10 Creative Ideas for Taking Your Business Outdoors During the Pandemic

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As lockdown rules start to lift across the UK, businesses are finding creative ways to use outdoor space and maximise their revenue while inside mixing is still heavily regulated. But there are more ways to move outside than just extending onto the pavement; here are some of the best opportunities when taking your business outdoors.

As of the 12th April, restaurants, non-essential retailers and personal care businesses, like hair and nail salons, can open, along with most outdoor attractions. Also, people can use gyms and indoor swimming pools in household groups. 

Until the 17th May, performance venues and hospitality businesses will stay shut, and gyms can’t run indoor fitness classes. 

So, taking your business outdoors for the next couple of months could be a great way to whip up some extra revenue. Here are some of the most creative ways to use outdoor space while business properties are off-limits for customers. 

What types of businesses can bring their operations outdoors?

Restaurants and pubs have dominated the news recently, with many creating makeshift seating areas to serve customers outdoors. 

The hospitality and fitness industries have the most to gain from operating outside, as businesses in these sectors can’t fully reopen until the 17th May. But many other types of companies could also benefit from moving outdoors, particularly while people overcome their nervousness about indoor mixing. 

Fun ideas for taking your business outdoors 

1. Expand onto pavements and terraces

This is probably the most popular method of taking your business outdoors during the Covid-19 pandemic, and many restaurants and pubs have chosen it as a strategy. For instance, Turtle Bay has created mini outdoor ‘beaches’, where customers can enjoy food and delicious cocktails.

The government is allowing hospitality venues to create makeshift outdoor seating areas if they don’t have a dedicated space. Eateries will be able to serve customers in car parks and on pavements from the 12th April until they can welcome them inside on the 17th May. 

Just make sure you understand the rules for businesses using outdoor spaces; check your lease and any local laws.


2. Hire a market stall

Outdoor markets are a great place to attract customers and promote your brand name - and renting a stall is fairly inexpensive. 

You don’t necessarily have to be a restaurant or retail business to generate revenue from a market stall. Why not sell merchandise or ‘experiences’?

3. Use customers’ gardens

If you run a service-based business, it’s worth considering whether you could deliver your offering in your customers’ private gardens, now the weather is improving. You could create makeshift workstations to provide hair-cutting services, nail treatments, personal training sessions or even massages. 

Just make sure you buy the relevant insurance and follow any local laws. 

4. Expand into garden space with a marquee

If you can’t do your job effectively in the open air, or you think your outside space is too exposed, why not erect a marquee? These types of structures can provide precious shade and protection from the Great British weather - just remember to stick to the GOV.UK guidelines: 

“Premises, or parts of premises, will be considered ‘substantially enclosed’ (i.e. indoors) if they have a ceiling or roof, but have an opening in the walls, which is less than half the total area of the walls. The area of the opening does not include doors, windows or any other fittings that can be opened or shut. A marquee with a roof and four sides would not be an outdoor space. Igloo-style pods or individual summer-house-type structures would also not be outdoor spaces.”

Lili and Cata Nail Saloon in New York City is just one of the businesses around the world to set up a marquee outside.


5. Launch a themed tour of the surrounding area

Walking tours are a fun way to learn more about a place and get a bit of fresh air, so why not create your own unique one? Focus on how the surrounding region relates to your industry or operations. For example, if you run a restaurant, you could team up with your supplier(s) to run a ‘meet the maker’ tour with interactive food production workshops. 

6. Organise outdoor cooking classes or demos

Most people love a food-based event, and if you run a restaurant or cafe, you’re in the perfect position to get your customers involved in a hands-on class. Set up workstations outside and teach people how to make your signature dish, with exciting demos to give a peak behind the kitchen door. 

7. Run outdoor exercise classes 

Organising outdoor sessions is another popular approach here in the UK. If you run a gym or fitness business, take advantage of any patio or garden space you have - or use a local park if you have permission. 

Firehouse Fitness Studio in Philadelphia uses its rooftop as a studio, allowing attendees to enjoy a great view while they work out. 

8. Set up a delivery service

If you haven’t already considered delivering products to your customers, now’s the time to get on the bandwagon. 

Tessa, who runs Really Awesome Coffee’s Corby branch has spoken about how customers love seeing her arrive at their doorstep: 

“It really was quite a magical thing. Many people were completely housebound during the first lockdown and I was often the only break they got. Adults and kids alike would shriek when they saw the van!”

9. Organise a kids summer camp 

This idea will involve a fair amount of planning but, with summer coming up, it’s a great option for business owners who want to make a difference in their community. Could your company offer fun activities or learning sessions for children? 

For example, restaurants could run cooking and camping holidays, while gyms could organise sports camps, and pet-related brands might arrange animal-themed events with visits to petting zoos. 

10. Add photography to your services 

People love having photographs of their cherished memories, so offering photography services might be a fun and effective way to introduce an extra revenue stream during the pandemic. 

If you’re a dog-grooming centre or childcare business, for example, you could hire a freelance photographer and sell family portraits to your clients. Even companies like estate agencies could provide this service, giving homebuyers the chance to have their picture taken in front of their new house.

More guidance for businesses operating during the Covid-19 pandemic

Visit our article catalogue for more tips, tricks and ideas on running your own business as the UK economy reopens.

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