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Restaurants get creative to keep outdoor diners warm

Restaurants get creative to keep outdoor diners warm

People enjoy outdoor dining amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., September 14, 2020.

Jeenah Moon | Reuters

Ice huts, yurts and tents have been growing in popularity over the last several years as restaurateurs looked to extend the life of their outdoor patios.

This year, the popularity of such structures is soaring, thanks to capacity limits restricting the number of diners inside restaurants. 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced restaurant owners to get creative to keep their businesses afloat. Florida is among the few states that have allowed bars and restaurants to return to full capacity, but the overwhelming majority of eateries are still navigating how to attract as many customers as possible while obeying social distancing measures. Some operators responded to expanded outdoor dining with set-ups meant to reflect the aesthetic of their indoor dining rooms. 

But seating customers outside also means reckoning with the weather. Heavy rainfall in the summertime in New York decreased restaurant visits by 14%, according to a recent study of restaurant traffic and weather trends from Foursquare and AccuWeather. The season, city and type of cuisine can also influence how much weather can affect a restaurant’s traffic trends.

“We see, across the board, no matter where you are, it doesn’t matter what condition it is, people are going out in the fall,” said Bill McGarry, senior vice president of advertising sales at AccuWeather. “Whereas in the winter, in New York, you see when it’s really cold, nobody’s going out.”

Some restaurant owners are trying to buck the trend with cozy, heated outdoor set-ups. But others are choosing to go into hibernation rather than sink more money into outdoor dining. Fiberglass igloos, for example, cost $1,000 a pop. 

Here’s a few solutions that restaurants across the country are trying:

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