Now as we head into the second winter of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants that received a boost from revenues in the warmer months from outdoor dining are starting to scramble as the days grow colder. The National Restaurant Association sent a letter to the United States Conference of Mayors (led by Dayton, Ohio mayor Nan Whaley) asking them to consider expanding and promoting outdoor dining allowances and make it easier for restaurants to operate outdoors this winter.
According to National Restaurant Association data, 61% of full-service restaurant operators are only planning to use their outdoor dining space through October and less than one-third of operators plan to use their outdoor dining space through the winter. Despite the tapering off, currently, 68% of full-service restaurants make more than 20% of their sales from outdoor dining customers.
“Restaurants currently rely on outdoor dining to stay open, but the dark chill of winter is coming,” the letter, signed by Mike Whatley, vice president of state affairs and grassroots advocacy for the National Restaurant Association said. “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. For many that was thanks to support from you and your colleagues and other lawmakers.”
The National Restaurant Association is asking restaurants to streamline outdoor dining permitting processes, promote outdoor dining efforts and provide funding for restaurants to invest in outdoor dining infrastructure, such as heaters and safe dining structures.
In cities like Chicago and New York City where outdoor dining has remained popular throughout the pandemic, operators are beginning to winterize their outside dining room operations.
“Expanded outdoor dining cannot replace robust consumer demand for indoor dining or Congress taking action to replenish the RRF, yet it is critically needed to help the industry survive the winter,” the letter ended.
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