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Outdoor Dining Trends Flourish

Furnishings and functionality on the uptick

Jennifer Nathan, Laurie Rudd -- Casual Living, May 21, 2013

The Sunbrella Contract lineThe Sunbrella Contract line of fabric delivers performance qualities to suit indoor or outdoor contract dining applications.
The contract/hospitality category is experiencing renewed energy and growth following the challenges of past seasons. Major introductions, increased trade show participation and an expanding marketplace are occurring within the segment and in nowhere more than in the area of outdoor dining.
     "We are seeing increased interest in contract projects since late in the fall of 2012 with a great deal of activity since January of 2013," said Charles Hessler, vice president, Barlow- Tyrie. "Numerous projects have now gotten financing and are on go."
     The experiences of orders on-hold or order cancellations are no longer the norm, especially in contract dining, which has seen early movement.
     "The contract market definitely appears to be coming out of the economic climate of the last several years," said Josh Horner, marketing manager, Oxford Garden. "Because of this, we're seeing restaurants, resorts and other contract segments updating outdoor spaces as they haven't had the resources to do so for some time."

     At Janus et Cie, additional factors are being seen as contributing to the current demand for commercial-focused outdoor dining products. "The contract category has been in greater demand as the trend grows for more outdoor spaces in commercial areas," said Harry Ward, VP of contract sales, Janus et Cie. "The convolution of additional space devoted both in the interior and exterior for casual space use is bound to continue the upward movement of the category."
     Just as in residential outdoor spaces, commercial entities are looking to the outdoors for expansion and enhancement of dining experiences. A surge in multi-dimensional or specialty dining venues from beer gardens to patio bistros and rooft op

Architectural shadeArchitectural shade is created with the grouping of shade products to cover multiple dining areas of outdoor eateries.
restaurants to sidewalk cafes has created a demand not only for innovative outdoor dining furnishings, but accessories from kitchens to shade products to complete the experience.

     Select Outdoor Kitchens, manufacturer of portable outdoor kitchen units, is one company realizing the potential of the contract marketplace and the expansion of outdoor dining venues. For the first time, the company will exhibit at this month's HD Expo in Las Vegas, in a shared space with Evo grills. "We will launch a new product line for the HD Expo in turnkey packages with cabinets, counter tops and appliances in modular segments to make cooking/bar areas," said Mike D. Miller, president, Select Outdoor Kitchens. "We have completed jobs for municipalities, schools, hotel chains and see this as a niche we can fit into and are hoping the show will expose us to the market."
     Miller thinks "chefs get it" with regard to the outdoor kitchen concept, and sees the commercial application of his products as an area for growth.
     Contract designers know that creating the perfect outdoor dining room includes the fresh air experience while also being protected from harsh elements. The use of shade products has long been a feature in outdoor eateries, but taking this to the level of architectural shade is the latest trend.
     "We are seeing contract applications now using two to six umbrellas to put a roof over an entire outdoor area to not only protect the patrons, but also create a cozy environment," said Jeff B. Dorough, VP of sales and marketing, Shade maker. "With the use of less, but larger, umbrellas, the facility can cover from the bistro seating to the bar area."

Select Outdoor KitchensSelect Outdoor Kitchens will exhibit its portable outdoor kitchen units for the fi rst time at the HD Expo this month.

     A component of the architectural shade trend is the use of square shades that easily can be grouped whether center post or side post models.

     Whatever the outdoor dining room design or menu, the nature of contract requires serving up strength and lasting durability. Furnishing constructions receiving attention this season include all-weather wicker, teak and metals, as well as mixing materials.
     "Our new trend is more stainless furniture and faux wood," said Luis Ruesga, CEO, Zuo Modern. The mixed-media trend is being realized across all price points.
     Introductions from Janus et Cie this season also include multi-construction designs. "Eclectic mixes of materials with fine detailing (will be a construction trend)," Ward said. "These will include a mixing of wood, fiber and metal."
     Oxford Garden introduct

Oxford Garden Travira’sOxford Garden Travira’s stacking capability creates easy storage for outdoor restaurants.
ions this season will focus on a mixed construction with its Travira line that will include bistro and bar elements. "We have added two new materials, Tekwood and Alstone," said Horner. "Both of these are wood-alternative materials that will be a great solution for contract environments. Tekwood is a polystyrene material, available in natural or vintage finish. Alstone features an aluminum core with a granite polymer finish, providing the look of granite with the weight of aluminum."

     In meeting the needs of the outdoor elements, textile innovation has become the perfect partner for the contract customer.
     "The fabric trend for contract dining definitely has to be performance fabrics and the need for superior fade and stain resistance and easy clean," said Suzie Roberts, VP and business manager of Glen Raven Decorative Fabrics, Sunbrella.
     "We will be showing (at HD Expo) our new Sunbrella Terrycloth," said Greg Voorhis, design manager, Sunbrella. "It is a wonderful Sunbrella fabric with some stretch that makes it great for slipcover applications and perfect for outdoor contract dining as the slipcovers can be taken off easily and washed."
     With the heavy wear and tear within contract dining furnishings, Outdura sees its fabric abrasion testing being used by commercial specifiers. "A trend we continue to see in contract/hospitality is the requirement for durability and abrasion resistance," said Natalie Scott , VP of sales and marketing-casual furniture, Outdura/Sattler Corp. "Our success in the category is directly related to the high abrasion rating at 30,000 to 60,000 double rubs for contract fabrics."Outdura fabrics pair

     Building to last is high on the list of requirements for outdoor contract furnishings, but the list does not end there. Manufacturers in this industry know there are numerous features to consider throughout product design and introduction.
     "When designing, if we believe the piece would be of interest to the hospitality segment, we will work on features that will make it more attractive to or aimed for use in the contract segment, such as making designs stack," Hessler said."
     The ability to stack furnishings when not in use is more an essential function than a trend in the case of outdoor dining venues.
     "Outdoor dining trends for restaurants affect product development decisions big time," Ruesga said. "We always look for stacking and storage options, not only because of restaurants, also for storage capabilities for customers in the winter."

     In product design, features, rules and requirements become of even greater importance when applied to senior living, one of contract's fastest growing segments. Casual Living's 2012 contract research reported nearly 90% of vendors cited selling to customers within the senior living category.Hospitality/contract
     The outdoor trend in these facilities is being seen as a factor in the overall care philosophy. "Having not only warm, comfortable spaces but also the sights and sounds of the outdoor does a world of good for the residents' health and well-being," said Kelly St. Clair, designer/sales, Barrows. Owners are recognizing this fact with the inclusion of outdoor dining areas within new construction or in addition to existing facilities.
     "Product selections are made, in large part, due to durability in the elements and the style," St. Clair said. "We look for soft edges, good weight limits, strong arms on seating for leverage and general style that fits the image of the company or building." Parameters are also set based on the end user's needs. "Weight and heft of the product is a consideration as seniors do not want to rely on anyone to scoot in their chair," said Becky Lipscomb, co-owner/design principle, PVL Design Associates. "Cast aluminum is the premier construction for a high end elegant feel with durability and ease of maintenance."

     Manufacturers across the hospitality/contract dining category see the outlook going forward as bright. Positive signs are also being seen at the retail level. The latest trends in features or functions are contributing to current growth within the category and meaningful outdoor dining experiences for all.

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