Restaurants adapt outdoor dining to cooler weather

Throughout the summer, local restaurants expanded and emphasized their outdoor dining accommodations. But now that the weather is getting colder, restaurants are tasked yet again with adapting their dining experiences.

Outdoor dining skyrocketed in popularity this year. According to the CDC’s guidelines, COVID-19 can be spread by air transmission and can travel further than 6 feet. Due to the possibility of airborne transmission, many people feel more comfortable dining out in the open air rather than indoors. According to the National Restaurant Association, full-service restaurant operators say 44% of their daily sales now comes from on-premises outdoor dining.

As fall temperatures creep in, many local restaurants are either closing their outdoor seating or finding ways to keep their customers cozy, warm and at ease.

The National Restaurant Association suggests that restaurants hoping to extend their outdoor dining services add space heaters and fire pits, offer blankets for guests to use and take home and serve warm beverages, like hot chocolate or hot cider, when they arrive. Nationwide, some restaurants are even implementing igloos and domes for small parties that circulate fresh air while keeping cold weather out, according to the association.

All of these accommodations will certainly add up for an industry that is already struggling. The National Restaurant Association is pushing for incentives for restaurant owners, such as tax credits, to help them afford these adjustments. According to a survey conducted by the association, 77% of full-service and 65% of limited-service operators say they would take advantage of such incentives.

Photo courtesy of The General Sutter Inn.

Patio heaters are often the first step to help maintain comfortable temperatures in outdoor dining spaces. The General Sutter Inn installed a new heating system on their tented patio. Bulls Head’s patio also remains open thanks to their gas patio heaters.

Rachel’s Café & Creperie’s Walnut Street location added a tent earlier in the year for additional outdoor seating. They will be keeping the tent and adding patio heaters to extend their outdoor dining season.

Annie Bailey’s Irish Public House added awnings to their deck to guard customers from chilly breezes and will be adding in space heaters shortly.

After extensive renovations, The Railroad House Inn reopened on October 2. Their quaint garden patio also has heaters to keep you warm.

Photo courtesy of C’est La Vie.

Market Street, outside of Lancaster Central Market, was shut down earlier in the year to provide outdoor seating for surrounding restaurants, including Old San Juan, The Taproom (Spring House Brewing Company), The Lancaster Dispensing Company and C’est La Vie. The area is now equipped with heaters near every table. C’est La Vie is even providing their guests with fleece blankets.

Although these adjustments may carry the local outdoor dining scene through the fall weather, winter will be another obstacle. While customers may not mind a crisp breeze, they most likely will not want to sit outside in freezing temperatures.

Lancaster’s innovative and resilient restaurant owners will hopefully find a way to adapt as they have throughout the pandemic, and our community will undoubtedly be there every step of the way to support them.

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