Americas

Restaurants petition to keep outdoor dining

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Outdoor dining saved many restaurants during the pandemic; now operators want to keep the facility as colder weather approaches

Permanent arrangements for outdoor dining have already been given the green light in New York City and San Francisco. Now, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has made the case for this to be adapted by other cities across the US too.

As the restaurant sector continues to adapt to a much changed picture as it emerges from the Covid pandemic, recent data shows that diner behaviour has changed.

Most restaurants moved to offer outdoor dining on sidewalks, streets and terraces when dine-in facilities were out of bounds. Now they find that a significant portion of business comes from outdoor dining as guests avoid the indoor environment.

Every day matters

The NRA found that the delta variant of Covid caused a majority of consumers to change their restaurant use, including 20% who choose to sit outside instead of inside. Additionally, while numerous operators benefited from the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), it quickly ran out of money, and approximately two thirds of applicants did not receive any funding. Congress has yet to replenish the Fund leaving a $43.6bn funding gap and 177,000 restaurants in danger of closing.

While 68% of full-service restaurants report that 20% of daily sales are from outdoor dining, 61% of those operators can only use outdoor space through October and only 30% plan to use these facilities in the winter.

“Restaurants currently rely on outdoor dining to stay open, but the dark chill of winter is coming,” said Mike Whatley, vice president for State Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy. “For operators depending on this revenue, every additional day they can extend their outdoor service matters. Last year, despite supply chain issues, many restaurants were able to invest in equipment to expand and winterize their outdoor dining areas. But many restaurants weren’t able to make those investments.”

Tina Nielsen