Lila’s Kitchen turned to WeatherPort® Shelter Systems for help in their mission to create a new type of outdoor dining experience in Port Townsend, Washington.
Lila’s Kitchen is a commercial kitchen space that food vendors without a space of their own can rent and use. With two walk-up windows and the capacity for two vendors to operate simultaneously, Lila’s Kitchen benefits both the residents and restaurants of Port Townsend alike.
As with all restaurants right now, you’re probably wondering: How have they fared during the pandemic?
Lila’s Kitchen is unique in that they actually opened their doors rather than closing them during the pandemic, being a brand new business as of the summer of 2020. But this should come as no surprise, considering how well tailored their business model is to the dining requirements of a COVID and post-COVID world.
For example, the ample open space surrounding Lila’s Kitchen provides the perfect area for outdoor seating, giving people who are itching to get out of their homes a safe space in which to enjoy delicious food and each other’s company.
On the other hand, restaurants that don’t have an outdoor seating area can utilize Lila’s Kitchen rather than having to close or rely on revenue from curbside pickup orders alone.
Finding the Perfect Outdoor Structure to Create a Covered Outdoor Seating Area
Of course, both of these benefits were contingent upon having a nice outdoor seating area available to customers, with coverage to protect against the damp and chilly Port Townsend winters.
Lila’s Kitchen owners Wendy and Brent Davis were well aware of this need and set out to look for a reliable outdoor structure that would last longer than typical popup tents.
Luckily, they didn’t have to look far: Brent happened to have numerous friends who worked as contractors, and they all recommended WeatherPort as the only product that met their requirements on job sites.
After these initial recommendations, WeatherPort’s customer service and the aesthetics of WeatherPort structures sealed the deal.
The Design and Installation Process
Wendy explained that their WeatherPort was “pretty simple to design”: “My husband picked the shape and then we determined what size we could fit in the area where we wanted it. We picked colors and panels with the direction and help of our WeatherPort rep.”
One thing that Wendy found particularly helpful was that their WeatherPort representative sent drawings and images of the specific fabric building they were considering, as well as photographs of the model set up in real-world examples. “I really needed to see real ones set up somewhere, not just sketches or photographs,” Wendy explained.
In the end, Wendy and Brent decided on a 30-foot hexapae (a six-sided canopy) in red to match the red umbrellas they already had, with clear, zip-down windows and a potential plan to order two door panels once safety regulations permit full enclosure. This size would enable them to fit six outdoor tables and around 35 to 40 people in the structure.
Their hexapae arrived about five weeks after they placed their order, and it was time to set it up. With a team of four, the installation process took about two hours, even with the weather against them: “We set it up practically in a wind storm and decided, ‘If it survives today, it will probably do pretty well.’”
Making Unusable Spaces Usable
Lila’s Kitchen has now had its WeatherPort dining structure up for about three weeks, and it’s holding up well. “We have bad weather all the time,” Wendy explained. “It’s solid — it doesn’t move, doesn’t squeak, doesn’t flap. It has been rained on, snowed on, lots of wind — it just sits there and does what it’s supposed to do — shelter.”
Wendy especially stressed the structure’s ability to screen against wind. “It can make an unusable space usable,” she said.
They’re equally happy with the aesthetics of their outdoor dining structure. “We love it. People are commenting on social media about how fun it is, how cool it is, how nice looking it is,” Wendy said. “People are getting used to tents and coverings right now, but this one’s different from anything I’ve seen, around here anyway. It’s attractive.”
Overall, Wendy is highly satisfied with her purchase: “A structure from WeatherPort is extremely solid and a great investment. And I believe the return on investment is going to be pretty high right away.”
Business in general is also going well for Lila’s Kitchen. They are now running six different restaurants out of their commercial kitchen, three of which are brand-new and wouldn’t have been able to open without this space to rely on. One of the other restaurants has used this opportunity to operate using a walk-up model for the first time after five years of catering.
In reflecting on their plans for the future, Wendy shared that their goal is to build even more. “We’re hoping to attract food trucks and basically incubate some small businesses.”
The idea is to create a food court surrounding the outdoor dining area, equipped with a wood-fired pizza oven, a wheelable bar cart or trailer, and many different food vendors to choose from. “In our area we don’t have a lot of food trucks,” Wendy explained, “and this shelter provides a center for the food groups that we’re collecting, kind of tying it all together. And I think the customers feel that.”
Wendy is confident that outdoor dining will remain popular even after COVID-19 transmission is no longer a worry: “I’ve been in the restaurant world for a long time, and I think things are really going to change going forward. And I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I think the adaptation is kind of intriguing and interesting, kind of fun.”
Part of restaurants’ responsibility moving forward, Wendy feels, is showing that they’re about more than just making money. “A substantial shelter like this sends a clear signal that you want to take care of the customers that are choosing to do business with you.”
If you would like to learn more about outdoor seating structures from WeatherPort, please contact us using the following: