5 Cold Weather Essentials Your Restaurant Needs to Continue Outdoor Dining

Illinois restaurants open for outdoor dining, getting creative using sidewalks and parking spaces to maximize tables and social distancing.

As COVID-19 continues to have a massive impact on the way restaurants are run and customers dine, a big part of diners returning has been the availability of outdoor dining spaces. In fact, some states are only allowing outdoor dining with a very small percentage of indoor dining capacity.  

With colder months looming closer, we’ve compiled the essentials you’ll need to keep your patio space up and running.  

1. Shelter – All restaurants have had to be creative when it comes to adhering to new social distancing capacity limitations, and many of them have turned to their outdoor patio. If you already have an outdoor patio that you can easily enclose, then you’re ahead in the game! For other restaurants that don’t have that convenience, it will be important to investigate other structures such as sided tents that can be closed for the winter season. Having an enclosure during the winter is important for keeping your heat source in as not so nice weather may be going on outside.  

If you have a good happy hour clientele, another option could be an outdoor firepit. People enjoying full meals probably don’t want to be balancing full plates on their laps, but if all they must worry about is their beer, you may be in luck! 

For both the patio space heater and the firepit, you’ll want to check into your area’s code restrictions to make sure you won’t incur any fines. 

2. Heat Source – Keeping your customers content while being outdoors in the winter is no easy task. Between purchasing or renting, patio space heaters are going to be the best bet for warming an enclosed space. You may need a few of these depending on the area you’re trying to heat, but these are an important investment if you’re looking to keep your outdoor dining going throughout the winter.  

3. Proper Outdoor Furniture – As a furniture company, we are big on this one! Having the proper outdoor furniture is essential for the safety of your customers and the integrity of the furniture. This becomes even more of an issue with a temperature drop as most indoor items ideally should be kept in a climate-controlled environment. Furniture items that are not certified for outdoor use, but used outside, will experience cracking, weaker joints, and rot. This will lead you to having to replace these items and then it’s a total loss. Just use the correct outdoor furniture, you’ll be better off! 

4. Entertainment – The whole point of offering an outdoor area in the chilly weather is that you have so many people that they will not fit inside with new capacity regulations, so why not give people a reason to head to your outdoor area?  

If you often host live music, set it up in your enclosed outdoor space where your socially distanced tables can enjoy themselves. Do you draw a lot of customers in for sporting events? Try setting up a TV or projector to have the game outdoors, the line between the outdoor space and tailgating is already very thin! Give your customers a little entertainment while they choose to support you in the winter season. 

5. Bad Weather Checklist – Snow, rain, hail, and even worse, a wintery mix, presents quite a bit of difficulty for even the most tented outdoor spaces. These elements can dampen your customers’ experience or even cause injury. Stay on top of potential problems with a bad weather checklist.  

Here are a few items you’ll want to keep an eye on when bad weather strikes: 

  • Possible leaks or tears that would allow water or melted snow to drip. 
  • Snow build-up on the roof, causing a collapse. 
  • Entrance, exit, and restroom paths blocked by snow. 
  • Unsalted and slippery walkways. 

Compile a checklist that you and your employees can use at the start of each winter weather day to keep everyone safe and comfortable! It can be hard to plan for the unexpected weather but having the checklist will keep it at the top of everyone’s mind. 

If nothing else, 2020 has taught the restaurant industry that creativity and versatility are some of the most valuable assets you can have. Keeping your outdoor patio dining going through the winter can help your business continue to persevere while social distancing and capacity regulations are in place.  

Do you have any other essentials we left off this list? Let us know below!  

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