-art system can meet all your business needs. 

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What are the benefits of dining al fresco?

While al fresco dining is often associated with warmer weather, there is actually a great deal of profit-pushing benefits to outdoor eating. Here are just a few of them:

Conducive to social distancing

Al fresco dining is great for businesses especially post-pandemic, as it lends itself well to social distancing. In the wake of the last two years, customers have been reluctant to dine indoors out of fear of contracting the virus, forcing many restaurants to re-evaluate their dining room set-ups.

Allowing diners to spread out and enjoy their dining experience in a safe, and relaxed setting is a defining characteristic of al fresco dining, meaning it can be the perfect solution for businesses looking to promote social distancing.

 Increases customer retention

A study conducted by the University of Sheffield found that when customers were given the option to eat al fresco, they were 30% more likely to return to the restaurant [1]. So not only can you boost your bottom line by extending your food offering to the outdoors, but with the increased intimacy and relaxation provided by an outdoor setting, you’re also more likely to see those customers again in the future.

Boosts the bottom line

Dining al fresco is not only a great way to increase customer retention, but it can also lead to increased sales. In fact, one study found that businesses see a 10-15% sales increase on average when offering al fresco dining, meaning that there’s serious profit potential for businesses that make the most of the al fresco dining trend [2].

What do you need to start offering al fresco dining?

If you’re thinking of adding al fresco dining to your business, there are a few key things you’ll need.

An outdoor space

The first and most obvious thing you’ll need is an outdoor or open-air space. This could be a beer garden, terrace, or balcony. If you don’t have any outdoor space of your own, another option is to apply for a pavement licence, which will allow you to set up tables and chairs on the pavement outside your business.


Once you have your outdoor dining area sorted, the next thing you’ll need is some furniture. If you have the budget for it, investing in high-quality, durable furniture will pay off in the long run as it will be more durable and weather-resistant. However, if you’re on a tighter budget, there are still plenty of affordable options available.

Heating and lighting

If you’re planning on offering al fresco dining all year round, then you’ll need to invest in some heating and lighting. This could be anything from patio heaters and fairy lights to outdoor fire pits and lanterns.

How to integrate ‘al fresco’ into your restaurant

Even if you have existing outdoor seating, there are a few things you can do to give your customers a full ‘al fresco’ experience:

Create a special menu

Make the most of the seasonal produce available and create a special menu focused on al fresco dining recipes, that is sure to tantalize taste buds. From summer salads and fruit-filled desserts to BBQ classics with a twist, there are endless possibilities when it comes to whipping up something special for your outdoor diners.

Popular al fresco dining dishes include:

  • Watermelon, feta, and mint salad
  • Grilled peaches with mascarpone cream
  • BBQ chicken and vegetable skewers with sweet chilli sauce

Make it fun

Al fresco dining is all about enjoying the good weather and spending time with friends or family, so make sure your outdoor area is fun and inviting. This could include adding games such as giant Jenga or croquet, or setting up a TV so customers can catch the latest sporting event.

Use technology

While al fresco dining is all about enjoying the outdoors, that doesn’t mean you can’t use technology to enhance the experience.

Look into investing in some weather-resistant tablet menus which will allow customers to peruse your menu without having to worry about the elements. You could also consider using QR codes so that customers can view your menus without having to queue at the counter.

Invest in a POS system

If you really want to make the most of your al fresco dining area, a point of sale system is the way to go. With the ability to print receipts, manage stock across your indoor and outdoor spaces, and more, Epos Now's Bar & Restaurant POS systems will help you make the most of fresco dining at your establishment.

In addition, you can integrate our award-winning system with over 100+ business apps, like Epos Now Order and Pay, which allow your customers to order food and pay with any method, all from their table.

Al fresco dining ideas

While technically you could serve any food or drinks al fresco, there are certain types of presentation that lend themselves particularly well to an outdoor setting. These include:

Candlelit dinners

Dining by candlelight is always romantic, so why not offer this as a choice for customers? Since there's no better intimate setting than outdoors under the stars, this is a great option for anniversaries and special occasions.


Whether it's barbecue, breakfast or something in between, a buffet is a great way to feed a large group of people al fresco. Not only will it save you time and money, but it's also perfect for sharing - which is what al fresco dining is all about!

Afternoon tea

A great idea to bring in guests for celebration  - there's nothing more elegant than enjoying an al fresco afternoon tea. While afternoon tea is traditionally an indoor affair, there's no reason why it can't be enjoyed outdoors too. 

Just make sure you have enough chairs for everyone and don't forget the parasols for when the sun gets too hot - customers don't want their finger sandwiches singed.

Give your restaurant a fresco start with a powerful POS system

If you’re a restauranteur looking to dabble in al fresco dining, Epos Now offers state-of-the-art POS systems, with tailored tools and insights to help your restaurant achieve its goals. Manage and control all vital aspects of your hospitality company from one cloud-based system:

  • View analyses on profit margin, cash flow, and peak times for better staff scheduling and floorplan management.
  • Access multi-award-winning inventory management systems that sync online orders with in-house orders
  • Table management and booking system integrations available for an optimized service, so you can serve your customers easily both inside and outside.

Still care to dine out on more al fresco dining ideas? We'd love to hear from you! 

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