From retail destinations to office amenities, new services to sustainable design, we’re seeing a a surge in the desire to reconnect with the great outdoors across every consumer-facing environment. In our latest series, “Our Return to the Great Outdoors” we’ll share how brands can embrace this trend to create both safe and memorable outdoor experiences that will resonate with consumers long after COVID-19 fades.
In times of uncertainty, consumer expectations don’t change completely—they simply evolve, pivot and accelerate, raising the bar and amplifying the demand for new, relevant experiences. Outdoor spaces have always been a sought-after luxury, but with safety top of mind, many are expecting outdoor experiences everywhere, and asking brands to deliver in this new paradigm. The first part of this series explores the extension into outdoor spaces and amenities, and identifies what brands are doing to bring this to the forefront of their experiences:
Food Hits the Streets
Offering a safer dining experience, many restaurants across the country have (literally) taken to the streets to provide airy, al fresco dining on sidewalks, adjacent parking spots, patios and gardens.
- In New York City, where indoor dining is still very limited, the streets have become a myriad of makeshift patios that seem to become more permanent looking each week. String lights, over-head covers, plexiglass table dividers, branding, and other creative elements make these spaces feel less like a busy street.
- In other cities where space is less of an issue, some restaurants have stretched into their own parking lots, setting tables, bar areas, and seating on the pavement to allow for a more distant, outdoor experience. At Lady Byrd Café in Los Angeles, the idea of private dining was completely re-imagined when the restaurant flipped it’s parking lot into a garden patio full of clear glass greenhouses for a safe and separated dining environment.
Raising the Roof
It’s safe to say everyone loves a good rooftop, but now many consider them a valued retreat as these open-air spaces offer an elevated, COVID-friendly experience while dining, working, or traveling. Moving up and outdoors, brands are finding ways to activate their vertical space and bring guests outdoors. We also suspect that those that don’t currently have rooftop access will prioritize that criteria when searching for real estate in the near future.
- Pier 17, an outdoor entertainment center in New York City, recently transformed its rooftop concert venue into The Greens–a socially distant experience where guests can rent a private green box for a few hours with groups of seven or less for food and drinks.
- One trend we’ve seen hit the scene in the last few years are outdoor work/coworking spaces where employees and tenants can move their work outside to rooftop patios for fresh air, breaks, or meetings. At the Boston Public Schools office located in the city’s downtown district, employees have access to the building rooftop that adds a third space for work or relaxation.
- At Mainline Health’s new Women’s Specialty Center in King of Prussia, PA, the facility features a rooftop garden for patients to use and staff to provide holistic education on fresh food nutrition.
Parks & Greenway Activation
As brands look to de-densify their spaces, there is no easier way to expand than moving to or activating the green space that surrounds it. From office to retail, there are several ways we’re seeing brands find new methods to connect with the outdoors through programming and physical changes to the built environment:
- For work environments, mixed-use developments, and hotels connecting to surrounding nature trails or providing opportunities for programming like movies in the park, outdoor fitness, food truck lots, or farmers market are good ways to expand and get patrons outdoors.
- In retail and restaurants, environments connected to the outdoors may include enhanced curbside services or experiences that marry products or services with the outdoors. At Mutts Canine Cantina in Dallas,TX, this restaurant and dog park mashup allows for plenty of outdoor space for dining, drinks, and entertainment.