Is your garden a haven full of customers — or is it just a place where you dump empty kegs and kitchen waste?
If it's the latter you may want to seriously reconsider the use of the space, however small, because having a garden is right up there when it comes to what customers want from pubs.
A YouGov Omnibus survey revealed that it is one of the top five things that customers would like to see at their ideal pub. It was only beaten by 'meals being served'. The other factors to feature were: a fireplace, staff who know the names of regulars and snacks.
So how do you make that garden of yours stand out from the crowd? Here are a few creative ways that other pubs are using their gardens that could inspire you.
1. Turn it into a football pitch...
The Butterbowl in Leeds attracts a host of sports teams to use the custom built five-a-side pitch in the back garden. Landlords at the New River pub Rick and Bev Firth invested £12,000 on a facility that is used by 120 children every week for football and rugby league.
"It's free to use, and we now want to encourage more local clubs and teams to come and use it," said Rick. While the kids play outside the parents have a pub to enjoy."
2. ...or a crazy golf course
Last spring The Duke of Edinburgh in London's Brixton used its massive garden space for a nine-hole crazy golf course. It was homed in a marquee that was originally put up for the Rugby World Cup and then came down when the summer arrived.
3. Something a little more theatrical
Sport not your thing? How about using your outdoor area as a performance space? London operator Fuller's has had huge success by with its "Shakespeare in the Garden" tours. This year was its biggest yet, with The Comedy of Errors being performed in 30 different pubs. Jonathan Swaine, managing director of Fuller's Inns, says: "Watching Shakespeare in such an informal environment is as it was originally intended – it is the perfect marriage of pub culture and Britain's finest playwright. Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast."
4. Take on the Odeon
Outdoor cinema screenings are growing in popularity over the summer months. At The Castle in Edgehill, where you will find BII Licensee of the Year Mark Higgs, you could also recently find a showing of the classic Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Outdoor movies were also part of the new garden project at the award-winning freehouse The Bull in Ditchling, East Sussex.
5. Farmyard animals
The garden is the jewel in the crown at The King's Arms in Rotherfield, East Sussex, and hosts everything from boules matches through to weddings and a music festival. There's no doubt who the children go to see though – it's the pigs and chickens that call the pub home. Whether you choose to keep your animals outside or move them to the menu is of course entirely up to you...
6. Miniature railway
The Fenn Bell Inn hit the headlines this year by becoming the first pub in the country to get a zoo licence. As well as a host of exotic animals in the garden, it has a miniature railway. The pub's website says: "On your trip you will pass by the duck pond, through a tunnel between the monkeys and parrots, past the platinum foxes, raccoons, coatis, pigs and many others." Now there's a claim not many pubs can make.
7. Give a little back
You could always share what you have with your locals. The Queen's Arms in Breage, Cornwall, rents its spare land out as allotments for a nominal £1 a year – on the proviso that 10 per cent of what its grown makes its way to the pub. The pub also runs a farmers' market. Licensee Jodie Phillips says: "We wanted to do something like this for the community, so the monthly farmers' market gives local farmers, artists and craft suppliers another sales outlet as well as an enjoyable afternoon out for visitors, while our allotment plots feel like a great way to do something for our local residents."