5 cool ways your small business can leverage the outdoors

June 18, 2019 06:55 PM

Take advantage of the beautiful, warm weather this summer with these five ideas for leveraging the outdoors.


By Meg C. Hall 


A sunny street of businesses in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Photo: mTaira/Shutterstock)


Summertime is not only when plants, flowers and the earth come alive. It is also when people spend more time outdoors enjoying the sunshine. 


Small businesses, too, can harness the power of their sun to get more exposure in the community and increase foot traffic. Here are a few ideas for how you can take advantage of the beautiful, warm weather this summer.


Spruce up your curb appeal


First impressions matter. A quick glance at your retail establishment or restaurant from the street can lure potential customers in — or turn them away. Associate your store with summertime bliss by finding ways to boost your business’ curb appeal this season.


“A warm, inviting storefront can be the first step in attracting customers and encouraging more people to walk through the door,” said Cresta Lewis, vice president of client services at The Eisen Agency, a customer acquisition and engagement firm. 


One of the easiest ways to increase your curb appeal is by giving your facade a fresh coat of paint or adding a pop of color to the trim or front door, said Lewis. “Even if you use a similar color, new paint will instantly brighten the exterior and make it look clean.” 


If the weather is nice, consider adding outdoor racks to showcase your summer specials. Someone who might not otherwise come into your shop may well stop if an item on display catches her eye. A bonus: Customers are more likely to buy something if they touch it, and outdoor racks put merchandise in easy reach.


Utilize your rooftop


Rooftop dining is ideal in summer. (Photo: rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)


When it comes to sunlight, your business’ rooftop is prime real estate. Don’t let the space up there go to waste. 


If your restaurant, bar, cafe or ice cream joint doesn’t have ground-level patio space, your rooftop can often be a fun alternative outdoor seating area. With a few tables and chairs and bit of landscaping, you can transform your roof into a fun summertime experience for your guests.


Edward Foy Jr., proprietor of The Chateau on the Lake in Bolton Landing, New York, said spaces like rooftops and patios that offer “dinner with a view” are great for adding a little character and excitement to the dining experience. Renting out the roof to private parties and catering the event is a great way to bring in extra revenue. 


Plant a garden


A culinary or flower garden is another way for small businesses to celebrate summer’s bounty.


At Harvest, one of the restaurants in the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, hotel executive chef Frank Sanchez grows more than 15 herbs and vegetables in a rooftop garden and uses the fresh produce in his dishes.


Growing produce to use in your kitchen provides a great marketing opportunity. As more consumers get interested in the farm-to-table movement, you can target this market by highlighting the use of “homegrown” produce in your summer dishes. If your garden is attractive, you could even give “locavore” customers short tours to show it off.


But gardens aren’t only for edibles. Regardless of your industry, summer is a wonderful time to embrace your green thumb. Get extra bang for your decorating dollars by using large flower pots or colorful window boxes that can be moved around and updated with different flowers and plants as the seasons change. 


Host fun summer activities


If you’re lucky enough to own a small business in a walkable, pedestrian-occupied part of town, hosting fun summer activities is another great way to increase foot traffic to your small business.


For instance, a cornhole tournament, giant Jenga® game or sidewalk chalk art can entice passersby to stop and mingle at your storefront for a while. On hot days you can give out bottles of cold water with your store logo to increase brand awareness.


Rainy days don’t have to spoil your good time, either. Michael Maxwell, partner at Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting, proposed an enjoyable puddle-splashing session for kids during summertime showers. 


“Throw a cocktail party for the parents on the patio, cover the kids in garbage-bag ‘smocks’ and create some puddles around the patio for them to splash in,” he suggested.


Switch to solar


One way to take your sun-loving to the next level this summer is by making the switch to solar energy.


With traditional utility costs rising, there’s never been a better time to go solar. According to market research firm EnergySage, the average commercial property owner paid $1,950 in monthly electricity bills before going solar. After their installation, their electricity bill was reduced to approximately $500 – a 75 percent reduction. 


Harnessing the power of the sun to run your business is cost- and energy-efficient, produces little to no waste, and is environmentally safe. What’s more, it shows consumers you’re environmentally conscious. EnergySage says many current and potential customers seek out companies that are committed to sustainability. They’re also more likely to like a product or service more if it comes from a sun-powered source.


These are but a few ideas your small business can use to soak up the sun this summer. Look for fun, creative ways your business can uniquely leverage the outdoors during the warmer months — and hopefully you can turn a hot profit!