Star Pubs & Bars will spend c£3m developing external areas at around 100 of its pubs in 2017 – part of a £20m investment this year across its estate.

Two thirds of the investment will be spent on redecoration and signage to improve pubs’ attractiveness to passing trade.

The remaining third is allocated to garden makeovers to meet customer demand for alfresco eating and drinking.

The projects will increase covers and trading space and used to create gardens that can be enjoyed year round.

Where internal work is being undertaken, the focus will also be on ‘bringing the garden into the pub’ via features such as bi fold doors.

Gardens will be made multi-functional and subtly zoned to cater for different groups of customers.

With more families visiting pubs, play areas are being installed at over a third of major projects.

Star licensees are also investing in outside bars and more permanent cooking equipment to meet demand on sunny days, as well as temporary structures such as marquees to enable them to tap into business from functions.

Lawson Mountstevens, Star Pubs & Bars managing director said: “Over 50% of people decide where they’re going to eat and drink when they’re out and about. Great looking pubs and outdoor areas are key to attracting them and give licensees the competitive edge. Outdoor space is a valuable asset. It should be treated like another room and carefully planned to best meet the needs of target customers.”

One example if The Thirsty Bear in Reading, which has a new 45-cover all-weather terrace on the roof, increasing seating by 41%.